Quite frankly I feel that the concept of “having it all” is at best unachievable and at worst thoroughly depressing! It may well be a cliché, but my experience of parenthood to date can only be likened to that of a swan. If on the outside I manage for the briefest of moments to appear to be gliding along, inevitable I’m paddling like mad under the surface!
On the occasions that the planets line up and things come together, (the kids are happy, clean, dressed and we’ve made it out of the house on time, the husband is out to work with a fresh shirt on his back and the house doesn’t resemble a ransacked Toys r Us store!) then it really doesn’t take much to tip the balance.
There were times, particularly when I had just one daughter and was back at work that I’d foolishly allow myself to feel quite smug. I was managing to balance the lot, bring in my share of the bacon, take care of my daughter, keep a clean house and so on. Then it would only take the slightest knock to bring the whole charade tumbling down. One particular time was when I was hit with a bout of food poisoning. There is no need for me to go into the grim details here, but let’s just say it was a new low point in my parenting career!
The fact of the matter is that it’s all a very fragile balancing act. On occasions (particularly when suffering from sleep deprivation) the most simple of daily tasks seem daunting and even the blessed relief of bedtime seems too far away to be of comfort. On other days (particularly after a good night sleep!) you can tackle whatever life throws at you.
My strategies for holding it all together are as follows; firstly build a support network around you. If you aren’t fortunate to have family close by, then this is even more important. Get out there to clubs, playgroups and antenatal classes. There are rich pickings in Harrogate and I’ll do my best to post details about them here. The friends I made when my eldest was a baby were invaluable.
As wrong as it may seem, it always made me feel better to know I wasn’t the only one who felt clueless in the early stages of motherhood. Even worse, it was the urban legends about the misfortune of others that kept me feeling like I wasn’t doing such a bad job after all. (The one I loved was a rumour about a woman who sellotaped in her child’s dummy!) NB. This is of course a very dangerous and irresponsible thing to do, and I would be horrified if anyone actually did it, but by heck did it give me comfort to know that I’d never had to resort to such a drastic measure!
Secondly, develop a twisted sense of humour. Parenting is full of highs and lows which must be laughed at. An example this week, my eldest daughter climbed into bed with us on Saturday morning: “Daddy, I love you” she said (parenting super-high) she then turned over and threw up all over Daddy. (parenting uber-low; well, for him it was; I’m still giggling about it!)
(First published 16th March 2012 Harrogate Advertiser)