Today there was a tiny report in the Sunday Telegraph declaring mums want other mums to be more honest about the challenges of raising a baby. Apparently research released by Motherpedia says 93 per cent of Aussie mothers believe there needs to be more honesty between mums about motherhood. Really? Honesty is going to help?
Well, at the risk of it all getting ugly, here’s my HONEST advice for mothers contemplating, incubating or developing young children.
- There is never a “right” time to have a baby. All of you debating when or if to get pregnant and trying to fit it in to your life there won’t be a moment that is “perfect”. In the end you just have to do it and then figure out how to make it work.
- Stop worrying about the pregnancy and the birth – I know some of you may have reached that pivotal moment when it hits you that at some point this growing bump has to get OUT and you go into meltdown – don’t worry it does get out, one way or another, and frankly, those 9 months and however many hours of labour pale into insignificance compared the 18 years of challenges ahead.
- This is the hardest thing you will ever do in your life. You may have scaled Everest, lead a giant corporation, been held up at gun-point on a travelling adventure in Africa – all of that a piece of cake compared to raising a child.
- Children come with their own inbuilt personality – as much as you think you get to mould them – nahhh. From about 18 months Hippie Child screamed when she was put in a dress – it was pretty and pink and she looked so darn cute – then she screwed up her face and screeeeeeched until the offending item was removed from her person. To this day it is a struggle to get her into a dress and she would rather die than have even a touch of pink on her clothes.
- Some days you will look at them in awe and marvel at their ability, their talent, their perceptive thoughts and wonder where it all came from – other days you will look at them in horror, how could a child of yours be so insensitive, cruel, stupid and you’ll blame their father.
- You need to say goodbye to the woman you were before you had children. I’m sorry but you wanted honesty. What you thought, what you believed, what you were going to do and achieve that all gets thrown into a whirlpool of emotion, activity, demands and after riding the rapids you emerge on the other side completely reinvented. You will need to mourn the loss of your former self and learn to embrace the woman you become but eventually you will. At some point you will even learn to appreciate the experience and pity the men who don’t get to know a total reformation of their entire being.
- You will be so tired you will think you are going to die of exhaustion. I’m not talking “oh dear I partied so hard I saw the sunrise” tired. I’m talking Guantanemo Bay sleep-deprivation torture tired.
- The baby/toddler years operate in dog years – every one year feels like it has taken six to pass – once they hit high school the years speed up – one year seems to take but a minute and you can’t believe they are talking about what they want to do when they leave school.
- There will be days you yell at your children (I know you don’t think that could possibly happen) but yes you do, they also yell back at you at times. When you feel bad about it cling to the fact that at least you are all releasing your stress and not building up cancer cells under a false veneer of politeness.
- You will make the wrong choices for your children at times. A bad choice of school for Hippie Child saw me beating myself up about what an idiot I was – however, looking at her I think she developed some very valuable skills there – she learnt to swear, she learnt to cope with some of the worst teaching I have ever seen in my life (and some of the best), she realised that not everyone came from the sort of home she did, she figured out how to stand up to bullies, she learnt how to survive in a tough playground, she developed compassion and resilience. When you get it wrong, fix it and get over it.
- You won’t have a clue what to do about work, and will probably try all sorts of versions, at the end of the day chose an option that suits you and your family and ignore anyone who disagrees with your choice.
- Every parent screws their child up in some way, no matter how good a parent you try to be there will be days when you say the wrong thing, aren’t patient enough, don’t pay enough attention – in the end all I’ve got left is offering to pay for the therapy when they are 30.
- Other women will be your best allies and your worst foes. Really women are their own worst enemies. We need to ditch the judgemental attitude (and there are times when we have all got it) and respect people’s choices, having children/or not, natural birth/caesarian, public school/private, stay at home/go to work – in the end we all want a happy fulfilling life, however the hell we get there.
- Your children will consume you, there may even be times when you wonder if you did the right thing getting pregnant in the first place. However, there will be evenings sitting around the dinner table when they are clever-funny, caring and thoughtful (in between talking with their mouth full and forgetting to take their plates to the sink) and you will realise you have created something wonderful.