Sunday, 31 August 2014

LIFE AS IT IS & finally settling into motherhood

Ever find yourself wishing you were a member of the ‘Motherhood Sucks' society? Or were you always one of the lucky ones; Earth mother personified? Why is it some of us find settling into motherhood more difficult than others?

Last week I invited some mums over for coffee so that the little ones could all have a play, and us grown-ups could feel, well, grown-up.
It was only when chatting about a life prior to having children, that I was confronted with the question, what would I give to return to those days?

For someone who was always ambivalent to having a family, I surprised myself with the reply. But the truth is, I really didn’t have to think very long about it:
“No thanks. I would not swap motherhood, in exchange for the fabulous life I led prior to having my babies.”
Yes, pinch yourself. I said that. Me, who often bemoans the fact that my two small children are the biggest challenge I’ve ever encountered in my life.
I mean, why would I want to give up my life as it is? After all, wiping backsides, combing out head lice, fending off sick bugs and wearing snot are such great attributes. But honestly, six years in, I wouldn’t want it any other way. 
Something’s happened in the last few months. Miraculously, I have finally settled into motherhood.
All you earth mothers out there are probably wondering what took me so long? I’m guessing it is a lot to do with the fact that my two girls are now over their allergies and intolerances. Having babies that screamed around the clock with pain, meant I was busy trying to work out which way was up until a few months ago. Realistically, that sort of motherhood, is tough on any woman.
One reason I’ve settled into motherhood is because I never completely gave myself to it. I continued to identity with my former life as a writer – working as a freelance whenever my baby slept. In the trade, this is called the ‘nap trap’. Some women no doubt see it as a chore. I always viewed it as my down time.
Another reason I’ve settled into motherhood, is that I now finally accept the role, and all that goes with it… the ground hog day treadmill that consists of the often mundane routines of a five and two year old. 
The start to the day that is my hair being twiddled, five little piggy’s, flying snot sneezes, breakfasting, lunch making, shoes on the wrong feet, rushing to school and back home again to collect something we forgot, building blocks, scooting, painting, feeding, changing, catching more flying snot… oh and the other days where I’ve already yelled at my girls before I’ve even had time to put the kettle on because they’re fighting, arguing, hair-pulling and biting again. Nice picture huh?!
I often find myself daydreaming about starting up a ‘Motherhood Sucks' society and soon after, feel remorseful for doing so. Remorseful. Did I mention the emotions that are hard wired into motherhood? Guilt being the obvious one, followed closely by other such sentiments that suddenly stem from having offspring. I've managed most of them in time. 
Perhaps I had it too good before having children? I certainly knew what else was out there. And after becoming a mother, no, soon after getting up the duff, I missed it all. Vehemently.
And living vicariously through my responsibility-free friends was not enough. Hearing about the childless collective and what they were up to was nearly as difficult, as knowing that they were all free to get up to something at all.
Am I the only mother to have had these thoughts? The word on the street (or at least the long lane I live on) is definitely not. There are a number of mothers I know that have all confided to dreaming of a life gone by. Being able to drop everything and walk out the door, even for an hour.  
I find it amazing that a study by the Open University declared mothers to be the happiest of any other group surveyed. And even after their relationships crumbled.
Fortunately, my relationship is rock solid. In fact teamwork is our answer to tackling parenthood. Yes, fortunately I have a husband who is great with our two young daughters… Who gives me time to myself at the weekends when I need it… Who understands that parenthood is the hardest thing we’ve (I’ve) ever accomplished. And on that note, I can’t imagine doing it alone. Single earth mother parents, I salute you.
I am fully aware that the difficult days of toddlerhood won’t last. Indeed, the horrendous burning side effects of cow’s milk allergy are over, and my life as it is since having children, is already easier than it was. I also know there are other tough times ahead. Purely thinking about how I was as a teen, is enough to make me shudder.
But presently, I am beginning to reclaim apart of myself that has been missing for a while – my little one started nursery two mornings a week. (Excuse me while I do a little celebratory wiggle in my seat). My career as a writer is blossoming...
…And hubby and I are reclaiming our coupledom. And I suppose at some point in the not too distant future we will get our lives back to the point where we too can cavort if we wish. Whenever we wish.
Question is now… do we want to cavort as we once did? Do I want to return to that carefree existence I led before children? Would I want to be a part of that childless collective now that I’ve finally settled into motherhood?
No. Not anymore. I’m a mother. I have children. They are a part of me. Unique to me. And really rather important to me. The things they say and do, those snuggles in the morning. Oh and okay, even the hair twiddling and the snot.
You see, along with all the literal crap, motherhood is actually rather amazing. And I’m not only enjoying watching them grow and change, I’m also enjoying seeing myself grow and change.
Maybe that’s because children complete you? Considering I once thought I’d forever wish I could remain a part of what had gone before, yes I’d say they do. 
And as our small people grow, our table will continue to be surrounded with chatter and chaos. With debates and dilemmas… and boyfriends. Gosh, isn’t motherhood going to equate to a life less lonely?
A wise friend and mother of three, once said to me, “When you choose to have a baby, you choose to give up every selfish bone in your body.”
I’ve realised that not being your archetypal earth mother, there were more selfish bones in my body than not. But I’m also realising that most of those selfish bones of mine have since undergone transformation.

So there you have it. I finally settled into motherhood. And do you know what, I know I’m a much better person for it. Oh and just in case you’re wondering, would I go in for another… don’t be daft; hubby’s had the snip. Really, now, I quite like our life as it is. Why spoil it?

This article first appeared in the Sept/October 2014 issue of Baby London Magazine.

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