This lonely life

There’s so much about motherhood that I find lonely.

It’s such a strange concept because you’re almost never alone when you’re a mother. You can’t even shit without your little person handing you toilet paper. Showers have audiences. There’s often more than two people in the bed and it’s not the exciting kind of more than two people in a bed experience. My two year old is always talking to me. Where’s this? What’s that? This please. That’s mine! No! NO! He provides a non-stop commentary throughout his day. All in the third person.

And yet – I feel deprived of conversation. I talk to him about why you have to be gentle with the “beuful bufly” and why it’s not a good idea to put rocks in the baby’s basket. I talk to the baby: “Are you hungry sweetheart?” The answer is usually quite clear when he attacks my nipples with the ferociousness of an angry platypus (I imagine angry platypuses are very ferocious). I talk to myself: “They’re both asleep? At the same time? What do I do?”

I long to talk to other parents while at the same time being too exhausted to actually engage in proper conversation with said parents or to seek out those parents to make said conversation. The internet helps. This blog has made me feel a lot less alone. Twitter was my lifeline when my oldest son was born. Especially when I spent long nights awake in hospital staring at him with only my fears to keep me company.

In the two and a half years since I became a mother I have made some really, really great friends. Friends I can’t imagine my life without now. I love them fiercely. They make life better. They’re real friends where you know it’s not just the kids keeping you together. When I went back to work I envied their playdates and wished I was sitting in their warm and loving homes sharing coffee. I missed them.

This – my second time around – is different as they’re all working or studying now. My home is warm and loving, but it’s empty of adult companionship.

And at night, without my husband in bed with me, feeding in the darkness, I feel very lonely. There’s something truly isolating about breastfeeding. It’s again, such a strange concept, because you literally have another being attached to you. But ultimately it’s just you. You’re alone with your sore, cracked nipples. That painful let down that can be so forceful it can bring tears to your eyes in those early days. At a big family picnic on the weekend I sat in the bathroom feeding. There’s definitely nothing more isolating than hearing laughter and shouting when you’re stuck in a tiny room alone.

I know I should go to playgroups. Maybe baby sensory. Or a rock and rhyme musical thing. There’s a lot to do out there. But by the time I have the kids dressed and changed and fed – it’s almost time for my toddler’s nap. And I will not fuck with my toddler’s nap time. It’s the only time I have to do any housework or to check the news or have a solo poop.

If I somehow do manage to get to one of the absurdly early mum and bub groups I feel so awkward walking in late with a toddler who is wearing a helmet, batman cape, and mismatched shoes. Especially when he’s chomping on some not organic at all totally processed and definitely bad for you type of food thing. I worry about what others are thinking. That’s quite narcissistic because they probably don’t give a shit. But I’m not a confident parent so those thoughts come easily.

I find mum groups intimidating. The other mums seem so together. They have philosophies – attachment parenting, free-range parenting, permissive parenting, evolutionary parenting, maybe even paleo parenting – like, no nuts or something. I can’t even spell Montessori (I had to Google it). They speak with such confidence on positive parenting, body autonomy for children – all things I care about but don’t feel I know anything about. What do you do if your parenting philosophy is just – try to make it through the day without anybody getting badly injured?

I’m sure my philosophy of just Do Your Best and Love Your Kids is exactly the same as theirs when it comes to the crunch – but I feel overwhelmed with how on to it they are. They know what they’re doing. Any topic there is they seem to have thought a lot about how to approach it. I often just feel out of my depth.

But six weeks in I’m lonely. So I’m going to have to sort it out.

Or I’m going to have to start a playgroup of mums who try hard but fail quite a bit but never intentionally. One where it’s OK for me to show up with a bit of puke in my hair. Or to drink eight coffees even though I’m breastfeeding. Or to confess that I get Montessori and Steiner mixed up. One where it’s OK to turn up late. And forget your kid’s drink bottle. And wipes. Why do I always forget wipes?

Maybe I’ll start recruiting today. Yes, that’s what I’ll do.

