I feel like I need to very quickly qualify something from my previous little article.
I said in it that I found parenting manageable.
Now, I said that because I have some background knowledge in child development and am a second-time around parent this time. So what I meant to say in that department was that in being a Mum- I feel reasonably happy that my kids are OK. And I’m not really freaked out when they do things that kids just do.
It was worth making this comparison because when my husband behaves the way husbands apparently do- this is not something I can usually get my little head around.
Hell, he emptied the dishwasher this morning- without having to be asked- for the first time in flipping ages and as a result I have time to sit down and write this.
I’ve never felt so romanced.
But with that little qualification comes a much bigger one.
Although I don’t find expectations with regards to my children’s behaviour and development to be unmanageable- this whole baby + toddler phase is in no way making itself easy.
That’s not to say I don’t feel lucky. I really do. They’re both the lights of my life. Beautiful happy little doe-eyed children who eat and sleep reasonably well and do all the things kids are meant to do most of the time. And I adore the time I get to spend with them. Especially when the sun is out like this and we can do really fun outdoor stuff all together.
In fact, in some ways they totally surpass my expectations. The big one is so sweet and caring and has started to identify letters and will hold full conversations with anyone you like. And the little one has found her niche in a routine with very little effort from me. I know darn well that this is not always how things go so I’m thankful for the darling children I was blessed with. In fact, sometimes I think it’s a good plan to stop at the two just so that I don’t push my luck.
But the thing is (despite that ever resounding ‘the days/ nights are long but the years are short’ cliché showering me with guilt and echoing in my head 1000 times a week) having the baby-toddler combo is pretty buggering.
Over this weekend I managed to get myself some quality food poisoning. It was cramps everywhere and soreness and vomiting and exhaustion. Plus parenting. I literally got up on Sunday morning and thought- I cannot wait til bed time. Then plonked my oldest child in front of the TV for the bulk of the day- with the exception of the times she dragged me begrudgingly outdoors to put her on the swing set. I know she was probably bored senseless and TV just makes her act out by the end of the day but I just felt I had to make the day go as quickly as possible and that was the most efficient way to make that happen. It was a TV day combined with an exhausted Mummy trying to push all the bubbling guilty feelings in my stomach down into my toes so I wouldn’t puke them up too.
I’d definitely prepared myself whilst I was pregnant for the idea that I’d be pretty tired at this time of my life. I’d gotten used to the idea that my toddler would likely need additional attention and get jealous of the baby.
But much to my surprise- there were things I wasn’t quite ready for during this toddler/ baby time.
I think the toughest part of this time which I hadn’t set myself up for going in is how I long for the other side of it. I so savoured the early days with my first born and I thought I would this time too. I mean- I still do in a way. I love the time spent alone with my tiny little one. But I grieve for the time alone with my big one which I can so rarely offer to her right now. Her jealousy has really hit a fever pitch lately too. I want to give her Mummy-and-me dates and reassure her that she is just as special to me as she has ever been. But to find the time to negotiate that right now can be so difficult.
Baby is totally in love with her big sister too I might add. But the big girl is a bit underwhelmed by the little one since she can’t play much yet and the magic newborn dust has all brushed off now. All of which just breaks my heart a little.
This baby period is so shiny and precious and fascinating to me. And I seriously love all her tiny little quirks and her itty bitty body and how she is magically forming into a real little personality before my very eyes. It’s wondrous.
But she also gets lonely easily and would really rather be carried around ALL THE TIME, thanks very much. And that can be bloody exhausting.
Also, I forgot how mind-fogging being at home with only a baby can be sometimes. She’s divine. But she’s not much of a conversationalist. And she doesn’t really do much as yet except eat, sleep, roll around and get frustrated that she’s not up and running like her sister is just yet. And unlike last time I had a baby, as I’ve said before- I haven’t forgotten myself quite enough this time. I want my time to write and work on projects and have a hot cup of coffee and maybe even pee in silence if I can.
I feel so selfish sometimes. Like I’m complacent and like maybe I’m just not as good a parent now as I once was. But still, I want that little bit of me-time each day. Even if that means the kids have to wait a little longer for my attention.
The trouble is that because I know this time of tiredness, isolation, boredom and less-than-adequate time spent with my children individually will pass, I’m feeling pretty restless and impatient.
Since I’ve done this bit before, I know things get more exciting and more stimulating. I also know that any day now my girls are going to be playing and enjoying each other’s company and having a great time even if it’s currently a bit one-sided.
What knocks me sideways is that I can’t believe I feel like I’m rushing this stage along at times. When it was just one baby- I was stretching every microsecond out. I was praying she’d never get bigger. But now there’s two and I’m really just always looking so forward to that next phase. The one where the sleep gets a little better and the girls can enjoy each other. When they can have meals together and share a room and actually play.
Also that one where I can go do some stuff by myself occasionally and not be breastfeeding around the clock.
And of course what follows that thought is tremendous guilt.
I can’t help but think- What if I never have another tiny baby again?
I really don’t want to be wishing this time away. I feel like a crappy mother just for thinking that. I love them both so much. How can I not be loving every tiny moment equally?
What comforts me is knowing I am by no means alone in this shit storm of tiredness, impatience, craziness and guilt. That it’s a Mum thing. And that the bulk of the Mums who read this are probably familiar with this particular brand of insanity. It’s this kind of crap that really proves why women need other women. And I feel so lucky to have those sort of women in my life who are keeping one eye on the road and one on each other as we travel along.
So I guess I don’t have any extraordinary revelations to finish this one off with. Every day at the moment is just an internal power struggle with myself. One part of me dancing with joy, love and amazement and the other part hanging her head, consumed with guilt and wondering if bed time is fucking here yet.
It’ll get easier. Hopefully not too quickly, or too slowly.
But I think we can all agree the phase of parenting a baby and a toddler at the same time is bloody intense no matter which way you slice it.
Especially if you happen to have food poisoning.