Saturday, January 12, 2013

Reflections on a growing family

It's been two weeks since Tully came into the world. I can honestly say I love my little family more than ever. I'm getting use to feeding, broken sleep and juggling entertaining a toddler and burping a newborn.
There are mornings when coffee and a hot shower are the only things that gets me through. I've felt immense mother guilt when I've become frustrated by lack of sleep, toddler tantrums and wind that just doesn't seem to go away with burping Tully. When I can't just pick Miss Three up when she's teary and give her cuddles because Tully's in my arms. When she needs food and the toilet and l just don't know where to put Tully while I'm running after her. Or what do l do with both of them when the phone rings, Miss Three starts singing at the top of her lungs, the dinner on the stove needs attention or the washing needs to be hung out. The joys of trying to remember feed times, reminding Miss Three to go to the toilet as we are still in the midst of toilet training, attempting to get dinner on the table before 7pm and the kids to bed by 9pm.
Oh the juggling act.
The internal struggle between the love you feel for your children and the resentment at the loss of your freedom or even the ability to pee without a child needing to be entertained, feed, disciplined or acknowledged. But I also know that as a mother you can't be everything and achieve all that needs to be done so I'm attempting to be kind to myself. Motherhood can be deeply rewarding but also one of the lonelinest jobs out there. 1am to 4am is the worst time at the moment when the family is sleeping, I'm exhausted and dreaming of my pillow and Tully is up feeding and unsettled with wind. It's easier the second time round but going without sleep just isn't fun when you are 35 years old. Gone are my twenties when l bounced out of bed and could function on three hours sleep while going out at night and working two jobs.

I'm staring at Mount Washmore piled on my kitchen table wondering how I'm going to find a moment to fold, iron and put away the assortment of clothes, fabric and bedlinen just off the line. I finally went through my wardrobe and threw out four garbage bags of clothes that l just wasn't wearing and shoes, whilst slightly frightening it was liberating to see space in my wardrobe and on my shelves. I'm looking at my sewing machine fondly thinking about how to begin the creative process again. I've got a couple of weeks before I have to complete a quilt order and get things started back up again. At least the dishes + vaccuming are done and the chocolate brownies have been dusted with a glimmer of icing sugar begging to be eaten. Miss Three is playing and happy, Tully's asleep upstairs, Ads is home from work and finally on holidays and I've just set up a second sandpit in the front yard for the little ones that was kindly given to us. I know l am not alone in feeling overwhelmed by motherhood at times, overtired and yet strangely satisfied with my little family.

I read a really article by blogger Amy Morrison this week that made my battle with mother guilt a little easier. I thought l would add it here as it made my motherhood experience feel a little more managable and hopeful.

If you think about it, if you had a baby thousands, if not hundreds of years ago, you would have had your mother, all your sisters (all of whom were probably lactating) and your nieces all taking care of your baby. They would help with food preparation, show you how to manage and make sure your baby wasn't eaten by a bear. Your kid's feet probably wouldn't have touched the ground until they themselves would be able to carry around an infant. Back then, the point of a child was to have free labor in the fields and someone to take care of your old ass down the road, and not much more.
As for the past generations that like to tell you that they raised six kids on their own and did it without a washing machine? Well, sort of. Keep in mind child rearing was viewed pretty differently not that long ago and you could stick a toddler on the front lawn with just the dog watching and nobody would bat an eye at it -- I used to walk to the store in my bare feet to buy my father's cigarettes when I was a kid. As a mother, you cooked, you cleaned, but nobody expected you to do anything much more than keep your kids fed and tidy.
My grandmother used to tell the story about how she forgot my mother at the grocery store in the early '40s. She walked up to the store with my mother sleeping in her carriage, parked it outside with all the other sleeping babies (I'll let that sink in), went inside to do her shopping, then walked home, forgetting that she'd taken the baby with her. She quickly realized her mistake and walked back and retrieved my mother, who was still sleeping outside the store.
There were no flashcards, there was no sign language (unless you were deaf), there were no organic, free-range bento boxes -- your job was to just see a kid through to adulthood and hope they didn't become an idiot. Hey, I'm not judging, and I'm not saying one way is better than the other, but I'm just saying that we are part of a generation that considers parenting to be a skill. Like a true skill that needs to be mastered and perfected and if we don't get it right, we think our kids suffer for it -- and that's hard sh*t to keep up with. That's not to say other generations didn't have it tough or think parenting was important, but there just wasn't the same level of scrutiny that could be liked, tweeted or instagramed all at once.
You are in the trenches when you have a baby. To the untrained eye it seems pretty straightforward and easy -- you feed them, you bathe them, you pick them up when they cry -- but it's more than that. It's perpetual motion with a generous layer of guilt and self-doubt spread on top, and that takes its toll. Feeling like you also need to keep on top of scrapbooking, weight loss, up-cycled onesies, handprints, crock pot meals, car seat recalls, sleeping patterns, poo consistency, pro-biotic supplements, swimming lessons, electromagnetic fields in your home and television exposure is like trying to knit on a rollercoaster -- it's f*cking hard.
We live in a time when we can Google everything, share ideas and expose our children to amazing opportunities, but anyone that implies that they have it figured out is either drunk or lying (or both), so don't be too hard on yourself. Your job is to provide your child with food, shelter, encouragement and love, and that doesn't have to be solely provided by you either -- feel free to outsource, because they didn't just pull that "it takes a village" proverb out of the air.
Mommy and Me classes, homemade lactation cookies and learning Cantonese is all gravy, and if you can throw them in the mix once in a while, good on ya, Lady. I have about 9,000 things I've pinned on Pinterest and I think I've done four of them, which is fine by me, because those are above and beyond goodies, and not part of my just-scraping-by norm. It's an amazing and exciting time to have a baby right now, but always keep in mind, no one has ever done it like this before -- you are pioneers that have to machete through the new terrain. Chin up. Hang in there. And remember, you're doing a great job.
I'm off to conquer Mount Washmore and see if l can see the kitchen table cleared before dinnertime.
x Mummafox
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