Why it’s OK not to love the newborn stage

I remember in those early months with Archie so many people telling me, “enjoy it now, it’ll only get harder”, “wait until he moves, THEN you’ll feel tired”, “wait until you’re weaning, that’s a whole other ball game” and so on. And looking back, I’m shocked because that’s the last thing a first-time mum wants to hear. When things are feeling tough, being told the unthinkable that’s it only going to get harder is ridiculously insensitive and probably not true.  

newborn stage

I know that not everyone has a negative experience of the newborn stage but for those that do, it’s OK to admit it and it’s not something to be ashamed of. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad mum or that you love your baby any less. Becoming a mum is a huge change to your life so it’s bound to take a bit of adjusting. I remember the endless guilt I felt because I wasn’t enjoying it “like I should” and it’s only now I can see that I had nothing to feel guilty about.

Dealing with so much change

As I came to the end of my pregnancy, my anxiety went through the roof because I knew the hardest bit was yet to come (and I’m not talking about labour!). But nothing could prepare me for just how much my life was about to change.

Before having Archie I was a marketer for a financial services company in London. It was a fairly high pressured job and I worked long hours on top of a 3 hour daily commute. I’ve always been someone who’s pushed themselves mentally so I enjoyed the complexity of the industry I worked in and the constant dialogue I shared with others in the company.

Going from this environment to: long days alone at home with a baby; feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by my new responsibility; scared to leave the house because of all the prep that entailed and worried about how I’d cope when I was out; the general feeling like I didn’t know what I was doing; a lack of adult interaction and overwhelmed by the constant lack of routine was a real struggle.

And in those first few months, my perspective was totally skewed from sleep deprivation. I couldn’t see the woods for the trees. It felt like my old life was a distant memory. Of course, I can see now that those hurdles were most definitely temporary and things settled down much quicker than I ever thought they would. But at the time I just couldn’t see things clearly.

My experience wasn’t helped by a few things – one being that my family lived far away and the fact I didn’t know anyone in my local area. My husband also works long hours so the days were longer for me at home too. Our feeding struggles and the effect that ultimately had on my bond with Archie also had a huge impact on how I was feeling.

But I honestly take my hat off to anyone who can go through the transition into motherhood without feeling that there are some elements they just don’t enjoy. In fact, I’d be amazed if there is anyone else there that feels this way, even if your experience is overall a positive one.

It’s a major upheaval to your life. And of course, it’s ultimately for the better and over the long-term you’ll forget how tough you even found it. But if you’re going through it now and you’re worried because you’re not enjoying it. Or that it’s going to get harder. Then please don’t. This stage is purely about survival and clearly you’re doing just that so give yourself a pat on the back. And know that this phase is just that. A phase. It will pass and in time you’ll have a completely different perspective to the one you have now.

 

10 things I’ve learnt since becoming a mum

Ahead of Mother’s Day this weekend, and having just had my first full year as a mum, I thought I’d take a bit of time to reflect on 10 things I’ve learnt. To say it’s been a steep learning curve is a huge understatement so to be honest the below will never do it justice but I thought I’d try and pick out the main ones. I’d love to know what you think – please leave me a comment with yours 🙂

