20 July 2017

Parenting isn't as hard as I thought it would be

Growing up I gained quite a lot of 'experience' in looking after little ones, so I knew the basics of looking after babies, toddlers and children, thankfully helping me feel more prepared for becoming a Mother myself. Whenever we discussed having children with our friends or when we announced we were expecting, a lot of people would warn us about how hard parenting is, how your life changes forever and you'll forever be fighting against disobedient children and longing for your pre-baby days. For us, the opposite has been true - parenting isn't as hard as I thought it would be.

A post on why parenting isn't hard

I was 11 when my little brother (not so little now he's turned 18!) was born and I helped my mum a lot in looking after him. People used to say I was like a second mother to him, doing everything a mother would do, whilst my mum and stepdad worked long hours. Sometimes I resented the babysitting over being able to go out, but the bond I grew with him was something I had never had with anyone else before, a bond which helped me survive my teenage years and early adulthood.

I also used to be a 'live-in childminder' of sorts, staying with a family I used to be extremely close to, helping them with their little girl. It started out before she was 1, helping out in half-term at College in my early 20's, and the term breaks at University, as well as spending roughly 8 months between University years living with them. This lasted until she was well into toddlerhood, so I picked up quite a bit of 'experience' in looking after a little one from morning to bedtime.

When we told friends and family that we were planning to start trying for a baby, a lot of them recycled the same lines. "You'll miss your baby-free days when you're trying to control a toddler having a tantrum in Tesco!", "Having a baby is such hard work, it will make or break your relationship", "You'll always be skint once you have a baby!" and "You'll hate kids when you have your own" were the most common. They painted parenthood as all doom and gloom and me and M would often have chats about how hard our lives would be when we had our baby, but secretly, I wasn't worried at all. In fact, I was quietly confident that everything would be OK - and it has been.

Of course, some bits of Motherhood and parenting in general are extremely hard. Those first few weeks and months with a newborn, the inevitable sleep deprivation that comes along with having a baby and your life revolves around this tiny little person, rather than the self-indulgent pre-baby days where you only had to worry about yourself. Other than that? I'd say parenting really isn't that hard at all.

Willow is an exceptional sleeper, as I shared in my recent MOTHERHOOD feature - I'm not sorry our daughter sleeps well -, so I imagine that if I was struggling to get any sleep at all, I would more than likely find things harder on a day-to-day basis, but I don't believe tiredness is the reason why parenting is dressed up as the most difficult job in the world.

Willow is an exceptionally happy, joyful, welcoming and friendly little girl with a very inquisitive mind. She barely ever cries - only when she is teething or poorly, no, really. She is constantly smiling, laughing or talking away. We don't struggle when people come over, as Willow just wants visitors to sit and read her books, or when we go and see friends, where she is if I do say so myself, always exceptionally well-behaved. She's absolutely fine when we go out for meals, long days out or even abroad on our first family holiday. We haven't yet had to deal with any unexpected tantrums and we find she's super quick to pick up on appropriate behaviour, by following a very gentle baby-led parenting 'style'. She eats well, doesn't make a mess and is always happy to get her clothes on, have a bath, have her hair washed, she's just a very happy little toddler. So where is the hard life everyone warned me about?

Every baby, child and family are different; our family units are all beautifully unique and so are the lives we live. None of us will ever have the exact same experience. For some parents, for many different reasons, parenting is hard - and I don't want to take that away from anyone because we all have our own struggles in life. We're just personally not in a situation which makes parenting hard for us.

Instead of telling expectant parents that children will ruin their lives, we should be sharing all the best bits with them. The last thing you want to hear when you're heavily pregnant is how you'll regret ever starting a family - you want to hear positive stories and experiences, the happiest moments as well as being realistic about some of the harder bits.

We shouldn't be telling new parents that they will long for their pre-baby days when realistically, that's not how everyone feels. I don't resent becoming a Mother, even though I sometimes day dream about the gigs I used to go to (and will go to again, when she's old enough to have sleepovers), I certainly wouldn't swap my pre-baby days for the life I have now.

Maybe it will be harder when she's older if those dreaded tantrums do start or when we have another baby and have to manage two instead of one. Maybe her teenage years will be a disaster and we'll clash heads and maybe, just maybe, I'll wish I was still young enough to get away with spending my weekends going out, but right now? We're happy, we're settled and parenting really isn't that hard.

Have you read the previous features in my weekly MOTHERHOOD series?


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18 comments

  1. I agree, only positive thoughts when it comes to having a baby. I expect it to be difficult, but when we decide to have one I want to focus on enjoying every single moment. And even if it is hard at first, I'm sure it gets better with time.

    Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

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    1. Of course, it is difficult, but I just don't feel like it's the hardest thing we'll ever do! xo

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  2. All of this. Why is it that experienced parents only want to tell you the hard parts? All I got was "enjoy the peace while it's just the two of you!". Yes Lucas demands all of our time but he's happy, sleeps well and just wants to be involved with everything. A lot of people try and fit a baby into their lifestyle but it's so much easier to fit your life around theirs. Whenever I speak to an expectant parent I make sure to highlight the good points- it's not easy all the time but when my son smiles at me I know we're doing OK.

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    1. I completely agree. It actually amazed me when Willow was born, how much I noticed other parents saying they were trying to fit their new babies into their routine, whereas we fit into Willow's routine. I really think that's had a positive impact for us as well! xo

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  3. I knew what happens with babies and how tough they can be as I did childcare but I honestly expected it to have been worse than i experienced because i would have my own children all the time, if anything being a mum is so rewarding and fun.. yeah there are bad times but i like having the shit times... makes all the fun times feel better xx

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    1. I think I actually find it easier with Willow, than with for example my little brother or the girl I used to look after, as with other people's children you always (or I did!) worry if what you're doing is OK! xo

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  4. I completely agree with this post, but it's not something you hear very often. When I would see my friends struggling and telling me how difficult they found being a parent, I almost felt guilty because I didn't feel like that at all. Maybe I just had an "easy" baby, but he didn't sleep much so I was often surviving on 4 hours of broken sleep for the first year of parenthood, so I agree that it can't just be tiredness that makes it tough. Like you, I had some experience of babies before hand as I looked after my nephews a lot, and whilst parenthood is definitely hard, and can be a shock to the system, it wasn't as hard as I expected. I am extremely grateful that this is my experience though, and totally get that it's not the same for everyone which is why I don't admit it very often for fear of coming across as "smug"!

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    1. No, it's not, and I guess that's why I wanted to talk about it. Like a few topics I've shared in my MOTHERHOOD series, there are things I feel are 'taboo' to say, especially if it's something people can wrongly assume is bragging! I want to be as honest as possible about my journey as a first-time mama and that includes all the good bits, not just the hard bits that we all need a bit of reassurance with! Like you, I am so grateful for the experiences we've had so far as parents - as largely, they've all been hugely positive! xo

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  5. Thanks for this, it's great to read. I'm in my mid 30s so obviously many conversations and thoughts I have turn to children. Pretty much all of my friends have kids but I've not felt 'ready' yet. I've never ruled it out. But years of the fashion for 'slummy mummy' type blogs, endless articles I read about how difficult parenting is really do put you off! They are putting potential mothers off! I do think this is a serious topic. I've had friends who struggle and friends who have sailed into motherhood, naturals who have enjoyed every bit. I would love to read more articles like this one. yes it's important to go into parenting knowing the 'realities' but the realities can also be that it will be amazing and enrich your life too! X

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment Jo. I can definitely see how they would be off-putting. I totally appreciate that everyone's experience is different, we all have different challenges when it comes to parenting and I am sure many would say we are just 'lucky'. I think it's just as important to share the positives of parenting though; I've shared our darker moments and our brighter moments, because I want to paint as true picture of our experience as possible! :) xo

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  6. I think you go through phases. I found the newborn phase super easy, then harder as he started to crawl and walk and now that he's starting to talk and can tell us what he wants it's easier again. But I love that you have addressed this "parenthood is SO hard" as it's almost become a thing that you have to think so. x

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    1. We definitely found the newborn stage a struggle haha! I agree, it's like we always have to say parenting is hard, even in the times when it isn't.xo

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  7. My mum was a childminder for special needs kids when I was growing up so I was always around young children. I do agree that parenting is a lot less difficult than it's let up to be but I think a lot of that is because with our own kids it's easier because love gets us through. I was a young mum at 18 and everyone told me I wouldn't be able to cope etc etc well, I did and I have 7 years and another baby down the line. I think parenting is what you make it. Xx

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    1. I hate when young mums are told they won't be able to manage. We should be filling young parents with confidence and support! xo

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  8. This! It drives me mad especially if it's close friends as I'm like what are you doing!? It's as if everyone is in competition to tell the worst story and make your decision be the worst one you ever made. Xx

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    1. Yes! Everyone always has a worse story to tell xo

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  9. ‪It was much harder for me - and that's having grown up the daughter of a childminder and worked in schools! Toby was a very tough baby though, Martha was far more along the lines of what I expected - still some sleepless nights, cluster feeds, puke etc but a more 'natural' bond. When Toby was a baby I wanted to hit the people telling me "Oh if you think *this* is hard, just wait til he's a toddler" because no, if you think 'normal' toddler terrible twos are hard, try seeing your baby screaming in pain 10 hours a day and try functioning on an average of 3 broken hours' sleep a night! (That's to them, not you!) xx‬

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    1. Oh lovely, I'm so sorry it was so difficult when Toby was a baby. Willow had borderline colic and so those first few months was extremely hard to get through. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for you and how frustrating other people's comments were! xo

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