I never really had time to think about what parenthood would be like before it happened.

I sometimes wish I’d given it more thought. I don’t suppose anyone ever does really though do they? It’s just a case of have a baby and see what happens sort of thing, well at least I hope it is.

I’m 11 years into being a parent. I’ve gone from the very young, very underprepared 21-year old Mum of a tiny baby who never slept, to a not so young, still fairly underprepared 32-year old Mum of three tiny humans, and the proud owner of a teenage step-son.

Parent-hood is amazing. It brings endless, unexplainable joy. I would quite literally step in front of a bus for my children, which I learnt recently is the ‘chimp’ part of my brain, which is fuelled by the need to protect my offspring. I would die for my children because I quite literally love them more than I love myself.

But there is another word that I would, hesitantly I may add, use to describe parenting. And this is the word that could be used to sum up any number of parenting scenarios I suppose. Because aside from being the best thing to ever happen to me it is also by far the most overwhelming.

Overwhelmed.

I’ve been overwhelmed since 2007 when that little white stick went pink and I realised that maybe accidentally missing a pill really did have consequences.

And the hits just keep on coming. Anyone who says parenting gets easier as they get older is lying. Or doesn’t have kids.

The thing is, as one child gets older it does get easier. And then you have another. And it all starts again.

Parenting is by far the most overwhelming thing going on in my life at any given moment. And a lot of the time I do wonder if I’m really even cut out for it, which granted is a bit late in the day given the fact I don’t think I can send them back.

There’s a constant responsibility loop for one thing. They actually need feeding every day. Regularly. Even when I don’t want to eat, they still need fed. Plus they need all their clothes washed, and dried. And actually ready for Monday morning so they can go to school with uniform on. Then there’s lunch money, or god forbid packed lunches to make. Do you know how long it takes to make four packed lunches for four different kids in the morning? Me neither. I’m too harassed to ever bother to time it. But it takes a while.

They all have different interests and clubs and activities and actually if I’m being honest I forget about something most days. I am NOT the parent who’s kids always have their PE kit or who remembers the permission slips on time. One of my kids is on the ‘please don’t photograph me’ list as well and I can still forget that. I get more texts reminding me about snack and milk money than is probably socially acceptable and sometimes I tell them swimming is cancelled because I literally can’t be arsed to take them.

It’s also fairly overwhelming co-parenting at times. My ex and I have a good relationship, but sometimes I wish I could ship them off to him for a couple of weeks. I don’t even feel guilty about that, and I can hand on heart say I don’t tend to miss them when they’re with him. Not because I don’t love them, that’s ludicrous, but because I also like not having to sort out thirty thousand sibling squabbles a day or remind myself it’s not ok to punch the nearly teenager in the face when she gives me attitude. Having an ex who works abroad six months of the year means the majority of the parenting falls on me, and it’s hard work.

We have a very new age type of blended family. It’s amazing, and I am genuinely one of those smug people who couldn’t be happier if she tried. But some days I wish I could take Fin and just go to an adults only island with just the two of us and no kids. I said to him today it would be nice to have a date night soon where it’s just us and he laughed. Not because it’s laughable for us to spend time together, but at this point in life our alone time consists of mostly us being asleep. Because by the time the kids go to bed we’re too tired to do anything else.

Here’s a question.

What’s worse than a nearly teenage girl? Two. Plus a five year old. All my girls are bloody exceptional. Separately. Together it’s akin to what I imagine Brexit negotiations are like. They don’t have the same personalities (obviously), they don’t have the same opinions or thought processes, they don’t have the same experiences and it’s bloody mayhem. Add into that a very literal, non filtered teenage boy and it’s like bloody Beirut at our dinner table. There are nights that I literally just get up mid-meal and go to the bathroom on the pretence of needing a pee just so I can scream silently in my head.

My internal dialogue a lot of the time is ‘for gods sake just be quiet’. Sometimes it’s not even internal. Something that parenting has taught me is that I don’t have any patience, I have a stupidly short temper and exceptionally high standards. None of which my kids give a fuck about it seems. I shout a lot more than I ever expected to or even want to. I go from calm to lost my shit in about three seconds and I spend a lot of time reflecting that ‘maybe I could’ve handled XYZ better’. I don’t think it makes me a bad Mum, but I know I could be better. I’ve not quite got the hang of being better whilst in the actual moment though, that’s still a work in progress.

My children are fog horns. Which, will be great if anyone ever tries to kidnap them, but not so great when their voices are literally the only voices you can hear when you’re out. Anywhere. I ask Fin a lot if he thinks we should get their hearing checked. I reckon he’s gone deaf with the noise because he never answers.

Parenting is amazing, and today we had the best day. At lunch, while we sat in a car park on a picnic blanket eating homemade sandwiches and cocktail sausages the biggest girl turned to us and said she is never happier than when we’re all together, outside, having an adventure.

And it pressed the little squishy button deep down inside that reminds me that I wouldn’t have my life any other way.

Because I wouldn’t.

And then I had to sit outside a museum with her because she launched her sister across a room for seemingly no reason and it all just started again…

How do we know if we’re getting it right…?