mummy and me edited

  1. Being a mum is really hard – I mean I never expected it to be a walk in the park but my goodness no one warned me that it would be the hardest job I’d ever do. The constant mental worries, the daily emotional rollercoaster, the physical strain when you’re so tired your eyes are burning and your back/ arms are aching. Of course it’s all completely worth it and makes it all the more rewarding but I don’t think I ever anticipated there would be a job where you never switch off – ever!
  2. There is no other love like it – I remember my dad telling me this before I had Archie and he said “one day, I promise you’ll see, it’s a love that’s impossible to describe. But there is nothing you wouldn’t do for your child. It’s a love that’s completely unconditional”. And of course, he was right, there really is no other love like the love you have for your child.
  3. I will always strive to be better – whether it’s providing Archie with the most balanced meals, getting his nap schedule completely right so he’s never overtired, making sure I’m interacting/ playing with him enough etc. there will literally never be a point where I feel like I can’t do better.
  4. It’s easy to forget about your relationship – it’s only natural that your relationship will take a backseat when you have a child but to be honest I never expected it to be as big a test as it’s been. And yet at the same time, I need my husband more than ever and we’ll never be part of a more significant team. The focus may no longer be on us but I do think it’s important to make time for each other and to be reminded of where it all started.
  5. No phase lasts – when things are feeling really tough and I’m not sure I can cope, I know it won’t last forever. And at the same time, when everything seems to be going to plan and we’ve had a good few days, I know to just soak it up because it also won’t last – there’s always another round of teething/ illness to get through but it’s those times that make you really appreciate the times before!
  6. My priorities have completely changed – whether it’s planning what we’re going to do for the day, planning out the future or simply who I choose to spend my time with, my number 1 priority is Archie and what’s best for him.
  7. Over-comparisons can be unhealthy – there are so many comparisons when you’re a mum – both about your child and the way you parent. Particularly from other mums – everyone wants to know about your child’s sleep, eating, feeding, pooing etc. – and of course most of it comes without malice, we’re all just sense checking to see whether we’re doing an OK job. But I do sometimes find it a bit too much and it plays on my own insecurities so I try my best not to pry too much into other’s routines these days.
  8. My support network is more important than ever – I think it’s natural that my support network has become smaller but it’s also so much stronger than it’s ever been. I honestly couldn’t cope without my closest family and friends who have got me through some of my toughest times but have made the good times so much better too.
  9. Finding time for myself is necessary – overcoming the “mum guilt” and putting myself first occasionally is something I still struggle with now. But I also know that to be the best mum possible, I need some time out sometimes to reset and recharge.
  10. There is no better job in the world – the biggest cliché going but it really is true. Being Archie’s mum is a huge privilege and there is no job more important or more rewarding.

 

My separation anxiety

You’ve probably heard of separation anxiety from the perspective of a baby/ child. But I’d never really thought of it in eyes of the parent before – and now it is something I really struggle with. As much as I know it’s healthy for me to spend some time away from Archie, I find it really hard to leave him and the anxiety I feel before sometimes makes me question, is it really worth it?

separation anxiety

The answer of course is most definitely yes. It’s not good for me or him to be permanently attached to each other. And when I do manage to spend time away I do actually enjoy myself but it’s certainly not as easy as it was before.

Last week I was lucky enough to go to the spa with my mum and we had the loveliest time. I really switched out of mummy mode for a while and it was nice to have a break. The few days before though I was feeling really anxious – barely sleeping, mind racing, feeling overwhelmed.  I’ve only ever left him with my husband or my parents and I’m certainly not worried about whether they’ll be OK looking after him as he usually has the best time and they are more than capable, so what am I really anxious about?

This is something I’ve been trying to figure out and I really can’t put my finger on it.

I think part of it is because Archie has become my little comfort blanket. When we’re out and about he is the topic of conversation and everyone’s attention diverts immediately to him. So when he’s not there suddenly I feel very exposed and not quite sure what to do with myself. I worry about making conversation without him being the natural distraction and I just feel a bit lost without him.

I think some of it is because I’m a stay-at-home mum and he’s my whole world now. I used to be pretty career driven and would passionately chat about the industry I worked in but now I feel a bit disconnected from it all. When I’m not in mummy mode, who even am I? I’m not sure I’ve figured that out yet.

And if I’m being truly honest I think that part of me is being selfish. I want to soak up every moment with him. And I want him to “need” me. I know it’s so irrational but I worry that if anyone can look after him (and effectively do my job) then what if he actually doesn’t need me after all. And is what I do really that purposeful?

I know it sounds crazy and it’s something that I really need to get on top of. I’ve been making a conscious effort to leave Archie on a more regular basis (where practically possible) because surely the more I do it the easier it will become? I’m so worried about the impact it has on him, I don’t want him to suffer as a result of my own struggles. I’m really hoping I’m not alone in this. Can anyone else relate? Any words of wisdom you’d be happy to share? I’m all ears 🙂

How to parent with your partner

My husband and I are one of those couples who always said we would never work with each other. We’re complete opposites, which is great for our relationship, but means we would drive each other crazy in a work environment. When we had Archie we didn’t quite anticipate how being parents would essentially mean doing a job alongside each other!! Learning how to parent with your partner is a definite skill and I’ll admit that we haven’t got it cracked just yet. But here are a few things we’ve learnt so far.

