In the (nearly) three short years that I have been a parent I have learned a lot. More than a lot. Here are five of the things I have learned that for some reason I have found hard to acknowledge, until today when I realised that I could acknowledge them and that was OK. Because really, most things are ok. Ok?
1) I want to talk about my children. A lot.
I have endless capacity to talk about my children. I would happily tell you everything about them and I would only stop to show you one of the 10,000 (no exaggerating) photos I have of them. Not to mention the 100+ videos. They are my pride and joy and I am constantly reigning it in as much as I possibly can. Obviously, as people who know me will testify, I can talk a lot about a variety of other topics too – but I will admit that, at the moment, my children are topic número uno to me. Did I tell you that Wilbur put two words together this morning?? Well now you know. See.
2) There are parts of parenting that I will be good at – really good at.
Some people love childbirth. My friends Cathy and Sharmila have described the births of their little girls as ‘awe-inspiring’ and ‘powerful’. Where I found birth to be mostly horrific (thanks weird anatomy) they did not. Some mothers are brilliant at breastfeeding and enjoy it whilst for others it’s a sad and upsetting battle. And so it continues. Weaning, walking, learning etc. Some people are good at some things and others are not, but there will be bits of it that you excel at. The challenge I’ve found is to celebrate those bits – for you and for others. Be joyful that your baby sleeps through the night, chances are you will fight other battles that other parents will sail through. I’m always trying to make sure that in sharing my experiences I can empower rather than intimidate other mothers. I’m not afraid to admit the really good or the really bad bits and neither should any one else.
3) I have been empowered
My children have made me feel like I can do things that I could not have done before. I grew to believe that if I could function on a few hours of broken sleep, give my all to feed, cloth and care for a baby then I could basically do anything. But, it’s not just that. Going on maternity leave from my job gave me space to think and be creative about what I wanted to and could do after having children. It has focused my mind and I now know what is important to me. It’s been liberating.
4) I hate what pregnancy and breastfeeding has done to my body
There are no amounts of balms, oils or declarations of ‘tiger stripes’ that will make me like my post pregnancy body. My skin has been ruined and there is nothing I can do about it. People who have had a glimpse of my stretch marks have gasped in sheer horror/shock/fear. I love my children, I love that my body grew them (I’m so grateful for a body that could) but I wish it had done so without such complete and utter destruction of my skin. I’m not self loathing or self pitying about my appearance, I just don’t like my scars of pregnancy and I don’t think I should have to. So there.
5) I need help
Not asking for help has been one of my biggest flaws since I can remember. I would rather suffer and silently try to work out my problems or bury my head in the sand than ask for help. I’m sure I would have done a lot better at school and university if I wasn’t too proud to say that I didn’t understand or couldn’t cope. Having children has changed that, pregnancies where I couldn’t walk, breaking my ankle and feeling overwhelmed have pushed my hand and I’ve reached out to the people I trust for support and love. I’ve grown to accept that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness – rather it is part of a village raising a child. We’re not designed to do it on our own. Whilst I’m still fiercely independent I have learned that asking for help is ok and in some circumstances is the best thing – especially on days when I can’t cope. Having my children has showed me inner strength that I didn’t think was possible but it’s also great for highlighting where I’ve needed help – I’m learning to be ok with that.