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The Parent Paradox

Monday, 2 February 2015  |  Admin

The parent paradox

Before I had Millar, when people told me my life would never be the same again, I found it a bit frustrating. I knew it wouldn’t be the same – in a good way! I knew I would get no sleep…blah blah blah… and I tended to think that people who talked about it being hard were just being negative. So in this post, I am mainly talking to my pre-baby self – and people like me!

I thought I would try to explain the strange paradox of being a mummy.

Dear my baby-less self,
That new mother you see may be shell shocked from the pain of giving birth; she may even go a bit wide-eyed and pale when she talks about the hazy, pieced-together memory of pushing and tearing and agony. But don’t for one minute assume that this wasn’t the most magical experience she has ever felt; that she didn’t look at her baby with so much pride that her heart hurt. There is every chance that what happened on that pain-filled day was the thing she is most proud of in her whole life.

When this new mother tells you about how hard having a newborn is, how she can’t shower – can barely get dressed before lunchtime and can’t remember the last time she had time to shave her legs or reply to a text, please don’t think that she isn’t looking at her baby with total adoration (while clad in her pyjamas) soaking up the smell of him – the sound of his breathing, the cute little squeaks he makes when he’s asleep. There’s a good chance that part of the reason she hasn’t taken a shower is because she doesn’t want to put him down.

But when this mother tears her hair out that the baby won’t be put down – that he cries when not in her arms, don’t assume that the minute the baby is not in her arms and is somewhere away from her that she doesn’t miss him like a piece of her heart was gone.

And that mother who is desperate for her baby to sleep for longer and despairs that she never gets any time to herself? Don’t assume that she doesn’t spend all evening when her baby is in bed looking at pictures of him on her phone, telling her partner about this cute little thing he did today, missing him desperately while he’s asleep and looking forward to that next cuddle.

She may go on about being tired, how the baby doesn’t sleep, how she’s never felt tiredness like it. But don’t for one second think that at 3am, when that cry jolts her out of her sleep, that she wouldn’t want to be instantly there by her baby’s side, ready to comfort, cuddle and soothe him back to sleep. However long it takes.

And if she cries all the time about the stupidest things; if she’s incapable of stringing a sentence together and cries because she can’t remember what she was saying; if she cries because breastfeeding hurts – or because she’s had to stop feeding – or because she feels at that particular moment that she can’t cope and wants to curl up in a ball and die, please please don’t assume that she is not enjoying being a mother. That baby means more to her than anybody else in the world – in fact probably more than everybody else put together and she would almost certainly put her life on the line for him – even though he may only be a few days old.

Because that’s the thing about being a mother.

It’s hard. You don’t feel like yourself anymore. But I also wouldn’t want to be that person anymore. I long for time to myself, but as soon as I have any, I long to be with my baby, feeling like I’m missing something. I feel tied down to the fact that I am the only one who knows his bedtime routine. But if someone else were to do it, I would miss the cute way Millar spreads his toes and straightens his legs rigidly as I try to fold him into his bath seat. I would hate not to be there for the moment he reaches up for me to pick him up off the changing mat and go upstairs for a bottle and a cuddle.

Being a mother is the hardest thing I have ever done. But don’t for one minute assume that it isn’t absolutely by far the best thing I have ever done.