It’s been one of those weeks where I seem to have encountered a lot of negative parenting tales. From people I’ve met, overheard, read in the media or in blogs, seen on TV, you name it – this week parenting has been shit. They’re all tired, aching, old, skint and generally grumpy and it’s all the kids fault.
I recall an old blog post of mine when I was still pregnant, where I was concerned about how much negativity rises from people when they’re parents, how often they complain and, in that particular instance, how they never tell you about how great having children can be. I didn’t like it then and I like it even less now. So here’s a cheerful post because dammit, I can’t be the only happy parent out there, surely?*
In the interests of full disclosure I will tell you that I am tired (because I haven’t been sleeping well the last few weeks) I am aching (I woke up with a backache, no idea why) and that E was quite upset in her swimming lesson yesterday. So that’s the negative stuff out the way. And two out of three things are not caused by E. And even the swimming lessons are copeable with – mainly as we haven’t got many left as I’ve decided not to go any more.
So cheerful stuff. The first thing was about maternity leave. Just before Christmas I was chatting with a colleague who’d had a baby (her second) about the same time as I had E. We both agreed that we had really enjoyed maternity leave and what a great time it had been for us both. This was partly because we both knew this was the last justified time we’d have away from work for that length of time – neither of us are planning on having any more. I know you’re supposed to find it boring and frustrating and spend loads of time going to baby groups just to get through the day but although I obviously had days when it was more boring than others, I just loved not having to go to work. The thing is, I kept myself occupied – I wrote 12,000 of a book in E’s 5th and 6th month, I started writing a series of blog post interviews in Nottingham for Creative Nottingham and I read more books than I’d managed for years. And of course I got to know E. By the time I got back to work the job role and personnel had changed and I found I had much more to do and was happier to do it.
And so the second thing I wanted to say. While in Homebase on Saturday (we were having a kitchen designer show us how limited and inflexible their range is for people with little money and little space) (those weren’t her exact words, you understand) the woman serving us watched E trotting up and down the shop and said, “Oh you always want them to walk and then when they do, it’s a right nightmare isn’t it?”
This isn’t the first time someone’s said this to me. It’s about the thousandth. And I still don’t know what they mean. Or rather, I think I do but I think they’re actually saying it because that’s what you say isn’t it? It’s supposed to be better that the baby stays still because she won’t then get into trouble or get her fingers on your precious stuff or whatever.
The thing is, I really like E walking. I’m always trying to get her to do it more. (She’s really getting into puddles now – loves splashing in her wellies.) This week, we were going out to the shops and I got the pushchair ready in the back garden. She made her way out and toddled off down the path, making sure over her shoulder that I was watching and laughing to herself. So I followed her pushing the chair and she showed me how she knew the way, walking down the back alleyway to the path and round to the front of the house. She’s just finding her independence and it’s great. In Homebase she kept checking where we were as she walked off and when she decided she’d gone far enough she turned back and returned to us. She also got a bit sidetracked by the bath displays, checking in them to see if there were any ducks.
Finally, an ex-colleague popped into the office this week. She was going for a new job and telling us that she’d ask for part time work because she “can’t bear to be away” from her youngest daughter for long. She apologised to me because she knows I work full time, mainly because I can’t afford not to, but then went on to elaborate at length about how she couldn’t possibly do that. Another colleague got offended on my behalf. I wasn’t that fussed. The thing is, I like being a working mum. I like my job, I like my colleagues, I trust E’s nursery and I enjoy the flexibility that gives me three days off work to be with her and four long days at work. I think I’m a better mum because I can be away from her and use my brain and feel like I’m doing something. And on the days I’m not at work we’re together and I try to make that fun.
I have a theory. My theory is that the people who have a good support network of grandparents to babysit and friends to pop round to are the ones who complain the most. I don’t know why this would be, merely that my experience in the last two years or so seems to point this way.
Do I wish that I had more time to get things done? Do I wish that I had a quiet space I could sit and write on a regular basis? Do I get sick of reading the Tiger Who Came to Tea every day? Yes, yes and no, actually. (The sign of a great book.)But I’m managing anyway. The only alternative is to complain. Bugger that.
*Stop calling me Shirley