Being an avid Oprah fan, it’s surprising I don’t watch more of her protégé Dr Phil. Yesterday however, something pulled me towards the TV at that time and I found myself listening and learning. It was a confronting episode, focusing on parents struggling to cope: when the beer and skittles of your former life morphs into a world of shits and niggles.
Parenthood changes everything: both for the better, and, I guiltily admit, for the bad. The good is GREAT – you suddenly realise your heart can actually enlarge in such a way that you will die for this child, and, much like a lioness, generate a fierceness gene, should anything ever threaten to harm your young. They make you melt with their quirky little idiosyncrasies and watching them blossom before your eyes is a parent’s finest privilege.
But there is also an unpleasant element to parenthood which brings to the fore a whole other side of your personality that you may never have previously known existed.
Personally, I am sure I have never been so unattractive.
I don’t like being shouty, shitty, cranky, or overwhelmed. I don’t like being the mum who has to remove her child from the shopping centre playground because he has hit another child; I don’t like being the parent to a toddler who suddenly develops selective hearing when we are in public, refusing to acknowledge any of my requests. I don’t like being left red faced as I wrangle my child away from trouble and duck and weave from his frustrated, flailing hands. But the reality is, as a mum, these feelings often bubble away beneath the brim.
And I know it does my child no favours to feel this way. I am intrinsically aware that he feeds off whatever energy I am emanating. I am also intrinsically aware that by 7pm, when he hasn’t had a day sleep, and has been going at full steam since before 6am, doesn’t want to eat his dinner, doesn’t want to have a bath, doesn’t want to clean his teeth, and MOST DEFINITELY doesn’t want to go to bed, that it is me, and me alone who is fighting this battle while my husband works long hours to support us, the vibes I am giving off are anything but saccharine and sweet.
It is not exactly breaking news, I know. Being a parent is stressful; there is no denying that it is the toughest job in the world. It is a vow similar to holy matrimony; in good times and bad; in sickness & in health. It is 24/7 and (unless you live in Hollywood), there is no divorce option available.
But, as the dusk fades into night, is it normal to sometimes feel so defeated? Is it meant to be such an emotional minefield? Or am I guilty of doing it all so wrong?
Because truthfully, I do feel like a failure on some fronts. I should be able to cope with every parenting curve ball that is pegged my way; AND I should be able to fix my son’s sleep issues that are about to hit the 6 month mark – Lord knows I have tried everything from the normal to the paranormal… Once upon a time I had a child who slept soundly all night long. Now I go to bed every night in a bundle of anxiety wondering how many times we will have to do battle with the toddler who hates to be left alone to sleep?
Cue then a sleepless night with a restless, crying, often waking child, who is still determined the day starts at 5.15am. He is overtired, I AM overtired, and thus the vicious cycle begins once more.
I know I am the adult. I need to lead by example. I have had far many more years at working on my patience, my temper, my stress and shitty levels. He is but a babe in the woods – but in all honesty, he also needs to know he aint running this show.
So all I can do is continue to muddle my way through motherhood, and hope that my son understands my love for him IS unconditional, even when I am being a shitty & niggly Mummy. He may not be aware, but every night before I go to bed (and begin the thousand prayers that we get a full night of sleep) I stand over his slumbering self and whisper “I’m sorry if I was shouty or stressy today, I hope you still know love you, that I will always love you”. Guilt rushes to the surface of my soul and crashes against with all the fury of a Hawaiian pipeline wave.
I vow then to do it all a little differently the next day.