There is an overwhelming sentiment on social media that being a parent is an awful, soul-sucking endeavour. If this were true, no one would become a parent. We would’ve died out a long time ago. Clearly, this message does not reflect the whole truth.
Do I put up with poonamis and ceaseless snack requests just because my kids are cute? Probably. But I do it with a smile and a genuinely positive attitude, which appears to be missing from the ongoing conversation surrounding parenting.
I absolutely love being a mom and everything it comes with, however, I am still human. I have needs, ambitions and wants. After being a stay-at-home mom for almost three years, now with two kids, I’ve grown in major ways. Humbly speaking, I think I have this whole mom thing down and it’s not hard. Did you catch that? Not. Hard.
Plenty of work, sure, but not difficult. If you’re expecting or in the early stages and think I’m crazy, keep reading and allow me to enlighten you.
The Obsession with Sleep
The obsession with sleep – yours, your baby, and your spouse’s sleep is … a waste of precious time and energy. All that energy you’re giving to watching the clock, counting hours, and stressing out is making your life harder. The internet is full of contradictions. Should you co-sleep, sleep train, cry it out, etc? All you really should focus on is whether they are well-fed and whether they napped today.
Sleep begets sleep with babies and toddlers. If they don’t nap, it’s less likely they will sleep at night. If they are hungry or thirsty, it’s less likely they will sleep through the night. Stop going into them at the slightest sound; chances are, by keeping them in your bedroom, your snoring is disturbing them. Educate yourself on development leaps and look out for signs of teething as these are the most prominent disturbances to a baby’s sleep.
My toddler used to wake up in the middle of the night and play in her cot for an hour before going back to sleep. If we developed a routine where I always went into her at 2 am, tearing my hair out in frustration, unhappiness would soon follow. Instead, I never interrupted, she’s grown out of this and we all get plenty of rest.
My newborn has been sleeping through the night from 2 months old. Yes, you read that right. But breastfed babies aren’t expected to do this for quite some time. It’s not luck. I created the perfect environment for her to naturally begin sleeping longer stretches – this included feeding her at least every two hours from birth and more frequently if she demanded. Even a day-old baby has one long stretch of sleep in a 24-hour period (3 hours usually) and I made sure she had it in the evenings when it mattered. Once this was more or less established, all I had to do was wait out the nighttime wakings and stick to our normal timetable. Dreamfeeds are essential. White noise machines, rocking bassinets, and black-out blinds are not.
Putting Your Kids First
Whoever thought putting their kids’ needs before their own was the secret to good parenting was a glutton for punishment. If you’re a living and breathing human, denying your needs is a recipe for resentment and emotional eating. When I get my kids up before I’m even dressed or had a coffee, I feel wretched. So unorganized and so stressed.
Instead, because of their later bedtime of 8 pm, my kids don’t get up at dawn. I do. And I drink multiple hot coffees that never go cold, cook breakfast for everybody, write in my journal, get dressed and get my husband’s lunch ready for work. At 9 am, I get the girls up and care for their needs, like fresh clothes, baths, and cute hairstyles.
Taking care of myself in these fundamental ways sets me up for success. If I do nothing for the rest of the day, I’m not in my pyjamas at noon. I can put care into my outfit and wear makeup, plus I’ve already eaten! I cooked breakfast intentionally for myself and not just my toddler’s leftovers.
I used to stress out about having family breakfasts, but this left me high and dry. Eating mine alone or with my husband before the kids get up makes everyone happier, because I’m happier. Family breakfasts are delegated to the weekends now.
Entertaining Your Children
There’s a reason that schools don’t welcome infants and three-year-olds. They are not ready to learn to read and write. Sure, you can work on that if you like, but I’m just letting you know that it doesn’t really matter. Imagination, emotional regulation, and sensory stimulation matter. Time with their mom and dad matters. Planning out every minute of your kid’s life doesn’t make anyone happier or smarter.
