Why we need to get real about parenthoodApril 24, 2019
I’ve just spent the last hour patting my daughter’s back so she’ll fall asleep. Her eyes will close, and I think it’s time to ninja roll off her bed and crawl towards the door, then they’ll fly open and she’ll stare into my very soul, accusingly.
I know which floor tiles are to be avoided, exactly how to close the door, then the baby gate, lights in the hall turned off, dogs in the kitchen in case they bark.
Every night this goes on. My tummy rumbling for dinner, new emails unanswered, arm numb from the weird angle I have to lie in.
This is the stuff I didn’t know about before I had children. The tiny details of a parents’ life, when in the moment you’re frustrated and bored, but looking back, it’s heaven.
It’s craving more than 45 minutes of sleep when they’re a newborn, then staying awake to watch them doze, in total disbelief that you created that little person.
It’s messaging a friend at 2.45am for advice, or furiously online shopping for the product that will fix your baby. Or your boobs.
It’s a fleeting moment, when they’re in the back of the car in their carseat and it hits you – you now drive a sensible motor. There’s a child in it. That child is yours. YOU ARE A PARENT. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!
It’s meeting friends for coffee and starting 59 conversations but not finishing a single one.
It’s that small smile of recognition and ‘been there’ to a fellow parent as their toddler planks on the supermarket floor.
It’s never leaving the house without wipes and raisins strapped to your person. At all times. Bribery and cleaning are the cornerstones.
It’s groaning as a toddler climbs into your bed in the early hours, but then relishing the scent of their hair as they share your pillow.
It’s the laundry, the never-ending laundry.
It’s the shock you get as clothes get small, and legs grow long, and somehow in one day they can look older. Like proper children and not your babies anymore.
It’s a book read so many times the words come to your when you’re stuck in traffic or doing a presentation at work, almost slipping out.
It’s realising that things will never be the same again. Your selfish, lazy days are over for the next 18 years at least, and even when your kids move out, they take your heart with them.
I don’t know what I was expecting from parenthood – sure, less sleep, more soft play, less money, more toys.
When I was pregnant I read a quote by Elizabeth Stone, who said “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body”. And how true it is. How vulnerable we are. Everyone knows our weakness.
It’s a classic trope in action films – the bad guy make threats against the good guy’s family, forcing his or her hand into doing whatever they want. And now I get why it’s such a cliché – because it would work. It would work for me, and I’d do anything – literally anything – to protect my children.
No-one warned me about this. The worry. The fear. The preoccupation with ‘something bad happening’. The dark underbelly of everything good and magical about parenthood. And I suspect it becomes ingrained in us, from pregnancy when the baby doesn’t kick as much as you think they should, to talks about gap years and travelling alone when they’re older.
So what’s the answer? Maybe it’s just understanding that every mum feels the same sometimes, and that it would be a worry if we didn’t.
It’s being real, and being connected, and those smiles of recognition and support, whether in the supermarket, or in the form of a like on an Instagram post that made you nod along.
And it’s talking about what happens behind closed doors, so we don’t feel so alone when we’re lying on the floor, breathing as quietly as possible, wondering when we can move again.
Use #ThisIsParenthood on your posts to connect with other parents as part of WaterWipes’ campaign to change the conversation around parenting by celebrating the realities, normalising the ups and downs, and bringing parents together through shared experiences.
Join this movement tackling the lack of honesty around real parenting in category and culture, by sharing your own #ThisIsParenthood moments – whether you’re going through sheer joy, loneliness, happiness or exhaustion.
You can see the video here: https://youtu.be/qH7DfP-lcio