So, if a sloppy looking, sweaty, haggard red head with two kids hanging off her approaches you in the park – smile or run (depending on how you feel about this post).

***

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Sleep

If our household had a motto it would be: qui super omnia amatur somnus.

Above all else, sleep.

Our coat of arms would be two pillows crossed over an unmade bed.

We are a home of two adults who have a deep and abiding passion and love for sleep, a toddler who seems to hate sleeping at night with the fire of a thousand suns, and a newborn who is learning to sleep.

In the night-time wars what side will our newest human choose? Will he choose the light and literally wake at 5am every morning to meet the sun just like our oldest did for an entire year? Will he choose his own bed? Will he choose sleep? Unaccompanied? At night?

Our toddler is convinced that at night mummy and daddy get out his trains and have raging “Thomasdatankasian” parties. He thinks we get out the playdough and make really cool shit FOR HOURS. He thinks we play Zoom Zoom Zoom We’re Going To The Moon on repeat while taking turns lifting each other up and spinning around at the lift off part. If he sleeps, his patron saint Jay Laga’aia might turn up to personally sing him RockABye Your Bear and upon seeing him asleep promptly leave and never make another episode of Jay’s Jungle or Playschool again. So he must not sleep. Ever. And if he does, it must be with us. So that he knows we are not playing matchbox cars without him.

He has an excellent sense of humour. When he stays at Nanna’s house (we love nanna more than any one person could love any one thing) he puts himself to sleep at around seven or eight and sleeps in his own fucking bed for 13 fucking hours. We try to replicate the exact conditions but it does not fucking work. Short of moving in with her (which surprisingly she’s not keen on) we can’t get the same result.

She shows great sympathy for our predicament. She also never gives unsolicited advice. A kindness I will be thankful for for all of my sleepless eternity. After two years we don’t need anymore advice. But we still get it. Oh do we Get It.

I find the best way to cope with unsolicited, unwanted advice is to imagine stabbing the person giving it repeatedly in the face thousands of times. It makes you smile, which releases endorphins, which stops you actually stabbing the person.

When they smugly mutter “consistency is key” with their stupid smug mouth I imagine them being eaten by a shark.

“Show him who is boss”
“Tough love is key”
“Co-sleeping is the only way”
“If you do that he will never leave your bed”
“Use a night light”
“Put amber beads in a blender and give it to him each night with a chaser of nightwishshade oil”
“Draw a pentagram on the floor of your lounge, light eight candles, and sacrifice a virgin on a full moon”

Look, I promise you I’ve tried every type of ritualistic animal slaughter and worship of a deity there is – consistently. There’s only so many virgin blood cocktails I can drink.

So here’s what we do, consistently, we do the only thing that feels right for this hopefully short-lived period of our lives – we choose sleep over all else.

Each night we kiss each other in the hallway and that kiss says the following:

I hope you get sleep but mostly I hope I get sleep. And whoever gets the most sleep will carry us through the next day and remind us that we are a family that loves each other very much.

Then we go off to the trenches with a stoic nod of the head. He, a broken man, climbs awkwardly into the bunk bed. I get the easier (some nights) option and climb into our bed and snuggle with our newborn (he’s five weeks but I feel like he was born yesterday because there’s been so little sleep in those five weeks).

This is the path of less resistance. He isn’t woken by the newborn. This is pacifism in action. If he wakes he is comforted and settled by daddy. If that means not sleeping in his own bed – so be it. Sleep – wherever it happens – is all that matters. It won’t be forever but it feels a bit like forever.

We meet in the morning bleary eyed. He makes me a coffee. I squeeze his shoulder and cover the toddler’s face in smooches.

