No one prepares you for parenthood, you can do all the planning you like in the 9 months before your beautiful bundle arrives; you can buy all the cute outfits, make a long list of baby names, decorate the nursery in pink or blue, that’s the easy bit. But being prepared for the shit storm of emotions and the hard work that are coming your way often doesn’t even get a mention.
Being a parent is the hardest job in the world, I stick by that and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say it. Before I became a mum I thought I’d be a natural, it was all I’d ever wanted – a family. I’m not afraid to say now though, that I’m not a natural and this has been the hardest struggle of my life, one that I have to work hard at every single day. Equally, though the best and most important/rewarding thing that I have ever done.
My daughter Ruby is 7 now, I only have the one child. People often say to me “Are you going to have another?” and I mock laugh replying “God no one’s enough”. It’s not that I’m adverse to having another, I would love a sibling for my daughter, but when I think about it, I wonder if I’d be good enough to do this again, to have another little human reliant on me when I feel like I’m doing such a shit job with the child I already have.
That is what’s natural – to feel like you are failing as a parent.
When people talk about having children, they only talk about the nice bits; the cute smiles, the cuddles, the days out, the little drawings they do that melt your heart. People are afraid to talk about the bad bits, and there are bad bits. The tantrums, the lack of sleep, the mess! I often see people complaining about their kids on social media and then the perfect parent brigade comes out in force telling them not to moan about their children. Why?? A mum who is ranting on facebook about the horrendous day she’s had with her kids needs to vent. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love her children with her heart and soul, it certainly doesn’t make her a bad mum, it just means that she’s struggling and she wants someone to hear her cries, to feel she’s not alone. She doesn’t need your judgement, she needs your support, your advice, for you to just listen, maybe even for you to tell her you are going through the same and that she’s not failing, that it’s normal to feel this way after a bad day at playing mum. We are not in competition, we all just want the same thing – for our children to be happy. By only posting about the good parts of parenthood, your doing yourself a disservice, not letting others know how truly hard it is. Your not fooling anyone but yourself.
You don’t get taught this in school; how to be a parent. You dont study how to be a mum. You don’t get training courses in how to deal with tantrums and backchat, you are expected to just get on with it because you’re a parent and that is your job – it’s expected. Then why do we give ourselves such a hard time when we mess it up occasionally? People make mistakes, children are unpredictable, they surprise, shock and overwhelm us every day. We’re not qualified in this, so making errors should be expected as well and we shouldn’t be judged for that. I’ve been a mum for 7 years and I’ve made tonnes of mistakes, some I’ve learnt from and some quite frankly I haven’t and will keep on repeating. I’ll continue to learn at being a parent for as long as i’m living, because that is what makes a good parent; someone who’s not afraid to say they haven’t got all the answers, someone who’s prepared to face the storm time and time again, someone who makes mistakes but picks themselves back up, just simply someone who’s doing their best…
I’ve been a single mum for 6 years now. It doesn’t mean that I’m some super parent because I’m doing it alone, we all struggle whether we are a lone parent or as two. But there are some differences…
When you are a single parent, you don’t have an ally, when your at the depths of despair and you’ve reached breaking point because your child won’t sleep; you are alone, you can’t say to your partner can you take over i need a breather, you don’t have the backup to reinforce the discipline, there is noone to come home and do the other little jobs while you sort the kids. So you have to keep going, even though you are exhausted, and you’ve tried everything, you keep going because in the back of your mind you know that you are the only one this little being is dependant on and they need you – that is what makes you carry on when you feel like giving up.
When you are a single parent, dating is more like a job interview then romance. Instead of thinking about the butterflies in your tummy, waiting expectantly for their text, daydreaming about spending the weekend with them, you instead wind up thinking about whether they will accept your child? Is it worth starting something and introducing them to your child if it won’t go anywhere in the long run? Will they understand that I can only see them when my child is at her dads? The romance completely disappears because all you can think about is; are they a suitable person to bring into my child’s life, will my little girl except him? and no matter if you really like this person if they aren’t right in your child’s eyes – you give them up because your childs happiness comes first above all other people including your own.
When you are a single parent you have to split your child in half. Share their time with the other parent. At times this can be excruciating, because when you become a parent you don’t envisage ever missing a day in your childs life. You have to share their love with maybe a new step parent and family that moving on brings – i dont mind admitting that this took me a long time, i had bitterness and resentment towards someone who had entered my daughters life and taken the place i always thought i’d be in. I didnt think about the positives that this bought, only sad thoughts that my child might replace me with the “new mum”. After 6 years though i am finally in a place where i have accepted and am ok with it. Ultimately i put my own selfish insecurities aside and wondered how difficult this has been for my daughter, that put it into perspective. If she can do it, so can i.
Going through things alone has only strenghtened my relationship with Ruby. We are very close and share everything, something which i dont feel would have happened had i not been doing it on my own. Our days together are made more special, we appreciate the times we have together because of the days we spend apart.
This is not to say that couples don’t face their own challenges, because they do, they are just different to mine. Whether single or together, bringing up a child is hard and there will be challenges you’ll face for the rest of your life. It’s the ultimate commitment to bring a child into the world but its the most worthwhile one.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that being a parent is tough, it comes in waves of good and bad moments and they’ll be stages where the latter outweighs the former and you’ll feel like you can’t go on. It doesn’t last forever though, and despite what some “perfect” parents claim, these feelings happen to everyone. You only have to search on google “I think I’m a bad parent” and hundreds of threads will come up with people feeling exactly the same – I know because I’ve done it, more than once.
We all feel like we could be doing if differently or better, I felt this way just last night after Ruby had a meltdown. I also look at other parents in the shop/street and i wonder how they have their shit together and i don’t, but then i realise that they don’t either. They are just good at composing themselves in public. I bet they’re just like me, i can guarantee they probably have a little cry sometimes, or lock themselves in the bathroom just to have a minute, that they think the same thoughts that i do. If a parent doesn’t worry about whether they are good enough, I’d wonder why? Worrying about whether you measure up for your kids is what proves you care and love them and want only the best for them.
We shouldn’t be thinking about what parenthood should be and we should start concentrating on what it is – its messy, its chaotic, it has many ups and downs, its real life warts and all. I never thought that i would possess the patience, resilience and strength that it requires to be a mum but I’ve got it in spades and im proving that everyday because I’m surviving. You know how i know? – because my girl tells me she loves me everyday, not always with words, sometimes with a smile, a hug, or a drawing, and those are the moments when i know I’m doing it right. Those are the moments i cling to when things get too much.
My own mum sent me a quote yesterday when I’d had a bad mum day – “Successful mothers are not the ones that have never struggled. They are the ones that never give up despite the struggles” and she’s right as long as your child is saying they love you and hate you in equal measures, I think you are doing ok….