Someone I know is going to have a baby soon. And in amongst the chat about labour and birth and all the fun stuff that comes with the after – like paper pants and after pains (!) there’s the chat about getting it right, about being a perfect parent.
People talk a lot about the rush of unconditional love that comes when you have a baby. There’s not so much chat about suddenly knowing how to raise a tiny human. And can I just say – this whole chat about a rush of love is not something I have ever experienced. I waited an entire year with Niamh to be hit with this force of unconditional love that I convinced myself I was a bad parent. One day I asked myself if I loved her? Yes. Do I love her unconditionally? Yes. Did it smack me in the face as I was delivering my placenta? No. Does that me less of a parent? Also no.
Some people are just born to be parents. They just fully immerse themselves in it and love it and cherish it and just do it instinctively and seem to never be phased by any of the bits that are sent to test you. They seem to seamlessly transition to parenthood like ducks to water. Which is great.
More typically however, are people who, whilst they love they’re children more than anything, find parenting quite hard sometimes. And not just hard because sleepless night and teenage attitude is hard – but because it’s hard to constantly think about someone else’s needs and desires all the time, every day, every month of the years.
That’s me. Sometimes I wish I could pause the parenting. Just for a minute, or day.
We practise calm parenting in our house. Which sounds fancy. It’s not. Basically we try really really hard not to shout. Key words – practice, and try. Because instinctively sometimes you just want to lose your shit. But we practise and we try because we’ve discovered that shouting gets you less of a result longer term than just keeping your cool and being calm. But it’s hard, it’s a learning curve, and sometimes it doesn’t happen. Typically though, we’ve found, that if we stay calm and talk things through and actively listen then we can solve things better, with less of an emotional outburst from anyone.
Sometimes at 4am when they’ve been up during the night with a nightmare and then want to get up for the day I want to tell them to sod off because I’m tired and I want to sleep and I’m a little bit off my game. Whilst there are occasions whereby I can get up stupidly early and get on with stuff – this is a personal choice. To have it forced upon you feels a bit shit. I do it of course, because I’m responsible. But as I’m making cereal with half shut eyes I sometimes wonder what life would be like with no children.
There are still times, thirteens years after my first child came into the world, that I want to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING at the weekend. Lounging on the sofa watching Netflix and not having to make three meals for other people is sometimes my ideal choice of day. The children don’t agree. Nor does the world, who would frown at 8+ hours of Netflix a day for children. And on those days you sort of shelve your own desires and do all the stuff that appears on social media with hashtags like #blessed and #makingmemories and #cherisheverymoment. You never see a hashtags that says #iwishiwasstillasleep or #iwishiwaswatchingnetflix
It creates an ideal that anyone who isn’t doing things perfectly or enjoying it all has adopted an ‘imperfect approach’. Like feeding your kids takeaway once a week is imperfect. Like shouting or being a bit grumpy is imperfect. Like having a slightly messy house or allowing them to have some extra screen time one day is imperfect.
It isn’t. There isn’t a perfect way to be a parent. There isn’t one way that’s better than others – every single approach on the planet is imperfect.
And that’s ok. We’re all governed by emotions which means that even if we wake up every day perfectly in balance and ready to be amazing, the small person that ruined your vagina might have woken up in a stonker of a mood, rendering your approach futile.
It’s ok to find some elements of it hard, but to still love your kids. Whenever you become a parent, wether that’s at 16 or 24 or 40, it requires a complete shift away from everything you’ve ever known – you literally cannot just do whatever you want anymore without any repercussions. And that’s an adjustment.
And it’s ok if that doesn’t wash over you naturally in the hospital with you post birth hormones. It doesn’t make you imperfect. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. You’re just like everyone else.
Practising. Trying. Doing your best.
That’s all it takes. Learning from things. Being open minded. I’m a very different parent to the one who delivered a 5lb 12oz bundle of fun thirteen years ago. I’m a better parent now. But I’m still learning, I’m still finding bits tricky, and I’m certainly not perfect.
There’s just not possible way I could be.
And some days I go to bed thinking I’ve cracked it, that I know what I’m doing now. And then the kids remind me the next day that I really still have a whole heap to learn…