I am 5 years into being a mum. My husband and I have built a frenetic, chaotic, noisy life which is filled with laughter, tears, apologies, gratitude, squabbles, hugs, grazed knees, cut lips and permanent exhaustion.
You’d think we’d be well into the swing of it all by now really; that we’d be over the surprises and life should be settling down. To a certain extent it is. Our days have a familiar rhythm and routine mainly based around school drop offs and pick ups – days aren’t the blank canvas they used to be with a new baby. But that doesn’t meant that it’s all like I thought it would be.
It really isn’t. It’s like this……..
Goodbye personal space
“You’re standing on my foot!”
“Please stop shouting in my face!”
“No, you can’t lift up my top!”
“You’re actually sitting on my head.”
“No, I’d really rather you didn’t poke me in the eye.”
You get the picture. I say all of these things at least once a day. Often several times.
Children have absolutely no concept of personal space, and I had no idea how much I would crave it as a parent. There is always a child in my face, playing with my hair, climbing on my back, tugging at my jumper or hanging off my legs.
I beg my boys to give me a bit of space but they just don’t get it.
So instead of giving me space, they shout ‘Did you say you need SPACE, mummy?’ Right in my face, obviously.
It is NOISY
I always imagined a noisy, busy house. I grew up in a noisy, busy house. Noisy houses are often happy houses aren’t they?
Yes they are, if 80% of the noise isn’t directed at you.
The noise in my house drives me insane.
One thing after another, or three things all at the same time – screams over broken biscuits, tantrums over having to put socks on, crying because no-one is listening to you, crying just because everyone else is crying. Every statement needing to be confirmed and verified; two boys repeating a question they’ve just heard their brother ask – not because they haven’t heard the answer, just because they don’t want to be left out: ‘When can I go to the playground mummy?’, ‘And when can I go to the playground, mummy?’, ‘AND WHEN CAN I GO TO THE PLAYGROUND, MUMMY?’
It’s like living with a permanent and increasingly urgent echo. I know there will come a time far too soon when I will miss the noise. I will miss all the questions and I will miss my little boys being desperate for my answers.
But knowing I’ll miss it doesn’t make it easy to deal with.
Some days I just want to go and shut myself in a cupboard – sorry boys. Just for 5 minutes. Maybe 10.
It might be noisy, but no-one listens to you
A lot of the time, you feel like you might as well be talking to a wall.
“Take your shoes off!
Take your shoes off!
Take your shoes off!
Take your shoes off! I’m not saying it again (you say, knowing very well that you’ll say it at least another five times)………Take your shoes off!”
You will have to repeat everything you say at least once, often 5 times. Unless it’s about ice-cream, cake or chocolate. In which case you’ll definitely be heard the first time.
Few things are harder than getting out of the house
Getting out of the house seemed difficult back in the baby days – there’d always be a feed, or a change or something I’d forgotten. But now?!! Now that I can’t just put them in a pushchair or car seat and know that even if they’re crying at least they can’t escape? Now that getting out of the house requires actual co-operation from them?
Now it is a battle, a battle that I sometimes go through four or more times a day. A battle that involves me running and chasing boys the length of the house, fighting and scrabbling with boys to put shoes on, put coats on, do zips up, keep shoes on; and not start a wrestling match against the front door.
The most frustrating thing, and yet another thing that I did not appreciate pre-children, is that small children have no concept of time. Telling three year olds that the bell will be going in 5 minutes, or that gymnastics is about to start, or that Mummy has to start work right now, when all they want to do is play trains, is fairly fruitless.
Just leaving the house can easily take 20 minutes and uses a significant amount of my daily energy supply. And when it goes really badly, it can affect my mood for the rest of the day. Yes really – just walking out the front door.
Whatever isn’t a toy is fascinating
Dishwashers, washing machines, tumble dryers, light switches, doors, remote controls, drawers, cupboards, child-safety locks, keys (NOT the fake ones), oven dials, fridge-freezers, vending machines, lifts, plug sockets, vacuum cleaners, mops, parents’ shoes.
If it’s not a toy, they will LOVE it.
Everything is a process, and takes a very long time
‘Say bye bye to the snail.’
‘Say bye bye to the dustcart.’
‘Say bye bye to the giant poster of the smoothie-maker.’
‘We’ll watch three more cars drive past and then we’re going, ok’.
This is how you spend your life. Everything is a (very slow) process, a series of negotiations; and you don’t go anywhere at a normal pace.
You will never feel quite the same again
There’s the inevitable tiredness that comes with a new baby and broken nights, but what I didn’t know was that the tiredness would continue; that 5 years down the line I could still happily fall asleep anywhere and at any time. That I would always be exhausted, always feel a bit under the weather, that I would have dodgy knees and that I would wish I’d listened to all the well-meaning people who told me to do my pelvic floor exercises when I was pregnant.
(If you’re pregnant and reading this, do your pelvic floor exercises.)
You can’t be ill
You just don’t have time. Sorry.
And if you are unlucky enough to get ill, don’t expect anyone to treat you any differently.
Watching your children put on their own socks is excrutiating
Children do not automatically know how to put on socks, or shoes. Or how to do up buttons or zips. Clearly these are all things that they need to learn; but watching them struggle with the most basic tasks, and accepting that it is now going to take you even longer to get out of the house; is painful. Really painful.
You will wonder what has become of yourself
Pre-children you were probably a very competent, interesting person. Maybe you still are – in which case, well done. But post-children, it is fairly likely that your children’s toilet habits will be a pretty normal topic of conversation. Even with people you don’t know that well. This starts in the baby days, and then it continues throughout the pre-school years. I am wholeheartedly looking forward to the day when it doesn’t feature as part of my day-to-day chat.
But it’s not just toilet-related chat – I can converse on all the most boring topics. I bore myself sometimes when I hear myself talking. And the most mundane things now occupy my mind. I google the Topsy and Tim plotlines, and wonder whether Ben from CBeebies feels entirely comfortable sitting in his star onesie with his teddy bear on the Bedtime Hour, or whether he dreams of more.
You can be fairly sure that whatever you imagined parenting would be like, the real thing will bear little resemblance to it. It will be a sometimes joyful, sometimes tearful, frequently snotty mess. You will always need tissues, and a pack of plasters.
And whilst I wouldn’t change any of it, it’s also probably a good thing that I had very little clue what it would actually be like before I embarked on it.