The most honest thing you'll ever read: The dirty little secrets of parenting
Parenting is hard. We all know that.
But the hardest bit is, without a doubt, the dirty little secrets that us mummies keep from eachother.
When I became a mummy for the first time I pretended that certain things didn’t happen to me. Why? Because they didn’t seem to be happening to any other mothers, which in theory, made me feel I must be a bad mother because they WERE happening to me. So I went silent. I bottled it all up, put on a happy face and pretended everything was ok.
I had officially become a part of the “dirty little secrets” parenting club.
However, in the last couple of months, I’ve started to admit how I felt. And as I began to be more honest, other mothers opened up too. As a result I have realised that when parents are honest with eachother, it makes parenting so much easier.
I’ll say it again: parenting is hard. So here I am being brutal honest.
1. Breastfeeding is hard.
Really really hard. It hurts and it’s complicated - which boob do I feed him from now? Is he latching properly? How often should I be feeding? Eek - have I got mastitis?!
Breastfeeding is also seeped in worry. You’ll worry about everything from ‘is my baby getting enough milk?’ to ‘Is my milk drying up?’
However it’s not just he physical aspects of breastfeeding that is hard. It’s the emotions connected to it. If you decide not to breastfeed then you are plagued by the NHS website that tells you you should be doing it for at least 6 months. If you dare google “formula” then even the companies that make baby formula will hammer home the guilt by administering a “pop up” on their website reminding you that “breast is best.”
If you do breastfeed and then decide it’s time to stop (whether that’s 3 months or a year later) you will then turn into an emotional wreck as you give the “last ever feed” and wonder if your baby will realise what’s happening.
Yup. Breastfeeding is hard. If only more of us would talk more openly about it.
2. You will feel like you are never good enough.
This happens to me on a daily basis: You want to be perfect for your little baby. You want to be the sort of mother who knows exactly how to calm them down when they are in a state, or to give them the most nutritious, organic baby purée you can (without having to google a recipie.)
But on a daily basis you WILL feel like you have failed. Maybe it’s because your baby cried a real tear (and you watched it run down their cheek) or you caught them, just that little bit too late, putting a spoon in their mouth (that was previously on the floor.)
The problem with having a baby is that you want to be the best mother you can be, and with that comes doubts and guilt . You’ll beat yourself up because you don’t know everything. But what mother does? Rest assured that even though YOU feel like you’re not good enough, everyone around you (especially your baby) will see, and know, that you are.
2. You will lose part of yourself despite promising yourself you won't let that happen.
Things that used to excite you will now likely feel more like an effort. Getting drunk over dinner and dancing on tables? Who wants to deal with a hangover the following day whilst a baby screams at you? Having late night Netflix-a-thons are replaced with early nights to bed in the hope you can get a few extra hours sleep. I PROMISED myself when I was pregnant that I wouldn’t loose the old me - but I have. There. I said it.
Becoming a mummy does change you - and some of those changes are hard. The silver lining? You may lose a part of yourself but you will also grow a new part. A new self that is no longer selfish, no longer believes life is just about the next big party. Suddenly there is someone who is so important - that the old you becomes even better as a result.
3. You'll have bad thoughts - but it's really normal.
You might wonder what it would feel like if you walked out the door and just left your baby screaming. You’ll probably swear at your baby at times. You might even mutter the phrase “I wish I’d never had you.” But rest assured all it will take to remove these thoughts is a toothless grin or giggle from your baby and suddenly they will be the best thing in the world again.
4. You will hate your husband at times.
It could be for numerous reasons. Maybe you hate the fact that he gets to escape for 12 hours a day by going to work. Perhaps he’s managed to get a giggle out of the baby when all you’ve had are screaming fits. Maybe you’re fed up of him asking you when the baby should sleep/eat/bathe (can’t he look up the fucking routine himself?) Believe me, there are times when you will look at your other half and literally hate them. Is it the hormones? Possibly. The lack of sleep? Probably. But it’s also because your relationship will and does change. And that takes a bit of getting used to.
Suddenly you’re both in new roles that you have never had to be in before. Rather than just being “husband and wife” you now have another label: Mother and Father. And with that comes a lot of new learnings. As we all know - a new job can equal stress and, considering you’ve both just started a new job it can mean that you’re new “colleague” is now downright irritating.