parenting

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  1. Don’t compare who has it hardest – it’s so incredibly easy to get into the trap of doing this because, like most things, the grass often seems greener on the other side. But trust me, it’s not useful for anyone and you could probably bicker about it until the end of time. What’s more productive is accepting that you both have it hard in different ways. Parenting is always about sacrifice and compromise. So try to see it from your partner’s point of view and the things they are having to compromise, as well as your own. Clearly this only works if it’s a 2-way street so feel free to refer your partner to this post if necessary!!
  2. Don’t feel you have to do everything together – in the early days in particular, you will probably want to do every nappy change, night feed, clothes change, bath etc. together and that’s fine until you’ve got the hang of it. But once you’re both perfectly capable of doing these things it’s important to give each other a break by sharing out the load. I know it’s not always practically possible but even if it’s just letting each other have a lie in every once in a while, it will remind you that you’re not doing this on your own.
  3. Accept that they might do things differently – yes in an ideal world they’ll do everything exactly how you like it but the probability of this happening is probably close to zero! As long as they’re helping then does it really matter that it’s not in the same order as you do things? And yes it might take them 10 times as long to change a nappy, but who’s it really harming?
  4. Be kind to each other – this was something my Auntie told me was the secret to a happy marriage. Giving each other the benefit of the doubt is not easy when emotions are heightened which they often are with a baby/ child around. However, it is so important to try and see things from your partner’s perspective and remember that they might not be finding it easy either.
  5. Don’t forget to communicate – this is where my husband will be rolling his eyes because I’m particularly bad at this one when I’m feeling stressed. I often assume he knows I need help with something rather than just asking. Which means I’m usually a bit more stroppy about it when I finally get around to saying something!
  6. Make time for each other – sometimes it’s so easy to just be parents and forget about the fact you’re in a relationship with each other too. Try and get out for the occasional date night or make the most of your evenings together. Sometimes having a couple of hours without your phones is particularly helpful because then there’s no distractions (Daddy Lowe – this one’s for you!!).
  7. Be a team – Have each other’s’ backs no matter what. Agree on how you want to do certain things (discipline, routines etc.) and then stick to it. For some reason once you have a baby everyone feels they can have an opinion on EVERYTHING and they’ll let you know about it. So make sure you stick to what you and your partner agrees on in the first place. This will be particularly important when your child is old enough to play you off against each other too!

I’ll be the first to admit that the above is so much easier said than done. In fact, my husband will be laughing reading this saying “yes, you might want to listen to your own advice!” But it’s all a learning curve! So if you have any other pieces of advice, please feel free to share 🙂

Do I have a job?

Today marks the day I am officially unemployed. Having decided that (for the time-being at least) I’m going to be a stay-at-home mum has led some people to question whether I have a job at all. Here is my response.

do i have a job

As someone who has been pretty ambitious and career-focused so far in my life, being classed as “unemployed” may seem like a bitter pill for me to swallow. And yes whilst it does irk me that some people believe I’ve taken the easier route by choosing to be a stay-at-home mum, as anyone who’s been one knows, it is without doubt one of the hardest but most rewarding jobs around.

Prior to having Archie I was a marketer for a financial services company in London. It was a fairly high pressured job and I worked long hours on top of a 3 hour daily commute. I’ve always been someone who’s pushed themselves mentally so I enjoyed the complexity of the industry I worked in. Going from this environment to being a stay-at-home mummy has taken some real adjusting for me.

From the outside in, it probably seems that the hardest part of my day is dealing with a tantrum or changing a dirty nappy. But in fact the lack of mental stimulation and adult conversation combined with time to overthink and over-process information has actually been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with. There is no switching off and a constant background worry because ultimately I’m responsible for someone’s life and well-being. And that someone is one of the most important people in my life, who I love more than anything in the world.

Of course a huge perk is that I have the privilege of watching my son grow up and see his little personality develop. I know how lucky I am to do this. But I wouldn’t say that it’s easy. Not that a working parent has it any easier either.

Being a parent means there are sacrifices you have to make. There is no such thing as having it all and I truly believe there is no perfect solution. Like with everything, you just have to do what you feel is best at the time and for your situation.

And right now, this is what feels right for us. But I’m also fully aware that this is likely to change. And there will possibly come a day when we will need to re-balance things. In the meantime, I just hope that I can still be the best mummy I can be by being a stay-at-home one.