I bought a pack of fig rolls the other day, thinking that no one else in the family liked them and therefore I could have them all to myself.
Turns out Nerys is a big fan. Here she is after making off with the packet!
As much as we might like to think that having children won’t change us at all, I really don’t think any of us parents are quite the same as we were pre-babies.
I’m definitely not the same person I was before my children came along, and here are 7 examples of the ways that being a parent has changed me.
I can survive on waaaay less sleep
I used to love my sleep. Seriously, I would quite happily go to bed at 9pm and sleep till nearly 9 the next morning. Now, well now if I get a solid, undisturbed 5 hours sleep I feel great!
My perception of a reasonable time to wake up has changed
After a run of 5am starts with little ones that are raring to go, 6am suddenly feels like a really reasonable time to get up. And 7am? Oh such luxury!
My perception of time in general has changed
Child – “I’m hungry, can I have lunch?”
Me – “Of course, after all it is *looks at clock* 10.15?! Really?! How is it only 10.15?!”
My tolerance for bodily fluids is way higher
I used to be one of those people who just couldn’t handle other people being sick. The sound of someone being sick would make me instantly queasy. My friend has never really forgiven me after I told her that I heard her being sick after a big night out, and turning my walkman up to drown out the sound rather than going to see if she needed anything. Side note, I feel so old now talking about my walkman.
Now though, I’m so at ease with bodily fluids that the last time my daughter was sick (while sitting on my lap) it just didn’t faze me in the slightest!
I’m much more confident
I was always quite a shy person, who hated the idea of walking into a room full of strangers and was really awkward making small talk.
Since having children though, I’m much more relaxed. Forcing myself out of my comfort zone and into mother and baby groups made a huge difference to me. I learnt to relax and be much more comfortable with new people.
I swear more
Apologies to my parents, but I do swear a lot more these days. For the most part though it’s under my breath if that makes it better! A quiet, ‘for fuck’s sake’ when it’s only 7am and I’ve already tidied up the play dough twice, broken up a fight over who gets to sit where in the lounge, and am being asked to put yet another episode of Team Umizoomi on.
Tell me I’m not the only whispering-swearer out there!
How about you? How has becoming a parent changed you?
I’ve been really thinking about it since then. See, the thing is, I could tell myself all sorts of things about what being a mum has really been like, but I still don’t think I would have been prepared.
Nothing can truly prepare you for having a baby. And there are so many factors involved, so many emotions, so many hormones, so many ideals that just get shattered when you get home from the hospital and nothing is quite like you’d imagined it would be.
But, still, here are some things I would tell myself if I had the chance to go back to the time before my children were born.
By ‘it’ I mean all of it. All of what motherhood entails. Just because you want it so badly doesn’t mean it will come easily. Breastfeeding will be hard. At first you’ll be terrified to dress the baby because you don’t know what you’re doing, and you feel like you’ll hurt him. The lack of sleep will be unlike anything you’ve experienced before, you’ll be so tired you’ll hallucinate at night, and just want to cry in the day.
It will get easier though.
You will find your feet. You’ll get some sleep, or at least adapt to getting less sleep. You will get to know your babies. You’ll learn how to do all the practical things and soon they’ll become second nature. You will drink a whole, hot cup of coffee again. You’ll learn to trust your instincts and to do what you know is right for you and your family.
You should really learn the lyrics to Calon Lan.
You’ll sing that song over and over again to both your children. It will have such special meaning to your family.
Hormones can make you all kinds of crazy.
You’ll feel so many emotions you won’t know what’s going on. Joy, despair, wonder, hopefulness, hopelessness, love (complete and utter, all-consuming love), anger, resentment, confusion. Anything goes. But knowing that this is normal can help you get through it. It can take months though, for your hormones to settle down, so be prepared for that!
You won’t be able to think straight.
The baby will be screaming. You’ll know it’s because he’s too hot. You’ll think as far as taking his clothes off and then have to call your husband to come home and help. He’ll immediately come in and open the windows and doors to cool the house down. You’ll burst into tears at not having thought of that for yourself.
