Parenting: it’s the best and the worst, full of highs and so many lows. It's a struggle on almost every level, and yet, I wouldn't change a thing.
Never have I felt so overwhelmed, so underwhelmed, so exhausted, so fragile, so tired, so in love, so annoyed, so mad, so unsure, so brave, so afraid, so organised, so unorganised and so loved. Parenting. It’s the best and the worst. It also makes me the best and the worst. I think this is compounded when you are also doing the ‘juggle’ – a word I have become to hate.
Why do we use the word ‘juggle’ – should it not just be ‘struggle’? Does it make it sound trivial, fun, almost circus like? Juggle is the wrong word, but it is often used when describing the working mum – and I have decided I don’t like it.
Let’s not trivialise the challenge of the mental load. Oh gawd, the mental load – it’s huge. The uniforms (different days, different kids), homework, soccer schedule, sleepovers, birthday parties, pick ups, drop offs, lunch boxes tailored to each of your child’s sensitive palates – all whilst trying to get the right combination of variation and nutrients into those goddamn metal tins (without anything getting soggy, soft, or touching sweet next to the savoury – you know the drill).
Let’s be honest: there are lots of low points in parenting
I often tell people about my lowest points (I have always been an over-sharer) because I know everyone has them, and I want people to know how bloody hard it has been, and that it’s not all smiles and sunny family vacations.
The one I tell most often (and boy, I have a few to select from) is from when my third child was three weeks-old – a divine little bub. I think I thought ‘I’ve got this’ – totally manageable to go back to work with my three-week baby just for a few hours to get the payroll processed. It was not ideal, but running my own business with no finance, HR or even admin support – I didn’t really have an option. I had a team of eight, and if I didn’t pay them, no one would.
Well, on my way into the office, one of my closest girlfriends called me from Australia… you know, that ‘congratulations-you-have-had-a-baby’ call. She asked me what I was up to, and when I said I was driving on the way to the office, she just asked me simply ‘but why?’. Of course, this meant I burst into tears (sleep deprivation and I are familiar enemies) and I hung up on her.
I mean, why the hell was I having to work, when I was so tired, needing to just enjoy those precious few months, needing to be on the couch staring into my last baby’s bundle of goodness. Inhaling that baby smell, and fondling that soft skin. Why was I having to do everything? I had to pull over, ring my husband, get a pep talk, dry my eyes, reapply my foundation (to cover the tear streaks), take about 16 deep breaths and get back on the road to the office. Looking back, I probably should have hired some more support, but hindsight is a beautiful thing isn’t it.
The juggle, the struggle, and the good bits too
So, parenting. There are the ups and downs. The ‘juggle’ (AKA the struggle). Life is now split into B.C. and A.C. ‘Before Children’ and ‘After Children’. Weekends are now just a scheduling timetable of sports matches, sleepovers, birthday parties, and falling into bed early totally exhausted. How the nights are full of elbows in your face, and small limbs leeched to your body in the strangest angles. It’s one helluva ride. I don’t think you ever really know what you are in for, babies seem so different to kids – and I really don’t think I thought much past the cute toddler stage (potentially a little shortsighted).
But like most parents, I wouldn’t change it. Yes, I do actually count down the years until my youngest is going to become an adult and leave the nest (only 11.5 years to go). But I know once they are all gone that I will miss the craziness, the noise, the cuddles, the wrestling, the mess, and the circus that is my life. But hey, I may just get used to that too…