Appreciation I forgot to give…

Annoying parents like me are forever saying “Just you wait until you have kids. Then you’ll realise how easy you’ve got it!”

In life before baby I used to smile and nod politely at this, whilst internally sighing and rolling my eyes, feeling certain that I was appreciating everything that I had.

I was wrong. So, in the style of the annoying parent that I am, here is a list of things I forgot to appreciate.

TIME
I wish I had appreciated time when I had it.

I always thought I was so busy. I was a multi-tasker exrrodinarie and housework still rarely got a look in. Work from my job was bought home too often and nights in front of the telly invariably also included a pile of marking. Fitting in seeing friends and shopping and the like meant I barely stopped.

Now of course, I really understand the meaning of the word busy. I can mark books while supervising playtime, I can eat dinner with a baby on my boob. I can ice cakes, feed and change a baby, bath, wash and dry my hair, make a packed lunch, wash the breast pump and organise expressed bottles and still be at my desk checking emails before 8am. I am busier than I ever thought possible, and I’ve never been happier.

A PRIVATE WEE
In my previous ‘busy’ life I used to take my mobile phone to the toilet with me, seeing that as my only spare moment to reply to messages. Never did I think to myself, “gosh, isn’t it nice to wee without an audience.” In fact the thought never crossed my mind.

Now my 9 month old comes with me. Far too mobile to be left alone to play, and immediately hysterical if left in her cot, the safest and easiest option is to let her sit on the floor while I go about my toileting business. While I appreciate the smiles and cheers, I do miss weeing alone.

SELFISHNESS
Although I’ve always been in a career that requires caring and sympathy I have primarily always been a selfish person. I would plan my day around me and I would do what I wanted when I wanted.

Now a small person dictates my schedule, (and certainly has no schedule of her own!) I do what she wants when she wants it. I can count on one hand the selfish moments I have had since I became pregnant. I have become a different person.

THE LACK OF UNSOLICITED ADVICE
This is one I really wish I appreciated more when it was the case. Before pregnancy and birth I was free to make my own choices and my own mistakes. I could walk down the street, or into a room without being given helpfultips. The only advice I was given back then was the advice I asked for. I really miss those times.

Having a baby is like wearing a badge. please give me advice, please tell me how you did things in your day and please tell me how it never did your children any harm. Advice is something you can certainly have too much of. At points I’ve nearly drowned in it. I certainly miss the days when people didn’t try to help.

LACK OF JUDGEMENT
I used to make it through a day without being judged. I didn’t appreciate how nice it was to be able to do something without being told I was wrong.

When you are a parent, not only does everyone have ‘helpful tips’ to give you, they also have an opinion on your parenting style. Sadly, it’s almost always an opinion that they can’t keep to themselves. Breast may well be best, but that is not understood by those from a previous generation. People, for some reason, feel it is appropriate to tell me I am spoiling my baby by going to her when she cries. I long for the days when I could live without judgment.

IGNORANCE
Ignorance really is bliss! I certainly never appreciated how worry free my life was. I was totally ignorant of the fear of parenthood. I didn’t understand breastfeeding, or attachment, infant sleep or any of the many things I have now become well versed in. Not understanding meant not worrying.

Knowledge is power, but it’s also a drain, a worry and a constant anxiety.

EATING FOOD WITHOUT SHARING
Biscuits, chocolate and crisps. I used to eat them on the sofa without a second thought. A bar of chocolate in front of the TV was a regular luxury. The thing is, I didn’t see it as a luxury at all. I didn’t appreciate that it would soon be a thing of the past.

Now, not only am I expected to share my food, I then have to clean up the mess it has made. Snacks that don’t take place in the high chair are simply asking for trouble. And my chocolate intake has to be in secret. I have no desire for my daughter to become the chocoholic that her mother is.

CHOOSING CLOTHES FOR FASHION
Before motherhood I found shopping hard. I could never find anything I liked that suited me. I found the shops a challenge and invariably came home feeling fat and frumpy. I had no idea how easy I had it!

Despite my new, slim body, (thanks for that by the way breastfeeding) shopping is harder than it has ever been. As a nursing mother every item of clothing has to be considered in view of how easy it is to ‘pop one out’. I finally have the figure for hip and stomach hugging long dresses and it just can’t be done. Yet.

