I have heard the quiver in your voice when you try to to make a joke of being so tired.
I have seen you blink back the tears when you talk of another tantrum.
I have watched you drop your head into your hands when you have run out of answers.
All of this – I have done it too. All of this – I promise you will do it less and less every day.
All of this – we have all felt it. We will all go through it. We will all look back on it one day from a different place.
And this is what I know.
Now, that I’m in another place, where there is a little more sleep, there is a little more to life than the cycle of feeding, settling, entertaining – and repeat.
Now, that I have had time outside that place where there was nothing but being tired and doing everything wrong and not knowing what to do to make things better or easier… this is what I know.
There were some things that made life a little brighter.
There was coffee, sometimes, with a friend who didn’t mind that I hadn’t brushed my hair. There was the very occasional snatched half hour when I lay down and closed my eyes and left the errands ’til later. There was the talking about it all when I didn’t always feel like I was strong enough. There was the realisation that it wasn’t just me and we would all get through it. There was the acceptance that I would never be perfect and it was time to make the most of just being me. There was the reaching out, and taking someone’s hand when it was offered…
These were some of the things that made life a little brighter.
There were others too.
There was the gradual letting go of the small stuff. There was the eventual refusal to judge myself and my actions. There was the turning my back on expectations I’d formed of a mother who didn’t exist.
There is no perfect mother, there is no supermum, there is no ideal.
It is hard – it is unfairly and impossibly so. But, it does end.
They grow bigger, and older, and cleverer and more independent. They no longer spend each night in your bed. They no longer wake screaming from teething pain every hour. They no longer need you to carry them around everywhere and change their nappies then feed them then carry them then do it all again.
You, mother, will always be the beloved, the needed, the one.
But when it feels like the load is lighter, you will miss their dependence.
I’m not saying making the most of this. I’m saying their needs will diminish. Your love and theirs wont. But you will, one day, struggle to remember the almost-suffocation of not being able to put one down all day even though you haven’t had a coffee or are desperate for the toilet. You will, one day, search back in your mind in a panic because you can’t quite remember how small they were on the day they were born. You will, one day, sleep all night through and wake up and wonder when everything changed.
Because they will change, they will grow. They will always be yours, and you will always be their beloved. But, slowly, they will do more for themselves, they will occupy a space a little apart from yours, and their demands will become less physical. And so, this intensely beautiful, never-repeated, exhausting time that is yours and your baby’s – it will pass.