Back when I had my first baby, I didn’t have preconceived notions of how good or bad I would be at this parenting gig. I knew it would be hard. I knew from friends and family with kids, from the media and from my work with families over the years. It wasn’t going to be easy, in fact I assumed it might be downright awful in those early days. Truly, I was actually a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed early parenting since I hadn’t expected that. Even more amazingly, I felt I was actually good at being a Mum. As I said, I hadn’t really expected that one way or another.
But I’ve been reflecting lately about why I had such a calm run back then, when I seem to be perpetually running on ice at present. Don’t get me wrong, I love my babies and I love being their Mum but my confidence has somehow plummeted with bubba number 2. And then I remembered a few things.
I used to nap.
The baby would conk out in her bassinet and I would sleep beside her on the couch.
In the old days, I was kind to myself. I didn’t have expectations of enjoying every day or accomplishing everything I thought I should. I just did small things that would make me feel like I’d done something valuable and was happy with that. I rested when I could and I knew that would mean the best for me and my baby. And I didn’t feel guilty if I watched TV while she slept or ordered a pizza or ignored the dishes for a few days.
This year I have taken on a new business, completed two short courses, begun volunteer doula work, begun applying for part time work, started an online uni degree and that’s all without mentioning my marriage, the creation of a new little person and of course raising her and her sister. And there’s writing too of course. And you know what- I’m still absolutely kicking myself that there is way too much laundry not having been put away and that the house is covered in toys.
I used to make purees and lovely dinners.
These days it’s all left overs, pre-made foods and take away.
I know I shouldn’t be critical of myself for that. I’d never be critical of anyone else for just doing what they have to do in these circumstances but I’m often quite hard on myself.
Recently all I can think of is that I’m now subpar in so many ways. I feel like a less skilled mother, a less skilled wife and a less skilled professional than I used to be. I realise it’s something of a new falsehood that I’m internally harbouring but it’s there nonetheless. To compensate for these feelings, I’ve been piling on more work for myself and additionally piling on the guilt when I can’t quite climb the walls I put up for myself. I actively look around for other women who scale the walls, deal with the struggle seamlessly and critique myself for not doing the same. It’s a dumb system. And exhausting.
Last weekend I hit the wall. I was just fucking fried. My limbs felt like lead and I had a pounding headache for two days. It was hideous. But it was also my body talking to me.
I’ve got to be kind to myself again. And what’s more- I’ve got to stop trying to do and be everything to everyone at the same time. I’m always so conscious of the “if not now, when?” rhetoric that I forget to enjoy what really is in the now.
Instead, my new mission is to isolate those things that I really value and to do the things that feed them. And even though I feel this need to be it all- I’m decidedly letting some pieces go.
So cooking, having fun with my kids, occasionally going for a date night and focusing on my doula work is back on the cards. And I’ve put in for deferral despite how disappointed that makes me in myself. Uni is just going to have to wait until next year. And the house is going to be a crap heap for some time too. Otherwise I might just lose my tiny mind.
The guilt is not shifting. The way in which I compare myself to seemingly more talented or organised women is in no way shifting either. I guess I’m just hoping that with time and positive action, and enjoying the simple things I’ll be able to view my successes more intensely.
In the end I’m sharing all my crazy because I know I’m not alone.
Stop taking on too much Mumma. Stop validating yourself with overload. Stop punishing yourself for any lack of overload, or any time that you spend on just refilling your own cup. Be kind to yourself. You are the glue. You might not be the breadwinner or the academic or the most magnificent housewife but you are the glue. And the glue is pretty fucking important.
We’re in this together. Let’s be friends with ourselves.