So really- appreciate it all while you can. Life will change forever once a new one joins you. But it’s worth it. Even if I never again wee without an audience.

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Happiness. I owe it to my daughter.

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Post Natal Depression is a horribly selfish illness. Not selfish in the way that many assume, not always selfish in the “I don’t want to spend time with my child, I want my own life back” way that is the common perception. But, for me at least, selfish nonetheless.

I feel guilty all the time, I constantly feel like I am failing my daughter, (despite much evidence to the contrary) and I often find myself crying without reason. The selfish side is in my lack of happiness. My daughter is a happy, smiling, amazing girl. At 9 months she is the light in the dark, and thankfully, she seems completely unaware that her mother is a wreck. But I fear this will not last. My PND is selfish because I owe it to her to be happy.

Like all parents I want my daughter to grow up to be happy. She can be rich, famous, intelligent, married, single, unemployed, a stay at home mother, a business woman or anything else she wants, I don’t mind what path she chooses for her life, as long as she is happy.

My daughter will learn from me. Like it or not, I am the most influential person in her life. Therefore, I want my influence to be a good one. My happiness is essential, not for my own mental health, but for hers.

Imagine the following; as a child of six you see your mother drop a bottle of milk the kitchen floor, it smashes and the milk goes everywhere. She says, ‘Whooops, never mind, accidents happen.’ As a child, learning from their mother, you will learn not to panic, you will learn that accidents happen and are not the end of the world.

Alternatively, at age six you see your mother drop a bottle of milk on the floor and she says, ‘Oh no, what a disaster! I keep getting things wrong, I am so stupid and can never do anything right, now everything is ruined, I spoil everything.’ As a child learning from their mother in this situation your learning would be very different. You would learn that mistakes are awful, that there is blame and that when things go wrong it is very difficult to fix.

I do not want this for my daughter. I want her to learn love, to learn happiness and to learn resilience.

I want her to have what I call “bouncebackability”. I don’t want her to spend her life full of anxiety, jealousy, concern, sadness or fear. I want her to get back up after falls. I want her smile and intelligence to change the world.

Therefore I need to be a role model. If I want her to be happy, to be calm and to be confident then that is what she must see in me.

Happiness. I owe it to her.

To the little girl holding on to her mummy’s leg.

To the little girl holding on to her mummy’s leg.

I see you, with your white blonde hair and your blushing cheeks. I see your confidence and I see your fear. I see your nervousness and and I see your pride. 

I watch as you flit between shy and self sure. I admire you. So determined to stand up for what you believe in, so uncompromising in your view and so eager to speak for, and to protect those who you think need you.

Yet you hold on to your mothers leg. Both arms wrapped fully round, your cheek on her thigh as you hide your face from the grown up you don’t yet know, not ready to face that challenge yet, not alone and not now.

I listen as you shout and scream and stamp your feet. Others would call this a tantrum, but I know differently, I know that this is your anger, your anger at what you see as injustice in a world you do not understand.

You love and you trust without reservations. You have been hurt, but have not yet learnt to associate this with other people.

You play schools, and mummys and daddys. You see a great life ahead of you and show no fear or apprehension for the journey that will take you there.

And yet you tightly grip your mothers hand. Exploring, learning and developing, but stretching out from your mother only as far as the length of your combined arms. You are not willing to let go, not ready, not quite yet.

You will go far. You will be successful.

You will fall out with your mother. You will feel angry and let down. Your teenage years will see you frequently let go and return again to that hand and those arms. A place of stability in a world you learn the hard way is not perfect.

You have taught me so much. I envy your fearlessness, envy your pride.

Your games will become a reality. You will become both a teacher and a mother. You will start to doubt yourself more and more. 

If I could speak to you now I would tell you not to change. I would tell you to hold on to that fire, hold on to that fragility and to continue to see the world as your own. Continue to bounce back and continue to trust. Most of all continue to love.

You will be that mother, with a daughter holding onto your leg. She will have dark hair and eyes that hold a lifetime of happiness. Her laugh will reignite in you the fight. Keep that determination, you will need it. She will hold your hand and your heart. Like you, she will one day let go of one, but you know she will always hold the other.

You are amazing. Truly amazing. Never forget that. You will do amazing things and bring amazing happiness to a lot of people.

The future is yours. It is a scary place, but you can do it.

With love,
Your future self.