I was in the shower, trying to ignore my two-year-old pawing at my ankles, when some lyrics popped into my head.
“I can’t seem to face up to the facts,
I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax
I can’t sleep because my bed’s on fire...”
“Ha!” I chuckled to myself, “clearly a song about having a toddler.”
And then I remembered the song in question was Psycho Killer by Talking Heads, and wondered – not for the first time – if I needed to report myself to social services.
I’ve often thought about handing in my parenting badge. It’s been like this pretty much from the start. From the day my son exploded on to the scene, taking a fair amount of my blood and perineal tissue with him, I feel like I’ve been on the back foot with this whole motherhood lark.
Before the birth, I’d made the mistake of speaking with phenomenally self-assured people who had both rigid parenting philosophies as well as babies who seemed to sleep all the time and never cry. Now, all power to you guys, seriously. I’m insanely jealous of your organisation, clarity and energy. Oh, and luck. It’s LUCK your child sleeps, ok? Now go away, I don’t want to talk to you anymore.
I seem to be surrounded by women who farted out their babies on a cloud of candy floss
It’s fair to say I’ve struggled a bit with the entire thing: birth, breastfeeding, sleep, my kid meeting his so-called developmental “milestones”. What rankles is that everyone else seems to have found the whole thing so bloody easy. I seem to be surrounded by women who farted out their babies on a cloud of candy floss, whose toddlers form complex sentences and wake after 7am. It makes me feel a heady mix of incapable, whiny and defective. Add a dollop of sleep-deprivation along with a well-developed sense of paranoia, and you can see why my perception of “motherhood” isn’t quite a bucket of fluffy kittens.
But I can’t be the only one who feels this way, right? The lifelines I am flung are typically from parents of older kids. I cling to them for dear life. These people have been there but also, crucially, they have slept (at least a little.) They promise it gets easier. I hope so. I hope their promises aren’t as hollow as the ones I make to expectant mothers, when I assure them my birth story was an anomaly, that they too will get their cloud of candy floss.
A little perspective reminds me that regardless of approach, everyone’s just muddling along. The “competitive mother” stuff is such bullshit. Most people don’t have a “parenting philosophy”. Since crossing the threshold, I’ve found that, mainly, other parents are compassionate and kind. The most judgemental person I’ve had to deal with on this whole ride has been myself.
Two years on, I accept that wanting to throw my hands in the air and give up is just part of daily life. It’s a sign that I need to put on CBeebies and eat a biscuit. The boy giggles and gives me a hug. I take a deep breath, smell his hair and relax my shoulders. For a brief moment, I feel like his mother, and I feel like myself. I skip to the next track.
“We're on a road to nowhere
Come on inside
Takin' that ride to nowhere
We'll take that ride…”