I recently read a Facebook post which was pretty much the best mum rant (in a good way) that I have ever read. It was about never wanting ‘mummy friends’ and I have to admit that I could relate to the sentiments. Prior to having a child, when I saw Facebook posts littered with baby pictures or constant whining about how exhausting motherhood is – I would think “Don’t these women have anything else going on in their lives?” Then it happened! God blessed my husband and I with the most amazing creation – a beautiful baby girl.
And I soon found out that Parent tired is actually a thing and the only people who could understand are those going through it with you.
I am not comparing notes, I’m not saying that your single life is easy – and I definitely don’t want anyone to think that I have zero appreciation for single life:
My single – that is unmarried without children – life, was a busy life. I worked full time in Inventory Accounting, had my fill of meetings, investigations, end of financial year deadlines and more. I also worked part time as an Accounting lecturer, attended university part time pursuing an English & Linguistics degree, and I ran a small lingerie business from home. I was definitely a busy bee. I was impressed with my own productiveness. I am one of those who believes in living on your own once you are legally an adult so I lived on my own. My home was always clean, laundry always folded, dishes always washed. I worked out regularly and read often. I was regularly asked – how do you achieve all that? My blunt quirky personality meant I was rarely included on anyone’s guest list so friends were few, a late night would have been watching the new release of Iron man, Avengers or any other Marvel movie that finished early enough so I could still be in bed by 10 pm. I was definitely no night owl. I don’t think I owned a television, if I did – it was never switched on. Time was structured. I usually lectured before 11am on Saturday mornings, the rest of the day was for food shopping, washing, cooking and cleaning. Laundry for a single person was possibly three loads max, since I lived alone tidying up after myself was not difficult – the hardest part would have been washing dishes after preparing the single meal which was usually enough for three days. University lectures and tutorials were again scheduled events, work started at the same time everyday, life was routinised and structured. Everything else fitted into the few hours that remained – the 12000 word essays, other assignments, bra measurements and sales, hiking, swimming and other. I thrived on being busy and I enjoyed every second of it. Each night at 9:30 pm sharp, I’d sleep the beautiful eight hours sleep of a single person.
One of the things that surprised me after giving birth was that I was given the baby to look after immediately. There was no reprieve. It wasn’t like on television where you’d see all these babies in a room and the dads and other relatives stare at them through a glass window. Well at least Mckenzie Health hospital did not adhere to such a practice. I was tired from the pushing, hungry and pretty much absolutely in agony. My lady bits had definitely seen better days. There is almost no sleep in the last few weeks of pregnancy, you are simply too huge to get comfortable. After giving birth (this will sound stupid), you become a mum right away! There is no break. You do not get to recover from labour. You do not get to catch up on the sleep you missed when you were pregnant. The reality is – this tiny little baby needs you immediately.
From the beginning our little one wanted to be held. I’d place her in the little plastic cubby next me and she’d scream her head off. She only stayed quiet if I held her. Afraid that I would drop her, I stayed awake and held her until my husband returned the next morning. (We had previously agreed that it made more sense for him to get some sleep so he could take over during the day. Sadly the ice storm made life a little tricky and he did not get the desired rest.) I learnt so many things in those three days at the hospital.
The top three would be:
1- They do a lot of blood tests, every two to three hours. Both on baby and mummy. It’s difficult to get any sleep when you’re constantly being prodded with a needle.
2- Babies cluster feed by day two to force your milk to come down. This means feeding nearly every hour. A feed for a new born can last over an hour.
3- Getting a baby to latch on is difficult.
Our little one had horrendous colic, which meant she spent hours screaming in pain after a feed. It took weeks for the crying to ease and one of the most awful nights she cried for close to ten hours. The worst part being – not knowing how to stop her pain. There were many sleepless nights. Tired was not the right word. Drained, shattered, ‘zombiefied’, conversations had diminished to grunts, I had no idea what day was what – Sunday could have fallen on a Wednesday, I would not have noticed nor would I have cared. Thankfully we found out about ‘little remedies’ colic drops and I started the Dr. Sears colic diet.
Every stage is different and each has its challenges. In the first few weeks documenting wet nappies and poo nappies is important, documenting which side baby latched onto and how long she fed were also very important facets. Baby girl was naturally curious and needed to be out every day. She was also high needs and needed more cuddles, generally I wore her in a baby carrier for six to eight hours a day to reduce crying. Sleep improved after she decided that breast feeding was the only way for her, we started co-sleeping and dream feeding. It meant I only woke up every two hours for her to feed.
For those who advocate the cry it out sleep training method – we tried it and it failed so badly, it resulted with her crying so violently she threw up. That ended that for us. Maybe crying it out works for some children but it definitely did not work with ours. Then there are the developmental & growth spurts and teething. By the way teething lasts roughly two and a half years. The three C’s – crying, clingy, cranky – your cues to knowing something is wrong or something major is going on. The eight to ten month developmental spurt was particularly tough- it kicked our ass!It was like new born all over again. Except now we were waking to her crawling around, wanting to play, crying, blowing raspberries and her copying everything she learnt through out the day.
She started eating solids around 6-7 months, purees failed so baby led weaning (google it) was the way we had to go. I started to notice that she got tired if I gave the same things too often (she currently refuses to eat pasta or avocados because of having had them too often.) I became a very creative cook. Meals had to be planned at the beginning of each week. I never cooked this much in my life. Breakfast, Snack, Dinner (Lunch), Snack, Tea (Dinner). She also refused to be fed as she wanted to feed herself, yes the clean up is amazing! Initially I did this plastic on the ground thing, but food still landed on the floor. Eventually I worked out that it was easier to clean just one surface. At some point I applied the same one surface rule to her – i.e. fed her in a nappy only, so that clean up was washing her in the sink. That helped a lot with reducing laundry!
I stopped breast feeding throughout the night after she turned one, my husband had taken over putting her to bed and you would think that would have meant more rest for me. But the older she got, the more activities were required during the day. Days had to be filled. At the time we lived in Nassau, Bahamas and with the exception of a music class on a Thursday, there really isn’t much else to do with infants and toddlers. Activities for toddlers generally involve getting dirty; playing in sand, playing with rice, lentils, yogurt and more. Creating activities had become a huge challenge. They were messy and involved a lot of energy and clean up. It forced me to form T-sense toddler and baby sensory group which turned out wonderfully, a group of mums who took turns creating events for the children. Then there was adventure day, gardening, beach exploration and anything else that would satisfy my curious child.It made me realise just how creative event planners and curriculum planners had to be.
Kids need structure and routine, but they need stimulation and adventure (My daughter would stand at the door and bang until she got to go outside), exploration, healthy food, clean clothes, love and everything else in between.
I think motherhood shocked me out of my 9:30 bed time routine! It shocked me out of my structured life. It’s tough for anyone to understand unless they experience it for themselves. My husband and I agreed that going to work is a break. Even my sister who also has a busy toddler,(check her mum travel blog out http://mumonaplane.com/2017/07/28/a-day-out-on-the-islands-around-singapore-with-the-children) admits that work is a break away from the infinite energy and mess of a busy toddler.
So single friends, most of us mums – we’re not lost in our children, we did not forget ourselves. And yes we’d love that extra time – instead of having to choose between sleep or doing something we enjoy. We’d love to watch a movie or have a nice long bath or have time to have a longer conversation or even to finish the one we started. Right now – survival is the game. A game I wouldn’t trade for the world.
A Happy, Heart filled Full time Mum Of a Busy Toddler