While in many ways, motherhood has completely taken over my life, easily the biggest and most important part of my day, I am deeply aware that I am still in the relatively early days of this parenting malarkey. I still have lots to learn.
However, I am going to risk saying something stupid. Only 3 years and 2 children in, I reckon I’ve cracked it. I’ve found the ever illusive secret to enjoying parenthood and living a happy and relatively stress free family life (if there could ever be such a thing!)
Have low expectations.
Very low expectations.
Bottom of the ocean, as deep as you can go, barely visible they are so hidden in the depths, low expectations.
How many of you parents reading this went into it expecting it to be all smiles and loveliness? Come on, be honest. No matter how much people warned you about sleepless nights and explosive poos, you never really appreciated it did you? You knew you’d get woken up but you thought you’d be like the mums in the soft focus ads, gazing adoringly at your darling child as they smiled up at you, not stumbling into their room, bleary eyed and swearing as they scream so loudly you think your eardrums might explode. You never thought you’d be scraping poo from within a baby’s neck folds at 3am while choking back your gag reflex. But it happened.
Being a parent is a shock to the system. It hits you like a freight train, then drags you along for the ride. No matter how many warnings you get, you’ll never know what to expect when you have a baby.
Until you’ve had one.
The advantage of being a second time mum is you know all the perils.
When will the baby sleep through the night? Not for bloody ages! Sod Gina Ford. Don’t even bother. First time round I grumbled any time I was woken up. Second time round, if I get 3 hours in a row I feel bloody invincible!
First time round, feeding the baby felt like an endless, exhausting task. Now, I know to appreciate it for what it is: an excuse to sit down. Never try to plan around how long it will take. Assume it will take ages and enjoy the rest while you can.
Trips out should be seen as a success if everyone returns alive and unharmed
The house will never be clean. As long as no one is going to contract some kind of disease, that’s good enough!
Cooking? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating only food that can be bunged in the oven or pinged in a microwave. And cherry tomatoes thrown onto a plate definitely count as enough vegetables!
As for anything else, if all you mange in an entire day is to ram some washing in the machine, you’re doing grand.
It’s not pessimistic. It’s realistic. It’s going easy on yourself. If I could go back to myself in those first days of motherhood and give myself some advice, it would be this:
Calm down, lower your expectations and enjoy the little things. Your house will be a tip and you’ll never complete your to do list, no matter how small. Aim for a nothing and anything you achieve will feel amazing. You’ll be so much happier for it, and that’s all that really matters!
9am. So far I’ve been thrown up on, dealt with a toddler weeing on the floor, and cleaned up a disgusting leaking newborn nappy, only to have said newborn wee all over me and himself the minute his nappy was removed.
If being a mum lacks glamour, being a mum of two can be downright undignified. When I said I’d been thrown up on, I meant I’d been thrown up on. Not my clothes. Me! The boy didn’t even finish swallowing or move his head away before he spewed his breakfast back up all over my boob. What a charmer!
If the end of my pregnancy was marked by the constant refrain, ‘Sorry darling, mummy’s too tired/sore/big to do that’, my new motto seems to be ‘Just a minute love. Let me finish dealing with your brother’. Doesn’t matter which brother, and to be honest I call them by each other’s names half the time already! Looking after two small children certainly does keep you very busy.
With no work until the summer, this messy, disorganised existence is my life for the next nine months.
But, without sounding too soppy and sickening, I’ve never been happier.
There may be twice the poo, twice the wee and twice the crying, but there’s twice the love and ten times the cuteness!
I haven’t the time or brain power to even try to write a cleverly structured or witty blog post right now (I’m writing this on my phone as I feed the baby and watch yet another dinosaur film with his brother!), but this may be my favourite blog yet.
Because it’s my first as a mum of two. A scruffy, sick-covered, surrounded by mess, undignified mum of two.
And I bloody love it!
Dear little man,
At this moment, you are tucked up in bed. You are almost certainly not asleep. Partly because you’re a stubborn little so-and-so, partly because when I left you had grabbed yourself yet another book to read (which both infuriates me and makes me a little proud!), and partly because it’s nearly an hour before your normal bedtime. Sorry about that. I made the stupid decision to skip naptime today. You were probably fine, but I was not. That’s what being 38 weeks pregnant does to you.
