Written by: Cally Worden
It’s 9.30 pm and I have just sat down at my laptop to write this. My two kids have been ‘in bed’ for the last hour. Approximately 5 minutes in, Preschool Boy discovered that Year 2 Girl wasn’t in fact going to sleep, but secretly reading in bed (with her torch, with our permission and on a three-line-whip to be super-silent). He was a little peeved. And has spent the last 55 minutes showing me this via his traditional small child armoury of needing a wee, a poo, a cold drink, a slightly warmer drink, a hug and (this was the best one) cream and a plaster for an itchy toe. I think he is now asleep. I am waiting for my curry to heat up and am on my third glass of wine.
I’m not complaining. I love my kids more than life. But this parenting lark is no breeze. It’s a tough job. My evening tonight is just one example of many that I know will sound familiar to all you Mums and Dads reading this. So when you slump, exhausted, at the end of another day don’t feel so bad. You’re not alone. Instead of beating yourself up for always feeling so tired read the following reminders of why parenting is the toughest job in the world, and then give yourself a huge pat on the back for simply being there for the ride.
The Repetitive Monotony of Life
Each day may bring something new and amazing for parents of young children, but these glimpses often get swamped by the sheer mundane nature of the daily grind. Routine is great for our kids, it keeps them grounded and secure. But it can drive us parents nuts. From washing and feeding, to picking up toys and dealing with and endless round of tending to the bodily functions of your small child, most days pass by in a Groundhog Day blur.
Remember your pre-kid days? You know, those days when you had no one to worry about but yourself. You could do what you wanted, eat and sleep when you chose, and change plans at the drop of a hat. Then BAM! Into your life landed your child. What you didn’t see popping out of the birth canal, hot on the heels of the placenta, was the contract that said ‘You Are Now Responsible For This Human Being’. Like, Forever. As parents you are your child’s carers, role models and back-up. Your every action and emotional response will help to shape the person they become. That’s kind of heavy.
The Never-Ending Worry
For the first 12 months of their lives I hovered around my babies’ cots each night making sure they were breathing. When they started crawling and walking I felt like a sentry on constant guard duty. In toddlerhood my risk assessment chip went into overdrive, and now my girl is out at school all day I have carefully carved out a part of my brain to focus on ‘Worrying About Her’. I am quite sure this pattern will continue to evolve through the Tweenie, Adolescent and Leaving Home stages. I will probably never again sleep completely soundly. My parent radar will never switch off.
It’s Not a Proper Job
You choose to have a child (in most cases). This is not a job where someone will pay you for the privilege. Yet the role of parent brings easily as much stress and responsibility as many ‘real’ occupations. Parents are unsung heroes. There is no annual appraisal where you receive a pat on the back and a hefty pay rise (ha!) for performing so well. And yet day in, day out, most parents do their very best at this non-job we call parenting. There is no other role in the world where you would give so much, for no material return. Amazing when you think about it. (Of course, we all know that the slightest smile from our kids is more reward than we would ever wish for – but the occasional day off would be nice!)
You are Not Really in Control
In many respects, it’s easy to be good at lots of things when you know how. But with parenting there are no rules. No matter how much you think you know from reading or previous experience, each new child rewrites the book in their own unique way. You cannot make a child sleep, do a wee, eat their tea. You can’t make them be kind, do what their told, or behave nicely. All you can do is your best to show them the way – and cross your fingers!
The Friendly ‘Experts’
Fielding advice from these ‘helpful’ individuals can drive you insane. What is it about having a child that makes everyone else in the world think they have the right to tell you how to be a good parent? Take comfort from the fact that, if they too are a parent, they will have their own demons to face as their children grow. I’m not saying smugness is an attractive trait, but it can help you feel a little better from time to time.
How can this contribute to the toughness of the job? Because if we didn’t love our kids, if we didn’t care about them to our very core, then parenting would be a breeze. It’s because we love that we don’t blink when changing our 5th nappy of the night, we just do it. It’s love that keeps us awake nights worrying about whether our babies are safe. It’s love that helps us answer the 654th ‘Why’ question of the day. And it’s love that makes us smile.
It’s now 10pm and I’m hungry. But before I eat I’m just going upstairs to place the blankets gently back over my little girl, and pick up my little boy’s teddy from the floor before he misses him. Then I’ll kiss them goodnight again. And check they are breathing one last time. And then I’ll take care of me for a little while. Just briefly, and with a happy and contented heart.