5. You might not feel that "rush of love" straight away.
I hate writing this (Mothers guilt surfaces again!) but the rush of love certainly didn’t happen straight away for me. I waited and waited for it to come during those first few days of Rupert being in my arms but it just didn’t. That’s not to say I didn’t feel anything, or that I didn’t care about him or want him to be in my life. But that all encompassing, huge overwhelming feeling of love took its time. I didn’t know for those first few days after Rupert was born that I was suffering my PND, (and when I was diagnosed I did feel a surge of relief that there was a reason that feeling of intense love wasn’t there) but the thing is, having spoken to other mummy friends since, they also admitted that intense feeling of love didn’t come straight away either.
And these are mummies who didn’t have PND. These are mummies who just didn’t feel it - and there’s nothing wrong with that. Why? Because that love DOES grow. It may just take a bit longer for some mummies than others (*Rupert - if you ever read this my darling, please know that the love did come and I love you more than anything ever. Never doubt how much I love you.)
6. You will feel more lonely than you have ever felt despite having constant company.
When you have a baby you have a constant companion - they are always there with you. Every day, night, hour and minute. You’ll also have friends and family popping in constantly - wanting to help, hold the baby, make you endless cups of tea. But despite this, you will feel lonely.
Why? Because no one knows what it’s like to be you right now. You are a new mummy. But you are also your new mummy. You are creating a new role for yourself as a protector and provider and no matter what advice others give you, only you can make the decision about how you want to mother. And that can be pretty lonely.
7. Parenting books will turn you into a nervous wreck.
I bought every book going. I even took out highlighters and underlined things and had a notebook labelled “baby stuff” that I constantly filled with new “advice.” The result? I usually ended up surrounded by books and in floods of tears. You really can overload yourself with too much advice and it can become overwhelming. Advice, by its nature, is contradictory. What one person feels is right, another will feel is wrong. Which means there’s is never a “correct” way of mothering. The only “right” way of doing anything is doing what your gut tells you is the best thing for you and your baby. That is literally all the advice you need.
8. You will judge yourself against every other mother.
You’ll promise yourself you won’t. And you may manage it for the first couple of weeks - but without a doubt, the judgement will set on.
I had numerous friends with new babies who all breastfed, and when I was struggling and debated switching to formula, I judged myself. How could I be a good mother if everyone else was managing to give breast milk and I wasn’t? This then moved on to baby classes - my other mummy friends were taking their babies to three classes a week and I was just managing two. Did this make me a bad mum?
Believe me, motherhood is filled with doubt and constant comparison. But don’t compare - your baby is unique to you and you are unique to your baby. So enjoy the decision you make - even if they are different from others mothers.
9. You might not actually enjoy being a mother.
Motherhood is hard. And at times (sometimes more than not) incredibly boring. Motherhood makes your emotions go into overdrive - you’re overprotective, overtired, over emotional. Your day to day life is on repeat (wake, feed baby, play, feed baby, put to sleep, feed baby...) and your life pre-mummy seems like a lifetime ago. And that makes you sad.
So how do we deal with this? In my mind if more and More mums spoke about the hard parts of parenting HONESTLY (without trying to make it sound cool by hash tagging #mumfail next to a photo of a baby covered in poo) then there would be less mummy's feeling shame and guilt about the way they feel.
It’s ok to feel bored being a mummy? It’s ok to miss your old life and wish more than anything you could get it back. It’s ok to admit that you don’t know a bloody thing about weaning or potty training or how to get your baby to sleep through the night. It’s ok to say “you know what, being a mum can be shit at time.” Why? Because I can gaurantee you’re not the only mummy feeling it. Allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to share the truth.
Having chatted about this post to numerous mummies out there I have decided to start a social media campaign called #itsOKto. All you have to do is share a photo on social media and write A caption with the hashtag #itsokto and then let us know what you feel is “ok” to feel or experience as a mother. This could be anything from #itsOkto not breastfeed to #itsokto let your baby stay in his Pyjamas all day.
I’m hoping that by starting this campaign more and more mothers will be honest about parenting and with it we will drop the mum guilt. Let’s do it together!