There are moments of absolute joy and wonder.
The quiet moments where you just sit, with your baby sleeping on your chest. The wonderful moment you hear your child say ‘mummy’ for the first time, and know that they mean YOU. Every time they attempt a new skill, and again when they master it. The moment you realise that you can have an actual conversation with them. The little moments in the day when you just stop and gaze at them and it really is amazing that they’re here.
There are moments of absolute frustration and despair.
The quiet moments when you just sit, with your baby sleeping on your chest, and the tv remote, your phone and your drink are all out of reach but you don’t dare move because it’s the first time the baby’s slept all day and you’re so scared you’ll wake them up. The moment you hear your child call ‘mummy’ for the 100th time that hour and you desperately want them to mean someone else. When you have the same conversation with your 20 month old over and over and over again.
Being a mum is hard. Really bloody hard. We’re bombarded with conflicting advice and opinions. And internally we fight conflicting thoughts and emotions. We get tired and frustrated when the baby won’t sleep, then we feel guilty for feeling those things because there are women out there without children who would give anything to be in our shoes, then we feel overwhelmingly sad at that thought, then get a rush of love for the baby in our arms, then minutes later we’re back at frustration because they still won’t go to sleep.
You’d do it all over again.
When you strip it all back though, and get past all the fear, and despair, and utter exhaustion, at the very core of motherhood is love. Love that is messy and raw and all-consuming, but also beautiful and wonderful and life-changing.
Love like you’ve never known before.
Despite all the things I’ve written above about how hard it all is, having my children is still the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. I wouldn’t change them for the world. I wouldn’t change this experience for the world. With all the bad comes so, so much good. So many shining moments of joy that wipe away everything else.
So, when all is said and done, if I could go back to being my 27 year old pre-baby self, would I go around again?
I think if I could go back to pre-motherhood me, that would be the advice I would give myself. Don’t get too caught up on what the books say you ‘should’ be doing, don’t worry about what other people tell you your children ‘should’ be doing.
Just focus on getting to know your child, and learning to be the parent that he needs.
See, my children are very similar in many ways. When you look at their baby pictures it can be really hard to tell who is who. They were both on the move very early, and are confident in their physical abilities. But there are more and more differences emerging too. And, of course, as they get older their individual personalities change and evolve and I have to keep up with the people they’re becoming.
I have to make a conscious effort to adapt my behaviour and my habits to ensure that they get what they need from me. For example, I discovered when Rhys was a baby that I’m not as naturally tolerant of mess and dirt as I thought I was, and it’s taken me a while to relax and be comfortable with it. And the main thing I’ve come to realise is that Nerys’ need to get her hands in things, to touch and feel new sensations is more important than my ‘need’ to keep her hands and clothes clean!
See, I’m learning all the time about what my children need from me as a parent.
They need my love, my attention, my time, my respect.
After those needs are met you have to dig a little deeper. Listen to your children, and watch them too. In their own way they’ll tell you what they need.
You’ll learn if they need to be pushed or if you need to hold back.
You’ll learn if they need to be cuddled all day or if they need their personal space.
You’ll learn if they need the structure of routine or if they need more flexibility in their days.
If you trust your instincts you’ll come to realise that they’re your children, no one knows them better than you. No one else knows the best way to ‘be’ with them.
So, a message to past-me, and a reminder to now-me and future-me:
Don’t worry about being the parent you always thought you’d be.
Don’t waste your time trying to be the parent that others think you should be.
Don’t be the parent to the child you want your child to be.
Get to know the child you’ve been given. Learn who they are, get to understand the way they think, be the parent that they need.
Chances are you’ve seen some posts starting to pop up on Facebook about how the clocks are going back this weekend. Which is normally seen as something to celebrate seeing as it, in theory, gives us an extra hour in bed on Sunday morning.
Unless of course you have young children who have absolutely no concept of time.
In that case, the extra hour is something that we remember fondly from our pre-children days, and then start to dread as we prepare ourselves for a good few weeks of really unreasonable wake-up times while the kids adjust.
