Thursday, 23 May 2013

Six Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Had Kids

When I first thought seriously about having kids, I wasn't naive enough to think it would be all cuddles and kisses and proud-parent moments...but there are some aspects of parenting that you don't truly understand until you go through them yourself. 

Today, I'm going to share a few things that I would have liked to have known in advance.

6. Pregnancy is no picnic. I enjoyed seeing the baby during the ultrasounds, feeling those little kicks and punches, and eating whatever I felt like, justifying it with, "The baby wants it!". But I was not one of those glow-y women who really enjoys the experience of pregnancy. Most of the time, I resented the fact that this tiny being was taking over my body, governing my decisions (no wine! no coffee!), making me feel sick and sapping my energy.

5. Breastfeeding may not work for you...and that's okay. In a previous post, Why I'm Still Nursing, I described my struggles with breastfeeding my first baby. I wasted a ridiculous amount of time and energy worrying about it—but guess what? My formula-fed baby turned out just fine. How you feed your baby is your choice and no one else's. If you can't nurse or you don't want to, ditch the mom guilt and cut yourself some slack.

4. You might hate having a newborn. It's hard to reconcile this one with those adorable sleepy newborns you see in photos around the doctor's office, but most of the moms I know agree with me. The fact is, those first few months of constant demands and no sleep are tough. Really tough. And yes, newborns sleep a lot, but it's never when you want to sleep. Which brings me to my next point...

3. Sleep deprivation does crazy things to you. During those early days of exhaustion, I would cry for no reason. I'd walk into rooms and forget why I was there. I'd misplace common words, and I couldn't concentrate on reading anything longer than a magazine article. All of these things conspired to make me feel like I was losing my mind...but actually, I was just tired. On the plus side, when your baby finally starts sleeping through the night, you'll feel as though you've achieved nirvana. Sleep is a beautiful thing.

2. You'll love your kids to pieces, but you won't always like them. Even though it's the greatest love you'll ever know, no one can frustrate you and push your buttons like your children can. And some of the phases they go through aren't enjoyable: for example, the epic tantrums of the terrible twos. Or threes. We're still working on this one.

1. Despite all of the above, you would do it all again—because now that they're here, you couldn't imagine life without them.

I'm sure there are more insights to add to this list, but I can't think of them right now. I'm just too tired.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Separation Anxiety

"Can you hold her for a second while I grab some things out of the car?"

I pass the baby over to my friend, and instantly, you can see the change: the baby's little face falls, her lower lip starts to tremble, and she lets out a huge "WAAAHHH!!!"

At 10 months old, she's going through one of those phases where she's distrustful of strangers—even people she's spent quite a bit of time with. She'll just about tolerate it if I'm around, but the moment I'm out of sight, she makes it plain that she is NOT happy with the arrangement and I should get back there RIGHT THIS SECOND!

It's natural that she should want me around...after all, she started out in life literally attached to me. And the truth is, it's nice to feel needed. To know that, in her eyes, no one else in the world could replace me. 

But that's what parenting is really about: giving our children the skills they need to be independent. Helping them to separate themselves from us.

The baby is crawling and cruising now, moving around the house and getting into all kinds of trouble. She's so proud of her new abilities. It won't be long before she's walking—and the faster she learns to walk, the faster she'll learn to walk away from me.

I'm sure her separation anxiety is a phase that she'll soon get over. Like her older sister, she'll become more confident and independent...often irritatingly and unstoppably so. 

But what about mine?

I worry about what will happen to my children when they inevitably leave to make their way in this wide, wonderful, wearisome world. And I worry that, as they grow up, we'll somehow grow apart.

So for now, I'll enjoy being loved and wanted and needed. Because one day, they may not need me as much.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Banishing the Mom Guilt

"But I don't WANT to go!" my three-year-old whines, clinging to my shirt.

I give her a hug and then gently disengage her. "But don't you want to see your friends? You always have fun there!" I try to convince her. Eventually, after much persuasion, she leaves with her daddy, who drops her off at daycare.

Instantly, I feel it: the guilt. I could let her stay home with me—I am on mat leave, after all. But the truth is, it's easier when it's just the baby and I. I enjoy my time alone with my youngest, yet I also feel like I'm copping out by sending my eldest off to daycare every day.

And that's just the latest iteration of the "mom guilt."

When my first baby was born, I felt guilty when I couldn't breastfeed her successfully (I've failed to give her the best start in life...why isn't my body doing what it's supposed to do?), and whenever I made a wrong decision out of inexperience or lack of knowledge. 

Going back to work created a whole new set of guilt factors. When I was at work, I felt like I should be at home—but when I spent more time at home, I felt like I should be working. To lay it on even thicker, I felt guilty for not wanting to stay home full time (These early years are so precious...what kind of mother doesn't want to spend as much time as possible with her child?!).

The mom guilt returned with a vengeance when my second baby was born and nursing took up all of my time. (What if my eldest feels neglected? What if she doesn't love me as much anymore?).  

And with both babies, I definitely felt it when they were newborns. I found those first few months of cluster feeding and mind-numbing sleep deprivation really hard. When so many people told me to "treasure that time," I'd wonder, Why am I not enjoying this? What's wrong with me?  

Even now, I feel the mom guilt when, sometimes, I'd rather spend an hour reading a book or watching a grown-up movie than playing hide and seek or watching Baby Einstein for the umpteenth time.

I think I'll have to come to terms with the fact that the mom guilt is always going to be there. No matter how much I'm doing for my kids, I'll always feel like I could be doing more. But I'm doing the best I can to meet their needs and mine—so that has to count for something. Right?