It was pretty much exactly a year ago when happily enjoying my maternity leave, I popped into work to visit my colleagues to say hello and give them have a cuddle with Zachy (then three-months old). I remember it because it was a Halloween fancy dress day, so I dressed him in a white onesie and called him ‘Casper’.
While there, one of my colleagues asked me “How are you finding being a Mum?”
I remember quite clearly replying – “I love it, and it’s actually easy!”
Yes, let me repeat that…
“it’s actually easy!”
What kind of happy juice potions I had been drinking that day I do not know, because I sit here today nervous and frazzled and knackered, wondering when the hell it all got so hard!
Looking back, I was certainly tired during the early months, and nervous and frazzled being a new Mum trying to get to grips with it all. But I did find it pretty easy. In fact I took to being a Mummy like a duck to water. Yes, I found it challenging sometimes, but with my son being a good eater, a good sleeper, and a happy little thing while awake, I did not find it hard.
Flash forward 12 months, and I am finding it hard!
I quite genuinely feel as exhausted as I was when my son was a newborn. It is not that he is not sleeping (though he is waking a lot in the night at the moment – SIX TIMES was my count last night), it just feels like I am emotionally worn down. I need a break!
But ironically I’ve just had two days off work tagged onto the weekend. I had a lovely long weekend planned out of baking and decorating Halloween cookies, pumpkin carving, and costume making. However the reality was that the cookies got burnt, the costume never got made, and the pumpkin still sits in the kitchen uncarved as a taunting reminder of how my plans went to hell.
On Saturday evening (Halloween) I had sat scrolling through Facebook seeing all the great costumes people had made for their babies and it made me feel like such a crap Mum. This, on top of the bad sleep, the fact my son is into and onto everything (usually highly dangerous of course), and the fact he overtly favours his Daddy over me right now, it all got a bit overwhelming. I actually sat and cried. I rarely ever cry.
At almost 15 months my son is not quite a baby, but not quite a toddler. He is in a ‘between’ stage. After the baby stage of round the clock feeding and nappy changing, this is a stage that I never counted on being so hard…
Thinking about it, I’ve come to realise that it is a stage of contradictions – and I think this is where the difficulty stems from! i.e.
- He still needs naps, but doesn’t want to sleep (he will fight with all his might until one of us cries and gives in)
- He wants to run and walk and climb, but he is not agile enough to do this without constant supervision and handholding (yep, he showed me what a big boy he was on Friday by STANDING on the wicker garden chair, and to my horror nearly toppling before I caught him in lightning speed time)
- He needs constant entertainment, but does not have the capacity to focus on something for more than 15 minutes (also everything, everything, EVERYTHING must be thrown or batted over my head or the poor cat!)
- He knows what he wants, but he does not have the verbal skills to communicate this to me (this usually results in an on-the-floor-all-out tantrum)
- He wants Daddy. He wants Daddy. He wants Daddy. He wants Daddy. He wants Daddy. (I felt rejected and dejected all weekend, though I’ve had a few cuddles today thankfully)
- He doesn’t need so much milk, but will not sleep unless he is nursed through the night (did I mention he woke me six times last night?)
- He loves to walk, but this usually means walking (running) away from me in a public place.
- He is a gentle, sweet affectionate baby, but he has the tendency to behave like a wild animal when let loose
On top of this, I am experiencing a range of mixed emotions, i.e.
- I want to spend all my spare time with him, but I sometimes just seriously need some alone time to re-charge
- I need more sleep but don’t feel prepared to wean him as of yet
- I want to go out and enjoy the cooler weather, but it’s a hit and miss whether the trip is successful and stress-free. Sometimes I’d prefer to just stay in the garden with a cup of tea while he scuttles about
- I feel guilty about everything 😦
Now, there are many reasons why I may be experiencing the above i.e.
- The dreaded period just returned after a rather nice post-pregnancy hiatus and I’m just a hormonal tearful mess
- I need more sleep
- I need more exercise
- They just mercilessly killed off Glen on The Walking Dead
- I don’t eat enough fruit
- I don’t drink enough wine
But after reaching breaking point at the weekend, I’ve tried to start the week afresh. I know parenting is hard, and I know I’ve felt like this before. But the funny thing is that I look back and only remember the happy, easy bits. And I’m sure in a few months’ time I’ll look back and think how easy this phase was in comparison.
But I also need to suck it up and understand that my son is not a ‘baby’ anymore. He is a toddler, and with this comes a whole new set of toddler demands.
So, when he got a bit too toddler-ish on Monday night and started hitting his Daddy on the head with a toy, we sat back and patiently dealt with it together. We verbally made our son understand that hitting Daddy with a toy causes “owwa”. Upon repeatedly doing it, we placed him in time-out while we sat close by, then repeated the verbal process when he came out. It took a little while, but the result was that he stopped hitting and started giving the toy to Daddy to look at. Once satisfied Daddy had thoroughly examined the toy, he sat with us for cuddles! It was quite amazing and we felt really proud of ourselves.
Looking forward then, I’ve decided that instead of losing my patience with my son and blaming things on him, or tiredness, or all my other excuses, I’m really going to try and embrace this new stage and learn how to understand my son, since it’s all new and big and scary and quite probably overwhelming for him too.
So, here is a message to my son – Baby, I love you, you’ve been exhausting me, but I promise I am going to try harder. No more Mummy-tantrums.
And a message to myself – enjoy yoga tonight, you deserve some chill.