I guess you’ve had to put up with a lot of this sort of thing since I got pregnant. I try my hardest to continue being a fun, lively, energetic mum, but I know I’m failing. When I was at work, I put so much of my energy into trying to stay professional during the day, by the time I got home I tended to crash on the sofa in a heap of emotional exhaustion. You got fed and cleaned, but for a few weeks that was about it. Now I’m no longer at work, we can go back to having fun. Except I’m huge now, and that hardly makes for the world’s greatest playmate. We have fun days out, but they’re regularly punctuated by ‘Sorry darling, mummy can’t really run at the moment’, and ‘Sorry sweetheart, mummy can’t fit down the slide anymore’. Try as I might, I can’t stop pregnancy getting in the way.
It’s marginally easier when we’re at home, but my heart broke a little last week when you said you’d rather do jigsaws with Daddy because ‘Mummy can’t sit on the floor anymore’.
I’ve recognised my limits and asked other relatives to take you out for the fun-filled days I can no longer manage. I should welcome you back from these days fully rested and refreshed, ready to play with all the vigour you deserve. But all too often I’m overcome by my nesting urge, trying to make everything in the house as perfect as I can before our lovely family existence is interrupted by a new recruit. By the time you come home I’m more physically exhausted and useless than I was before you left.
Thankfully, you’ve made it easy. You’ve moaned only once: that ‘the baby has been in your tummy for aaaaages!’ Your only frustration is your impatience to meet them.
You have accepted becoming the ‘big boy’ of the house with a grace and excitement I could only have wished for. Of course, this is largely because we bribed you with a brand new dinosaur themed bedroom, but thanks for being so easily manipulated!
Little do you realise how much this baby will turn your world upside down. Not only will it have nicked your old room and toys and books, it will get in the way of all your favourite games; destroying every train set you build up and banishing your marble run to the top shelf, to be used only when baby is asleep and well out of the way. No, you have no idea. You are actually excited, and have even decided that we should name the baby ‘Lovely’.
Therein lies the problem. If, in years to come, you ever look back and find yourself resentful of the playtime you lost with mummy when she was too big to run around or too busy feeding the baby to play Froggy Frenzy, remember: it’s your fault. If you hadn’t been so amazing in the first place, we probably wouldn’t have wanted to have another.
All my love,
I have never understood why anyone would want to be filmed giving birth. Having a baby is a wonderful, magical thing but, let’s be honest, giving birth to a baby is bloody awful.
Throughout my pregnancy people harangued me to watch One Born Every Minute. “It’s so lovely” they cooed. “Don’t you want to find out what it’s like?” they asked in bewilderment.
“No!” I’d reply “I don’t need to. I’ve seen films, I’ve been to ante-natal, and I know what it’s going to be like: incredibly, torturously painful but necessary.”
Finally, one night a few weeks before my due date I found myself home alone and decided to give it a try. I should have stuck with my gut instinct. 40 minutes later I had been completely traumatised by watching a woman trussed up in surgery and zonked out on local anaesthetic calmly placated while at the other end of her body the baby had become stuck, was turning blue and had to have it’s shoulder broken just to edge it out into the world. It was like a horror film, but instead of being able to turn off and forget it at the end, I sat there thinking: ‘Oh God! this is definitely going to happen to me!”
A few months later, when I had successfully survived my own ordeal, I gave it another go. Flooded with post pregnancy hormones, I turned into the blithering emotional wreck I was supposed to be, oohing and aahing every time a newborn was passed to it’s mother.
Yet it still baffled me. For all the beautiful, tender moments at the end, the programme was awash with blunt, brutal and at times graphic depictions of one of the most undignified moments of a woman’s life. I know it’s natural and of course it’s wonderful, but I have never held with this opinion that it’s beautiful. It’s not. How can anything in which the majority of participants defecate, generally without realising, in a room full of people – some strangers, others the people you love most in the world and who are supposed to still fancy you after this! – be considered beautiful?!
You can imagine my reaction when my husband wandered into our living room last week, laughing at his phone and said ‘Watch this’. It was, of course, the much viewed video of Robbie Williams serenading his wife Ayda while she was in labour.
“What would you have done if I’d done that?” he asked with a cheeky grin.
“Punched you in the face”
I would have done. Imagine if mid-contraction, creased up in pain and knowing you had hours more of this to go – fearing in your darkest moments that your body was about to be ripped apart like you were James Bond with a circular saw headed straight for your personal bits – imagine if at that precise moment some moron leaned in, grinned inanely and began singing the opening lines to Rock DJ. What would you do?
For me there are two key issues with Robbie’s labour serenading video. First, the oblivious insanity of singing at someone in the throes of child birth and second, filming it and sharing it with the world. Both seem to me completely incomprehensible and unforgivable.