Our gorgeous, perfect, firecracker of a child, who gives us so much joy every day, who is every single kind of adorable, my gentle, hilarious, sweet and spirited boy, beams up at me:

“Is morning mama! I liddle sleeps! I seena jellyfush wif daddy. In my sleeps. We go BEESH? FOR SAN CARSULL? ON DA BEESH MAMA? FOR SAN CARSULL? Seen a SHAAARK MAMA HAHAHAHAHAHA BEESH NAO MAMA? DADDY BEESH? THES A BEER UN DEEEEEEA UNDA CHEEER US WULL DERA PEEPUL WEF GHEMS UNDA STORY TO TULL OPUN WHYYYYY CUMON SIIIIII IS PLAYSCHOOOO. BEESH mama? FOR JELLY FUSH? KINA KINA KINA KAI UN DA BASKUT….”

I catch my husband’s eye and we try not to laugh. I start to make another coffee. One for the road.

We’re going to the beach.

***

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Day three

After the horrific ordeal that was my labour (one day I’ll blog about it as a free virtual contraception to any readers still around to hear me complain) my wonderful midwife came over for our first check. She weighed baby and did the usual midwife type things and then she said as she left: “Remember, around day three you’ll suddenly feel very emotional. This is hormonal. And it’s normal. Just be ready for it. If you start to feel out of control just take a breath.”

I immediately forgot this advice while staring at my little bundle of perfection who had been born only eight hours or so earlier.

On the morning of Day Three I was feeling very smug. I still had that adrenaline-fuelled-happy-happy-thank-all-of-the-Gods-I’m-not-pregnant-anymore-look-at-my-perfect-baby rush going on. I was dressed which I felt was a huge achievement. I was still feeling powerful (but in an I survived a massacre kind of way) about my son’s birth. A coffee was all I needed and my day would be perfect.

I turned on my new coffee machine.

The little light with the beautiful little outline of a coffee didn’t turn on.

What the fuck?

I pressed it again, but the little light with the little outline of a coffee didn’t turn on.

I shook the machine. The light. It didn’t fucking turn on.

I took the thing out of the thing. It didn’t turn on.

I hit the machine. It didn’t turn on.

Suddenly I knew with every fibre of my being that this was my husband’s fault. He had clearly broken the machine. Never mind that he doesn’t drink coffee. That was a minor detail. I bet he fucking broke it and didn’t fucking fix it. Probably because he doesn’t drink coffee. And you just can’t trust people who don’t drink coffee, even if you’re married to them.

Then, like a deer about to be hit by a leaking truck fuelled not by petrol but by pure incandescent rage, my husband walked nonchalantly into the kitchen.

“The coffee machine won’t work. You need to fix it,” I told him.

“Can you just have a coffee at my mum’s?” He said in a perfectly reasonable tone. “We are already late”.

“HOW DARE YOU. HOW VERY DARE YOU,” I screeched. “FIRST YOU GET ME PREGNANT AND THEN YOU DENY ME COFFEE. YOU FUCKING MONSTER.”

My husband blinked at me. “Don’t you think you’re overreacting a bit? It’s just coffee. Just have one at mum’s.”

“JUST COFFEE? JUST. COFFEE. WHO EVEN ARE YOU??”

I launched into a 45 minute attack that covered most of his suddenly apparently numerous failings and the fact that there’s only instant coffee at his mum’s. “Why can’t you just fix the machine that you broke so I can just have the one thing I need in this world?” Clearly our marriage was in trouble if he couldn’t do this one thing that would make me so happy. Suddenly I was devastated, I had always thought we had a good marriage. People had commented on how good our marriage was. And now, it was all a lie. We would need to divorce probably. What kind of impact would this have on Christmas? I don’t want to have to fucking drive on Christmas Day when Christmas Day is clearly a day for drinking too much. What if he got a girlfriend? What if he married someone? What if my new baby called her mum????

He picked up the nappy bag.

“Are you leaving me?” I cried.

He stared at me utterly bewildered.

I began sobbing.

I was clearly a terrible wife. I adored him. And I didn’t want to raise two kids on my own. I didn’t want my kids being raised by some other woman who would probably be far more attractive than me. But he did break the coffee machine.

“Umm I don’t know what’s going on with here but I think we should just go to mum’s and we can buy you a proper coffee on the way there”.