So, in an attempt to bring a little humour to the situation, here is my guide to the things we parents think and say during the 5 stages of coping with the loss of that extra hour in bed:
“The kids aren’t actually awake. No, they can’t really be awake yet. It’s 4.30am, they’re just stirring. They’ll settle back to sleep in a minute. If I just shut my eyes and go back to my dream then the kids will do the same, that’s how it works isn’t it? I mean, they’re not properly awake anyway”
“Damn. They’re properly awake. Are you actually kidding me?! For the love of God, it’s 4.30am! And why do they always have to call for me? Shout for Daddy instead for once!”
To your other half (after you’ve shaken them awake):
“If you get up with them today I’ll do all the cooking and cleaning for the rest of the week”
To your children (after you’ve stumbled into their room):
“If you just stay quietly in bed and look at books for an hour you can watch Peppa pig and eat chocolate buttons for the rest of the day”
“Argh, this sucks. I don’t want to get up yet. It’s so dark out, and it’s so bloody early the heating hasn’t come on yet so I’m freezing.
Oh God, it’s so early that Cbeebies isn’t even on yet ”
“Looks like it’s going to be a 10-cups-of-coffee kind of day. Right, let’s get up and get the first cup going. Then stick the Sarah and Duck DVD on for the kids. At least they might go to sleep at a decent time tonight!”
Do any of these things sound familiar to you?
Or are you one of the parents who actually prepares for the clock change by adjusting bedtimes etc all week? I’ve never been organised enough to actually do that!
Did you know that yesterday was international coffee day? A wonderful day I’m sure you’ll agree! Although, every day is coffee day around here.
The thing is, children seem to come with an in-built radar that detects when you want to have a nice hot drink. They seem determined to make it as difficult as possible for us to make a coffee or tea, and then make it damn near impossible to drink it while it’s actually still hot!
Here I give you 5 thoughts that I’m sure my children have when I go to make a cup of coffee.
1) Look, Mummy’s going in the kitchen. I’d better ask for a biscuit/some chocolate/a drink.
2) Hmm, Mummy’s clearly trying to do something in the kitchen. I think she needs me to go in and squeeze myself in the gap between her legs and the work surface.
3) Ah, Mummy’s coming back with her hot drink; now’s the time to cling to her legs and ask to be picked up.
4) Ohh, Mummy’s just sat down with her drink. I’d better ask her to go and get me a biscuit/some chocolate/a drink.
5) Right, Mummy’s just about to start drinking her coffee, this is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for to tell her that I need a clean nappy. Mwah ha ha ha.
I wished on a shooting star for you, did you know that?
I was lying on a beach one night in the summer of 2010, longing for the clouds to shift enough for the perseid meteor shower to do it’s thing. Then it happened; a brilliant flash of light darted across the sky. And I wished. With all my heart I wished. For you. For you to come to us, to change our world.
And nine months later there you were. And right from the start you changed everything. You changed me. I found a strength and determination I didn’t know I had to get you safely into the world. You made me raw and vulnerable in a way that only a new parent can be.
You’ve kept me on my toes your whole life. Just when we thought we had things figured out a new change would come along.
Because that’s life, isn’t it. Life is change.
And right now, there’s a big change happening. You’re starting full-time school.
You seem ready. You had a great time in the nursery class last year, and you’re familiar with the idea of school.
So, I think this change is more dramatic for me. Our life together has changed, and it can never go back. Daddy and I are taking a deep breath and slowly taking another tiny step back.
There’s a part of me that longs to keep you close. To hold on tight to my little boy who, not long ago, I wished on a star for. I want to keep you just as you are, but I know that’s just now how life works. You have to grow, you have to change, that’s just the way it is.
So here’s what I’ll do; I’ll hold on extra tight when you hold my hand as we walk. I will cherish every last kiss you ask for outside school. Too soon I know you’ll be ‘too old’ for these things.
It really does make me so proud, seeing the boy you’re growing in to. How loving you are. How passionate. I just don’t want the outside world to change you. I want you to stay strong in who you are.
Everything changes. That’s just life. Just don’t let life change you too much ok? You are wonderful, just as you are.
I love you,