Before I had kids, I always thought I’d be the best mum.
My kids wouldn’t do what “those kids” did. They wouldn’t throw tantrums in the supermarket. They would be sweet angels who would do as they were told, and everyone would comment on my excellent parenting skills.
I had no idea what those parents of naughty kids were doing, but it definitely wasn’t proper parenting. Most likely, they just let the kids run wild while they watched “Jerry Springer” on TV and sipped cask wine. Poor kids—what chance did they have?
And those “screaming-like-a-banshee parents,” with their frustrated-as-hell, red faces and their eyes bulging out, yelling at their children? Seriously, take a chill pill. It couldn’t be that hard.
And maternity leave. Bonus! Sitting around all day playing with the baby, watching sappy movies, reading, going for walks, and meeting friends for coffee—well, that sounds like living the dream!
I couldn’t wait to have kids and this super easy life without the daily pressures of work.
As for the snooty teenagers? Again—I chalked it up to bad parenting.
Of course, I wasn’t stupid; I knew they might be tempted to be slightly naughty occasionally, but one knowing glance from me would be all it took to pull them back in line.
Insert record scratch here…
My sincerest apologies to all parents everywhere.
Because once you’ve entered this zone, there’s no going back. Grab your flak jackets, raincoats, boots, gloves, and protective eyewear. And hold on tight for the roller-coaster ride you’re about to encounter. Every. Single. Day.
My “angels” threw tantrums, refused to eat food they didn’t like, and refused to eat food they did like. They said embarrassing things in supermarkets, often loudly.
If I got one hour of sleep in a row, it was a holy miracle.
All of a sudden, I was “that mother,” with the red face and the eyes bulging out, screeching at my kids to stop pelting the neighbour’s daughter over the head with a Tonka truck.
And nothing against “Dora the Explorer,” but seriously, how many times do you need to read that map, Dora?
I had entered an alternate reality where my days consisted of:
>> Endless tantrums and tears (from me and the kids)
>> Making food and trying to convince my children to eat it
>> Deciding that the unholy mess made my house look “home-y”
>> Poo, wee, vomit, and more crying
>> Showers becoming a rarity
>> A dangerous and daring obstacle course of dolls, soft toys, Lego pieces, bits of food, books, Tonka trucks, and many Thomas the Tank engine trains
>> Strategizing the optimum time to get to the supermarket with the least chance of tantrums, tears, or demands for chocolate-coated jelly sprinkle beans, which after half an hour of searching you find out don’t actually exist
>> Obsessing over “sleep schedules” for no reason, because these kids don’t sleep
>> Blaming everything possible on “baby brain” (which I still do nearly 17 years later)
And then came the medical and feeding stresses that take over your life.
Are their cheeks red because of teething, reflux, or colic, or do they have a temperature? What was a normal temperature? When should you give Panadol or Nurofen or tepid boiled water?
Why is their poo runny? Should they be on solids?
Then came the seemingly endless production of expressed milk, because apparently, I wasn’t a good milker. Bring on the guilt of not being a good milker.
Should I use formula? Why is my baby losing weight?
This wasn’t how it was meant to be.
At what point did I become the mother who walked around the house with baby food and vomit down her top, and hair in a messy bun on top of her head (and not a trendy, carefree messy bun like the models have, but a god-awful, food-in-the-hair, half-up half-down crazy, ugly, messy bun).
I had become one of those parents I used to shake my head at.
I wanted to go back to my paid job for a break. If only I wasn’t so tired.
And as for the teenagers, well I’m right in the middle of those years now—flak jacket and protective gear still on.
For now, if I get a, “Good morning Mum,” I’ll take that as a win.
Words of advice
Clearly, I’m no parenting expert and you should definitely take medical or specialist baby-rearing advice over my little points, but these are the things I wish someone had told me:
>> You’ll get lots of conflicting advice—do what works for you and your baby.
>> It’s okay to cry.
>> It’s okay if you feel like a zombie.
>> Take a time-out when you can.
>> Sleep whenever you can
>> There’ll be people who tell you their children are angels—don’t listen to these people.
>> Join a supportive mother’s group and talk to your Maternal and Child Health Nurse.
>> Your kids love you with everything they have, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes.
To all those mums and dads and care givers out there: I’m with you. It’s a bloody tough gig. Much tougher than I ever could have imagined.
I’m sorry to all those parents I judged before I donned my flak jacket. If you had time, amidst the craziness of raising children to indulge in a little “Jerry Springer,” then I raise my glass of cask wine in your honour!