We cannot afford a proper coffee I thought. We are so broke. What are we going to do? Now I have no coffee machine. I can’t buy coffee and I can’t make coffee at home. I’ll have to go back to work tomorrow even though it’s Sunday and the office will be closed. I won’t be able to bond with my baby. He will turn into a serial killer. I’m going to ruin my precious baby’s life. I fell to the kitchen floor sobbing.

“I am a terrible mother,” I wailed. “Just leave. Take the kids. They’re better off without me”.

My husband stared at me with a look of confused fear on his face. He walked slowly over to the coffee machine trying to avoid turning his back to me. He maintained eye contact. His movements were slow and deliberate.

He turned the power on at the wall. He pressed the button. The little light with the little outline of the coffee cup turned on.

***

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I am grateful and…

I’ve had a few requests for a no-swears version of my original post. I want the post to be accessible to any sleep deprived mums so here’s a censored version. My other posts (if I ever get around to writing another post – this was my first on parenting) will likely have swears in them so in future – viewer discretion advised. I am overwhelmed by the wonderful response to my post. Thanks so much for reading and sharing and I hope you get some sleep soon 🙂

It was some time between midnight and 3am. I was dead asleep. I’d fed the littliest at midnight so it was after that, and it was before he woke up for a feed at 3am. This hardly matters, because that time of night is Hell unless you’re pashing, happy drunk, smoking in a bar, dancing, or on drugs – y’know, generally having a fulfilling life that doesn’t involve milk dripping out of your breasts or playing the fart or poop game.

So, I’m asleep and I feel this tiny hand on my face and then there’s a kiss on my forehead. And for a second I’m confused like – did the tiny one do that? He’s only four-weeks-old? Is he a mutant? That would be amazing. And then I realise it’s my big baby and I pull him into my arms while still asleep and think “oh he’s delicious”. But then he elbows me in the boob and says “JAY JUNGLE MAMA” and I’m like “ughhh you’re not delicious at all. What is that smell?” And I tell him to be quiet and I cuddle him and he says “NO JAY JUNGLE” and he climbs onto my chest and it hurts so bad because my boobs are about to explode. And then I cuddle/smother him and spend the next 40 minutes or so (who knows how long it was – it felt like days) getting him to sleep. And then I got him to sleep and I got up and I went to the bathroom and I came back to this: Bed And I was like “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? IT’S MY BED. WHY ARE YOU EVEN UPSIDE DOWN? WHY CAN’T I HAVE ONE SPACE THAT IS MY OWN? WHY ARE YOU ALMOST THREE AND YOU SLEEP WORSE THAN A NEWBORN? WHY IS THERE NEVER ANY ROOM FOR ME??”.

And even though this was an internal scream the little one woke up angrily demanding a feed. While feeding on the floor I took a photo and I put it on Facebook and Twitter. And on Twitter I said ‘sigh’ because the parents on Twitter get it. And on Facebook I did a slightly longer comment because I was trying to be a bit light hearted because…well, we will get there… So, I said “How come it’s my bed and there’s never room for me in it?” Which you’ll note is not “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?…”

It was meant to be funny, a way for me to be like “see?” without being like “OMG KILL ME SEE?” And then I got this message, which I always do, from a friend’s mum. It said: “Be grateful for your boys. They will be adults before you know it and they won’t want to sleep with you. You should enjoy this time”. And I was like OK, I hope I’m never so unstable that when my sons are in their 20s I want them sleeping with me. But aside from that – CAN YOU NOT?

I know the first thing I’m going to be told is “people are just trying to be nice! They’re trying to comfort you”. Yeah, yeah, it’s hard to be charitable when you’ve had two hours sleep. Here’s the deal – trying to be helpful or not – it isn’t. It isn’t helpful. It’s condescending, patronising, and it’s actually (without being melodramatic but maybe a bit melodramatic) it’s dangerous. Constantly telling parents – Be grateful! Be grateful! One day they won’t be pooping on you! And you’ll be like “omg, I long for the days when I was covered in sour milk and diarrhoea!” So – be grateful! You might be so exhausted that you’re crying on the toilet but these are the best days of your life SO BE GRATEFUL – leads to those parents shutting down and never sharing how they truly feel.

