Before I get fully stuck into this, I wanted to say that I’m not trying to be a negative Nancy on this post at all. In so many ways having a baby and becoming a mum is wonderful. But I really think being honest that you can love some parts and not like other parts all at the same time. I’m sure if you look at my Instagram feed (or this post…) you see lots of cute pictures of Eleanor (& me, sometimes) and it’s easy to think it’s all just rosy every day. But, as in almost every case – that isn’t always a fair representation. Instagram is the highlights, well for this post I want to talk about the things I have struggled with the most so far since becoming a mum.
I had this idea knocking around my head for a while but wasn’t quite sure how to start putting pen to paper/fingers to keyboard on it. Trying to sum up honest thoughts on the not-so-great side of becoming a mum in a way that still feels a touch lighthearted.
The monotony of it all
I am sure this will very much vary dependant on what your baby is like in terms of sleeping, feeding and the like. But overall, much of those early weeks become very monotonous. Feeding, burping, changing, sleep, repeat.
At times it feels like a strange split between blissfully repetitive and routine but also like your brain might be turning to mush in the process.
The routine always changing
One of the ways I feel like I’m ‘coping’ with motherhood is having a routine. But the thing with babies based on my experience so far is that as soon as you have a routine that works… something changes. JUST as you get a handle on something, you enter a new ‘leap’ and the goalposts change. Think you’ve nailed sleep? Ha, welcome to the four month sleep regression. Why? Because babies like to mess with you is my only possible explanation. Got the feeding & sterilising routine down to a T? Well now it’s time to introduce solids and CHANGE EVERYTHING AGAIN. Ok, so I’m not technically at the food stage yet but it’s just around the corner. It just seems that routine is SO key, yet also completely changeable.
The 24-7 responsibility
Honestly, deep down I still mostly feel like a 14 year old girl. How I’ve been left with the responsibility of looking after a tiny human I’ll never know. I mean, I know I was there for the whole ‘pregnancy and birth thing’ but still. Now there’s a baby here and between myself and Ollie we are 100% responsible 24-7. I’m not even sure I am capable of taking care of myself 24-7 yet, let alone this tiny person. There’s a lot of pressure that comes with that level of responsibility. Think light sleeping for the next countless number of years as you’re the one who needs to jump if they need you. Of course, that responsibility is split between myself and Ollie as the Dad. But still, somehow it naturally seems to fall to me first. Which gets me on to…
The paternal opt-out
No, of course Ollie isn’t AT ALL an absent father or anything. Not even close to that. So please don’t get me wrong on this. Overall he’s absolutely ace and there’s nothing like the beaming smile I see on Eleanor’s face when she sees her Dad. But across myself and some of my baby-friends there’s a general consensus that the Dad’s are absolutely great for the first few weeks… but then there’s a bit of a drop off/stepping back. Where they sort of fall back into their pre-baby life and routines and some of the hands-on, pro-active help that happened at first, sort of fades.
This is not to say they don’t help, but some (not all) can feel a bit ‘lost’ when it comes to anything a bit more hands on with a baby like trying to entertain them, or calm them when they’re upset. Beyond the more ‘straight-forward’ task of nappy changing or bottle feeds. But you know what, it’s not easy and it ‘not coming naturally’ isn’t really a good enough excuse to opting out.
It’s so hard as there’s some sort of cultural undercurrent (the damn patriarchy?!) that seems to make the softly softly paternal opt-out this natural thing that happens when paternity leave ends and that ‘back to normal’ Dad-back-at-work thing happens.
But I don’t think it’s ok and just to be accepted. And I do really want to stress that he really does help and support me in so many ways that might not be changing nappies. If it wasn’t for him cooking a lovely dinner every night I would be 95% jaffa cake by now. However, between us – both Ollie and I – we’re trying to find some sort of balance that works. We know it won’t be full on 50:50 whilst he’s working full time in quite an intense job and I’m trying to juggle working and looking after Eleanor. But we do both want to try and find a split or balance where it works for us both being active parents and not 90% one 10% other.
The parental juggle is real
Not only are we trying to get a handle on our new roles as parents. Juggling baby care so that Eleanor is taken care of but also trying to juggle us each having some time to do what we want to do as individuals. Plus of course take care of the dogs and the house. Never mind have time together?! It’s hard and so far I don’t think a week has gone by where we have really got the balance right. But we’re trying. Some weeks it goes more heavily one way than the other. Or vice versa. That’s very much a work in progress. Which may never be something we completely master – but will keep trying!
You’re not number one anymore
Sure, this sounds like I’ve been selfish my whole life and now it’s a shock when I’m not the most important person in my little world anymore. Maybe that’s true (probably) but fact is, I’m not number one. Eleanor is. To both me and Ollie and those around us. She is the priority. Whilst I know this, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t take a bit of adapting to. At the same time, I also know I need to look after myself as a priority as I’ll (hopefully) be a better parent because of it.
They say your priorities change when you have a baby and to a point, that’s absolutely true. But I would say that for me this wasn’t an immediate thing. The things that were important to me pre-baby are all a big thing in who I am and I don’t want them to just be replaced. But at the same time she is my priority. It’s an adjustment and yes your priorities change but that doesn’t mean your old priorities just vanish at the same time.
It also sucks that as a no longer pregnant person I don’t get a seat on the tube anymore. Not fair.
Life being generally turned upside down
One of the things I’ve personally found hardest is knowing that life will never be the same again. Looking forward can feel so wonderful and knowing there’s so much to look forward to. But it’s such an unknown. It’s difficult at times to always look forward when looking back is ‘easy’ because it’s tangible and something you can compare to. When sitting in a baby sensory class with a farmers hat on whilst on a trip to ‘funky farm’ thinking… this isn’t like having breakfast at Riding House Cafe with one of my favourite brands or working from my laptop in bed…. Booking holidays thinking about where or how we will do it all with a baby. So many differences and when I was pretty darn fortunate to love how life was, looking back is often very rose tinted and normally done when elbow deep in a nappy type situation…
Expectation vs Reality
As with almost everything… expectation and reality are two very different things. For me this mainly means the expectation of being able to juggle work and baby life in a way that works on all sides. You can see from the lack of posts for the past week, it’s nowhere near as easy as I hoped and something I’m still working on. It gets harder as she gets more mobile and looking for more attention from me/less nap time. I don’t want to half-ass it from behind my laptop. But at the same time my blog and career are so much a part of me I don’t want to let them go. This is just scratching the surface of how the expectation of baby life vs the reality is such a contrast. Top tip? Drop all expectations – on a daily AND a bigger-picture basis…
Becoming a mum…
Adding this whole new baby dimension to life is wonderful and confusing. Refreshingly simple and overwhelmingly complicated. Exhausting, emotional, hilarious, and boring. Yes, all at the same time. They weren’t lying when they say it’s a rollercoaster.
On the bright side, it’s pretty amazing how this little baby can give me a big gummy smile and all the ‘serious’ side of giving up that you-time, sleeping in and swapping fancy breakfasts for baby sensory is all forgotten.
Yes, it’s hard. Yes, adapting to life as a mum with a baby is still very much a work in progress. But in so many ways, I wouldn’t change a thing. Yes I can look back, but as that saying goes – I’m not going that way.
This is just a little dose of honesty around how life as a mum can be amazing but it’s not easy. At only four months in though, it’s still pretty early days. I hope as time goes on adapting to this new life and still keeping a healthy dose of my old life in there will slowly but surely happen.
Photos taken on a little family trip to Hitchin Lavender. A gorgeous place and would very much recommend a visit if you’re in the area. Especially for the cake.