I have the goals and aspirations, just not the luxury of time
I had so many ideas of the type of parenting styles I wanted use when becoming a mum for the first time. I had aspirations of being that mum who would have patience, instantaneous ideas for fun games and activities and have time for one-to-one speech development, toilet training etc. There was also a list of things I swore I wouldn’t do too. I was going to be a firm, but fair mother. Oh how naïve I was.
As much as I have tried, I have admit that I have found it hard to find the time to do all of these things now that I have 2 children under the age of 3. Each day that appears starts with a mental list of activities I wish to do with my girls, then before I know it the day has gone and all I have managed is half of it.
You become so busy with the housework, feeding your children, changing nappies and laundry that the luxury of preparing activities is put on the back burner, where it stays until the next day and there lies the vicious circle I find myself in during lockdown. I’m sure you can all understand where I’m coming from?
Before I was a mum, I was an aunty and that was fun!
I loved being an aunty. I still do. Being a young aunty (I was 11 when my first niece was born) meant that I was the perfect age to babysit and once I had my own place to live, I would have my nieces and nephew over for the night or often, weekends. I would take them out for the day to the mountains or beaches, equipped with a list and a bag and we would go on nature hunts and find all the items on the list and bring them back to mine to paint or add to a scrapbook.
I loved those weekends, they were always so much fun and I loved helping them learn about all things outdoors. I’d always find games to keep them occupied and would make sure they had their favourite dinner, film and hot chocolate in for each visit.
That’s the beauty of only being an aunty, I had the time, money and patience for all this and knew I would be giving them back to my sister at some point. Plus, it’s a known fact that kids are always well behaved for others than they are for their own parents, so I very rarely had to be firm with any of them as they were on a mini holiday, getting my undivided attention AND were able to eat and drink their favourite things.
The Parent I thought I’d be
I thought I’d follow these parenting styles and I believe I still might to a certain point in a few years time when they are a bit older (4 and 6 years old I’d say). But for now I’m a mum to a 2 year old and a 4 month old baby and I’ll be honest with you… I have no clue how to keep both entertained all day long.
Even more so during a global pandemic!! I look through my Instagram account for ideas and have actually followed a few mum accounts that have some fantastic activities and games that are suitable for young ones in lockdown and I do try these when I can.
But the problem really is that my children are just too young at the moment. Ffion, my eldest’s attention span lasts no longer than 10 minutes so that’s a lot of activities to do in a day let me tell you. Way too much planning, preparing, playing and clearing for me sorry, especially with a baby in tow.
You mums that do this rock by the way!! I am in complete awe of you all, truly. I feel I should add some photo evidence that I do try from time to time….
Don’t be so hard on yourself
Us mums are our own worst enemy at times. I have never had a mum tell me I’m doing anything wrong or that I could be doing a better job so why am I writing this blog? Because I doubt myself all the time that’s why.
I scroll through my Instagram account and feel utterly useless when I see all the picture perfect families and their amazing lives and end up feeling dreadful that I am sat at home allowing my daughter to eat a bag of crisps at 10am as I can’t face another tantrum and letting her watch Moana for the second time that day because it makes my life easier. I’d just like to point out at this point that I don’t do this every day, but enough times for it to not feel good.
I was so upset one day, the depression of the 3rd lockdown had hit me hard and I shared my worries with my mum who quickly said “Lynne, that mum took that picture in a second and then put it on there. I bet you those kids got bored not long after, threw the cardboard castles or whatever else they were making off the table, screamed and then ran wild for the rest of the day. That picture is the image they want you see Lynne, not reality”.
That conversation really helped me look at these pictures on my feed differently. So, if you’re feeling the same way too then I want you to take my mum’s advice and remember that we chose what we share online carefully. This is why I share my honest outlook and experiences on this blog. I want to be candid and allow other mums the freedom to admit that parenting is hard and not all glitter and smiles.
Things I Swore I’d Never Do as a Parent and Yet Here We Are
I really didn’t want to be the mother who put her kids in front of the tv for hours on end, but what else are we supposed to do during a winter’s day in bloody lockdown? It’s freezing out, so only ever manage an hour’s walk before heading back home to warm up. Then you look at the clock and there is still another 5 hours before daddy comes home and takes over.