It leads to parents not having support networks. It leads to parents walking into parenthood without any idea of how hard some moments, some days, can be. It leads to such unfair expectations on parents – enjoy every minute or you’re a monster. It leads to feeling like you’re doing it all wrong. I am so grateful for my kids. I can’t even put into words how grateful I am. So I don’t need you to tell me to be grateful. I am.

Guess what – I can be so grateful and so tired. I can be so grateful and so over it. I can be so grateful and also imagine not having kids and just pashing and dancing and drinking bourbons till I puke. These comments always come from people with grown kids. And I get it. Maybe? I mean when the boys are in their 20s I might be wishing they still lived with me and needed me 24-7. I mean, I kind of hope in my late 50s I’m acting like I was in my early 20s – boning their dad, drinking bourbons, going to gigs, spending all my money on band tee shirts and fast food. But I digress – I get it kind of. Your kids are grown, you miss them, you see parents at the beginning of their parenting journey and it makes you nostalgic. I get that there’s no malicious intent.

But just again – can you not.

Because when I make a heavily sanitised comment about not sleeping and you make a comment about being grateful, it implies I’m not grateful. And in my sleep deprived state it makes me feel like a horrible person.

And this might seem like an overreaction to a comment, but I (and other parents) get it All. The. Time. The other week I said: “Just as one little bogan falls asleep, another little bogan wakes up. They’re like a tag team” and I got one comment and three messages with the “one day you’ll miss it/be grateful” message. I get it about once a week. And the more I get it the more I feel like I can’t talk about the hard parts of parenting, or the things I’m struggling with. Because I don’t want to appear ungrateful for my awesome kids, even the one that hates sleeping. And you see how that’s a problem right? So, here are some things you can say instead of be grateful:

  • I don’t remember how hard it was never sleeping because I’m retired and I sleep until 10 now and I spend all day playing Candy Crush. SO I’m just going to shut up. (Might be too specific).
  • That sounds tough, want me to drop you over something with chocolate in it?
  • You don’t look tired at all. You look like a glam actress who only eats paleo stuff and drinks grass smoothies.
  • I heard kids who don’t sleep are smarter than kids who do.
  • Parenting is really hard sometimes. It’s ok to find it hard sometimes.

xB

***

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I am grateful, now fuck off.

It was some time between midnight and 3am. I was dead asleep. I’d fed the littliest at midnight so it was after that, and it was before he woke up for a feed at 3am. This hardly matters, because that time of night is Hell unless you’re pashing, happy drunk, smoking in a bar, dancing, or on drugs – y’know, generally having a fulfilling life that doesn’t involve milk dripping out of your breasts or playing the fart or shit game.

So, I’m asleep and I feel this tiny hand on my face and then there’s a kiss on my forehead. And for a second I’m confused like – did the tiny one do that? He’s only four-weeks-old? Is he a mutant? That would be amazing.

And then I realise it’s my big baby and I pull him into my arms while still asleep and think “oh he’s delicious”. But then he elbows me in the tit and says “JAY JUNGLE MAMA” and I’m like “ughhh fuck you’re not delicious at all. What is that smell?” And I tell him to be quiet and I cuddle him and he says “NO JAY JUNGLE” and he climbs onto my chest and it hurts so bad because my boobs are about to explode. And then I cuddle/smother him and spend the next 40 minutes or so (who knows how long it was – it felt like days) getting him to sleep. And then I got him to sleep and I got up and I went to the bathroom and I came back to this:

Bed

And I was like “FUCK THIS SHIT IT’S MY BED. WHY ARE YOU EVEN UPSIDE DOWN? WHY CAN’T I HAVE ONE SPACE THAT IS MY OWN? WHY ARE YOU ALMOST THREE AND YOU SLEEP WORSE THAN A NEWBORN? WHY IS THERE NEVER ANY ROOM FOR ME??”.