Personally, I prefer to teach my children initiative. I rarely do something to entertain them. We sing songs and read storybooks together but that’s where it ends. After this, my children tell me what they want to do. Either they follow me all over the house, taking part in my housekeeping, or they’re too occupied with an activity of their choosing.
I love the ethos of Montessori pre-schools and I keep a limited selection of toys or activities at my children’s eye level. About once a week, my toddler will only want to watch TV and I allow it. She honestly never stops playing the rest of the time, so I assume she must be very tired and just needs to recuperate. A basket of toys is a treasure trove for a child and provides hours of independent play.
I say ‘no’ very little, preferring to let her play with water, chalk, mud, stones, and my cooking utensils. I go out of my way to make our home a ‘yes zone’, like painting one of the kitchen walls with chalkboard paint so she can colour the walls. Or putting towels down if she wants to play with water in the house. Or bringing a spare change of clothes everywhere we go so I’m not stopping her from getting muddy at the park or playing in the sand pit.
Even her snacks are within her reach, giving her a sense of control over what and when she eats. In an amazing turn of events, my toddler will even tidy up her toys when she’s finished. I’ve never forced her to do this so it feels like a real win!
Acting Like Your Life Hasn’t Changed
When parents can’t come to terms with the fact that their life is forever changed, this leads to resentment and anger. It’s much easier to change and adapt to this new life than to force something from your past. Nights out become dinner parties, eating out happens a little earlier, and the weekends look like walks on the beach instead of shopping trips. This season doesn’t last forever and you’re making life way harder when you resist.
Changing Too Much
Equally, changing your life drastically will lead to unhappiness and hardship. I see parents who are so consumed by their children, they completely lose themselves. Be your own person/couple and lead by example for your children. Over-apologizing and too much compromising is probably not what you had in mind as a new parent. The people who do this tend to be the ones who live vicariously through their kids and who have the hardest time letting go when they become adults.
You Don’t Have Any Hobbies
Not having hobbies is like not being a fully developed person. What did you do before having kids? I think I’d crack up if my whole life revolved around my children. And this is coming from a devoted and hands-on mother. I love cooking, writing on my blog, reading, and working out. I make time for all of these areas of my life every week, if not most days. Housework doesn’t take long and laundry really only takes a few minutes here and there, seeing as the machines do all of the actual work.
Furthermore, I don’t wait until my kids are not around to enjoy these past times. I make a point of allowing my kids to see me entertain myself. My toddler likes to “workout” alongside me, lifting a weight plate over her head or “barbell squatting” haha and she also loves it when I take out the baking bowl and scales. She likes to scribble in a notebook because I have a journal, just as she goes around straightening the couch cushions because that’s what I do. If you’re wrecking your own head because you don’t know what to do with your child all day long, maybe take a long look in the mirror first.
You’re ruining your life by not having boundaries. It’s a personal boundary of mine that our kids are not allowed sleep in our bed. We haven’t done any co-sleeping past 6 weeks old because I want it that way. Other boundaries include the family hierarchy – my marriage comes first, ‘no’ is just as valid as ‘yes’, and the food you’re getting is all that you’re getting. While I’m really soft about most things, like letting them play outside without shoes or watching TV, I have some very hard boundaries that make all of us happier. I don’t force hugs and kisses, I don’t accept bad manners at the dinner table, I don’t give in to tantrums, and I don’t let other relatives bully them. Equally, I don’t expect my kids to behave like adults and our boundaries leave plenty of space for them to just be kids.
And Lastly… Being Too Busy
When you realise that holding your child, staring deep into their eyes and talking to them is a very meaningful way to spend time, all your troubles go away. Being too busy might result in missing out on these small interactions – the moments that build that bond. Don’t be afraid to slow down and embrace your children. Every trip to the shop or small errand is an adventure for them, so don’t worry about rocking their world with some new and exciting toy or activity. Show them how fulfilling life can be in its mundanity.