Divide and…

Divide and…

Parenting; the one thing that can divide even the strongest of relationships. Not completely, obviously, I mean I’m not implying that all relationships are doomed once you produce offspring. However, it does seem to be one thing that can cause a passionate divide in a couple. 

It seems to be the belief of both parties in a parenting couple that each one has it harder, or alternatively that the other has something good that they themselves do not have as much of. Please note that I am not saying either party wants to swap places with the other, simply that something, albeit usually small, about the other person’s life seems sweeter perhaps.  

For example, the parent who stays home the most may feel that the other parent has more time to themselves without the stresses of young children while the parent who goes out to work more feels that the other has more quality time with the children and is lucky not to suffer the stresses of work. Neither person is wrong in my humble opinion; having been on both sides of this particular coin at various points in my life I feel I can defend and argue both viewpoints.

So, my train of thought behind this blog post is simply questioning why it has to be such an opposing situation? Why do parents, who are ultimately happy with their circumstances, find themselves driven to fuel this age old argument? It gains nothing and simply leaves both parties feeling that the other doesn’t appreciate all they do for the family when that is not the case. In fact that usually couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Surely it would be so much healthier for both parents to just acknowledge and appreciate that both positions are hard, tiring, mentally and emotionally draining but also rewarding and of course, necessary. So why is that so hard to do? I would like to think it’s because of the level of emotion involved in such matters. Love is powerful and turbulent after all. 

I guess all we can do is try to be better. Be more selfless, more compassionate, more understanding. Put our faith in the love and bond that is family and hope that it prevails over all obstacles. Because if you’re lucky enough to have family then you have it all. 

Eau de Vomit, Screaming and Bubble Wrap

Eau de Vomit, Screaming and Bubble Wrap

My hair smells of baby vomit, it sounds like there is a small scale riot taking place in my lounge and my laundry piles resemble the New York skyline.

Our two year old son is marching back and forth across the lounge, intermittently pausing to join his seven year old brother in a wonderful game of jumping up and down on the large sheet of bubble wrap laid out on the floor. Our ten year old daughter is sprawled out on the sofa, headphones on, oblivious to the ruckus happening around her. Our nine week old daughter is quietly regurgitating possets of milk onto my shoulder while I’m desperately trying to complete the obligatory end of day kitchen clean and general tidy up. I feel a little like I live in some kind of modern day asylum where all the residents go about their day like it’s just normal, real, every day life but from an outside perspective they are all acting crazy.

My husband is due to walk through the door at any minute, laden with takeaway fish and chips in place of the home cooked meal I didn’t find time – or enough child free limbs – to make. You know what?
I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I have four children and a very hard working husband. The latter means that I spend a lot of time alone with our children. Some days I am an outstanding, almost OCD level cleaner, other days I am a parenting magazine-worthy nurturing mother or a Michelin starred chef and occasionally, when the planets mysteriously align, I am all of the above all on the same day. More often than not however, I am the frazzled, scatterbrained asylum patient who lives under the illusion that she is in fact not a patient at all, but a Nurse in charge of the other patients. That is fine by me.

My children are happy, healthy and free, my home is beautiful but lived in and my marriage is solid and full of love. These days I hear far too much talk of competition between mothers, criticism being carelessly delivered to the most vulnerable of parents and ridiculous standards demonstrated through rose tinted representations on social media. Screw that.

Time flies, children grow in the blink of an eye and you look in the mirror one day to see you’ve aged ten years when your mind has barely aged one.

Enjoy it, appreciate it, embrace it. Every sick-covered, noisy, insane second.

Sweet night, sweet serenity. 

Sweet night, sweet serenity. 

So here I sit. 4:04am. Those big blue eyes stare up at me in wonderment. My eight week old daughter is in my arms, writhing and wriggling as she struggles to digest her extra thick anti-reflux milk. It seems hard for her little body to deal with the eagerly ingested five ounce feed. She is beautiful.

Last night she woke at 1:30am, just an hour after I had managed to fall asleep  myself. We were both still awake at 4:30am. A hard night yes, but nonetheless I wouldn’t swap it for the world. Luckily it’s half term so there was no 7am wake up call or school run to do meaning I could at least salvage a couple of hours rest this morning.

I find it’s these times, when our busy chaotic household is sleeping and the conversations, laughter and tears have all faded into sighs of slumber, when I snatch a little quiet time with my thoughts. It’s a valuable thing to have moments of peace of mind, especially when you have four crazy young children and a creative whirlwind of a husband.

I find clarity comes at night. When all the background noise dulls to nothing more than birdsong and the soft breathing from my littlest and biggest loves either side of me, I process the day’s events, remembering the hilarious moments afforded to me by our very own bunch of mini comedians. Revisiting the tears and the tantrums when they inevitably clash with each other. Reminiscing about the cuddles and I love yous.

I assess my parenting; how did I do today? Did I handle that tantrum ok? Did I make it worse by not being as patient as I could have been? Did I respond to each of the extraordinary stories they tell with enough enthusiasm? Did I feed them well enough? Did I teach them valuable lessons and allow them to embrace the world as children should? Did I give each member of my little universe, including my husband, sufficient attention? The answers are not always yes.

When our daughter was new I struggled with this. The extra demands on my time and energy were near impossible to take in my stride. For those first few weeks we all suffered in different ways while our family unit adjusted it’s balance and found its new axis. I went through a period of beating myself up about this. I felt like I was failing. Failing as a parent, a wife and even as a person.

As the weeks have moved on so has my mental state. Now as I sit here watching those big blue eyes and tiny fingers exploring as she feeds, I find myself feeling a rather proud sense of achievement. I kept four mini versions of my husband and I fed, watered, safe and happy today. I took them outside into the world and gave them opportunities to discover and explore. I laughed with them and played with them. I encouraged discipline when their behaviour was inappropriate. I talked with them. I cuddled them. I helped to each one of them to grow just a little bit more today.

While writing this tonight our two year old had a nightmare. Apparently he doesn’t like the wolf and said wolf is incredibly frightening. He clung to me desperately and sobbed while I reassured him that there really was no wolf and that he was in fact safe and warm in his bed. His little voice in my ear and tiny arms wrapping tightly around my neck tell me all I need to know about my parenting. He is safe and loved in my arms. No big scary dream-wolf can harm him there.

Therein lies the answer to all of my questions and critiquing; today my family knew I loved them. I find my peace and shut my eyes, ready to do it all over again in just a few hours time.