And even though this was an internal scream the little one woke up angrily demanding a feed. While feeding on the floor I took a photo and I put it on Facebook and Twitter. And on Twitter I said ‘sigh’ because the parents on Twitter get it. And on Facebook I did a slightly longer comment because I was trying to be a bit light hearted because…well, we will get there…

So, I said “How come it’s my bed and there’s never room for me in it?” Which you’ll note is not “FUCK THIS SHIT…” It was meant to be funny, a way for me to be like “see?” without being like “OMG KILL ME SEE?” And then I got this message, which I fucking always do, from a friend’s mum. It said: “Be grateful for your boys. They will be adults before you know it and they won’t want to sleep with you. You should enjoy this time”. And I was like OK, I hope I’m never so unstable that when my sons are in their 20s I want them sleeping with me. But aside from that – CAN YOU NOT?

I know the first thing I’m going to be told is “people are just trying to be nice! They’re trying to comfort you”. Yeah, yeah, it’s hard to be charitable when you’ve had two hours sleep. Here’s the deal – trying to be helpful or not – it isn’t. It isn’t helpful. It’s condescending, patronising, and it’s actually (without being melodramatic but maybe a bit melodramatic) it’s dangerous.

Constantly telling parents – Be grateful! Be grateful! One day they won’t be shitting on you! And you’ll be like “omg, I long for the days when I was covered in sour milk and diarrhoea!” So – be grateful! You might be so exhausted that you’re crying on the toilet but these are the best days of your life SO BE GRATEFUL – leads to those parents shutting down and never sharing how they truly feel. It leads to parents not having support networks. It leads to parents walking into parenthood without any idea of how hard some moments, some days, can be. It leads to such unfair expectations on parents – enjoy every minute or you’re a fucking monster. It leads to feeling like you’re doing it all wrong.

I am so grateful for my kids. I can’t even put into words how grateful I am. So I don’t need you to tell me to be grateful. I am. Guess what – I can be so grateful and so tired. I can be so grateful and so fucking over it. I can be so grateful and also imagine not having kids and just pashing and dancing and drinking bourbons till I puke.

These comments always come from people with grown kids. And I get it. Maybe? I mean when the boys are in their 20s I might be wishing they still lived with me and needed me 24-7. I mean, I kind of hope in my late 50s I’m acting like I was in my early 20s – boning their dad, drinking bourbons, going to gigs, spending all my money on band tee shirts and fast food. But I digress – I get it kind of. Your kids are grown, you miss them, you see parents at the beginning of their parenting journey and it makes you nostalgic. I get that there’s no malicious intent.

But just again – can you not. Because when I make a heavily sanitised comment about not sleeping and you make a comment about being grateful, it implies I’m not grateful. And in my sleep deprived state it makes me feel like an asshole.

And this might seem like an overreaction to a comment, but I (and other parents) get it All. The. Time. The other week I said: “Just as one little bogan falls asleep, another little bogan wakes up. They’re like a tag team” and I got one comment and three messages with the “one day you’ll miss it/be grateful” message. I get it about once a week. And the more I get it the more I feel like I can’t talk about the hard parts of parenting, or the things I’m struggling with. Because I don’t want to appear ungrateful for my awesome kids, even the one that hates sleeping. And you see how that’s a problem right? So, here are some things you can say instead of be grateful:

  • I don’t remember how hard it was never sleeping because I’m retired and I sleep until 10 now and I spend all day playing Candy Crush. SO I’m just going to shut the fuck up. (Might be too specific).
  • That sounds tough, want me to drop you over something with chocolate in it?
  • You don’t look tired at all. You look like a glam actress who only eats paleo stuff and drinks grass smoothies.
  • I heard kids who don’t sleep are smarter than kids who do.
  • Parenting is really hard sometimes. It’s ok to find it hard sometimes.

xB

Update: wow! I’m really overwhelmed by the response to this post. Thank you so much for all of your comments. I wish I could reply to every one – but I’m typing one handed because cluster bloody fucking feeding. But thank you – I feel less alone and I hope you do too. Also, I love the idea of #iamgrateful!

***

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