Yet some argue that it’s just a bit of good fun; labour lasts hours and while it’s dramatic at points, it can also be mind bogglingly dull. We can also assume there is a good chance that she was in on it; it is the only feasible explanation why the world did not witness Ayda Field knock out her husband on the hospital floor. While I will never understand it, apparently some people are fine with sharing these moments with the world and his wife.
Which leaves me with only one final objection, and this is what I judge Mr Williams for the most. If he was going to serenade his wife, did he really have to sing his own songs? Hasn’t she heard enough of those by now? Isn’t that genuinely the most self-centred, oblivious, thoughtless thing you could possibly do during the birth of your child?
Then again, if you marry Robbie Williams, you surely know what you’re letting yourself in for.
I am living my very own Groundhog Day, but instead of a day it’s the never ending repetition of a single conversation. It goes like this.
Stranger: Aww. He’s lovely. How old is he?
Me: Just turned one.
Stranger: Aww. What’s his name?
Stranger: Ooh, like the prince! Hello Prince George [laughs]
Me: Hmm [plastering on a fake smile until the stranger gets bored and walks away or starts talking about the royal baby]
I’ve already had this conversation four times this the week. It’s the one I’ve been dreading ever since they announced the name of the royal baby. Actually, since the birth of the royal baby. Actually, since the announcement of the pregnancy, when a whole range of royal-baby-name-experts (is that really a thing?) crawled out of the woodwork and started pontificating about possible names. It seems that when you’re a royal it isn’t the job of your parents to choose your name; it is the job of pompous, snorting, overbearing aristocrats on Radio 4, and they chose George months ago.
We chose George several months before that.
In many ways, it doesn’t matter. It’s not exactly an unusual name. Our George was born a full year earlier so people shouldn’t think he’s been named after the prince (though from the conversations I’ve had, it’s as if people do). It’s not likely that we’ll be socialising with the royals and have awkward but amusing incidents where the two get confused. Ha ha ha!
That’s the thing. We have absolutely nothing to do with the royal baby, but now somehow seem inextricably linked. Before, people would engage in a discussion about my son, but now as soon as they learn his name they’re talking about some other child, a child none of us know and none of us will ever meet!
It’s symptomatic of the strange fascination with ‘The Royal Baby’ which has always baffled me. There are approximately 370,000 babies born in the world every day. The vast majority of those I will never meet and don’t give a second thought. I’m not being mean, it’s just a fact. I will almost certainly never meet Prince George, he will have no impact on our lives as we will have no impact on his, so why would I care?
I thought this was a pretty sensible and logical approach but soon found myself being labelled a cynic, a misery and even cold-hearted.
I wouldn’t call myself a Republican – in reality I just don’t care that much – but I did find myself becoming increasingly cynical as the media coverage of ‘The Royal Birth’ became so preposterous it was practically parodying itself: the ridiculously intrusive and pre-emptive announcement that she’d gone into labour led to endless speculation about every detail of the poor child’s life before it had even taken its first breath in the world and press camping outside the doors of the hospital like a group of deranged stalkers hoping that a stray piece of placenta soaked tissue might accidentally float out of the window so that they could splash it across the front page and analyse it in disgusting, intrusive detail, giving them the world’s greatest exclusive. All it needed was for Chris Morris to pop up in the press throng and it could have been an episode of Brass Eye
Then there was the horrendous commercialisation of the whole thing. Companies launched themselves on to the royal bandwagon, capitalising on the birth of an innocent, oblivious child to sell more toys, clothes, shoes, socks, mugs, dribble bibs, cakes, washing powder, toilet roll, sink and plughole unblocker – well, you get the idea. George at ASDA especially must have been over the moon!
Label me cold-hearted if you want, but I was happy to turn off the TV and computer and wait until the whole thing blew over.
The only problem is, when I finally came out from hibernation, I discovered a side that wasn’t so bad after all. Seeing a photograph of Kate, William and George for the first time my initial thought was still ‘For God’s sake, isn’t there any other news?’, but another part of me (I guess the mum part of me) thought ‘Aww, they do look happy’. I guess that’s the thing about being a parent, while you can recognise the increasing amount of nonsense in the world, you also know the most simple pleasure in the world: looking at and loving your child. Seeing them look at their George made me look at my George and for a brief second, I could find something in common with a family so far removed from my own life.
And on the plus side, we’re never going to struggle to buy gifts with the name George on them.