That’s the thing with my partner, he is great with babies and toddlers. He’s a proper playing games, talking silly with the kids and excitable kind of dad. The fun parent. I watch him in awe some days as I really wish I had that DNA that enabled me to switch on the silly mum switch. I try, I really do but I’ve accepted the fact that I’m just not that kind of mum and that’s ok. I’ll come into my own when they are both 4 and 6 years old like I say. I’m going to ROCK at being a cool mum then I’m sure (she writes with her fingers crossed behind her back for luck!).
I’m better at some aspects of motherhood than I thought I’d be
I was really worried that I would struggle with losing ‘myself’ by being a mum as before I met Phill I had been single 10 years and had got quite used to being selfish, going away with friends at the weekends and visiting family and friends at the drop of a hat (I talk about this in one of my earlier blogs; ‘A Bit About Me). Having kids puts a spanner in the works on that front but becoming a mum for the first time at 36 meant that I have lived my life before settling down and was ready to slow down that aspect of my life.
My once tidy and shiny home now resembles a scene from a botched burglary in Smyths Toy Store, is never quiet and CBeebies or Disney+ is on loop from 8am-6pm but strangely, I’m coping just fine. Don’t get me wrong though, there are days when I think I may go mad and I crave just an hour of adult conversation rather than sing another nursery rhyme, but that is where my relationship with social media, podcasting and blogging has rescued me and my sanity.
Keeping myself busy with these hobbies and speaking to other mums in the same situation has really got me through the last few months, which I will forever be grateful for. Being on maternity leave can be a lonely experience when life is normal, but it’s beyond isolating during a lockdown and I try to plan out each day so that I can ensure I’m out every day for some fresh air (weather permitting), which always makes me feel better.
Keeping my cool during a dual meltdown
There have been days where both girls have been upset at the same time. Guys, you know the sound I am referring to. That high pitched screeching from the toddler combined with the loud cries of a new born, both thoroughly distraught and demanding your attention. That sound is enough to send anyone into a blind panic!
But somehow I keep my cool, don’t ask me how as I have no idea but all I know is that I manage NOT to walk to the nearest corner of the room and rock until the noise stops. The mum in me knows deep down that the noise won’t stop, not unless I do what’s needed and make the two bottles of milk (Ronnie) and tea (Ffion) and an extra strong coffee for me and get back to the living room as quickly as I can so that we can all squeeze in our normal spot in my armchair together and resume normality once again.
I remind myself that I am their safe space when my eldest acts out at me in frustration or anger. She is 2 and learning new feelings, emotions and adapting to new experiences every day so of course she’s mentally tired as well as physically. Toddlers know at this age that mum and dad love them very much and they can express their feelings in the safe knowledge that they’ll be in trouble for their actions, but also forgiven eventually.
Well, this is what I tell myself when she’s having a full blown meltdown and taking it all out on me.. Because the alternative is that she hates me and I couldn’t bear that. So please don’t correct a wishful, struggling mama k? She’s living in ignorance, but she likes it.
So, overall am I disappointed in my parenting skills?
Quite simply no, I’m not. Ok, I may not be the ‘play mum’ or even much of an ‘educational mum’ at the moment but I’m a loving mum and give both my girls all the attention they need to feel loved and cared for. They are always in my thoughts, are never a burden and they make me smile on the hour every hour and that is something that has been a pleasant surprise for a woman who kept telling friends that she would adopt a 4 year old as she would never be able to look after babies and toddlers.
Sure I lose my patience, sure I think I may go stir crazy if I have to sing ‘Old MacDonald had a farm’ once more and sure I wish this covid-19 pandemic didn’t exist so I could get out more and see my sorely missed family and friends, but for now I’m content with my parenting skills and think I’m doing an ok job… Considering.
Oscar Wilde had many quotes regarding parenting but this one stands out to me; He said “The best way to make children good is to make them happy.” and that’s the path I’m taking in my parenting styles.
I think we put too much pressure on ourselves as parents. At the end of the day, when your kid/s are in bed and you have finally managed to slump onto your sofa with a hot brew, look back at the day and decide whether your child has smiled more than cried. Every young child cries (sometimes a lot!), but not every young child smiles so if your child smiled today… You’re doing a great job mummy/daddy. Please remember that xx
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