I know, I know. That title makes me sound like a cold-hearted beeyatch, but in all honesty – although I love my daughter very much, sometimes I just don’t like her.. and that depresses me.
Having suffered with depression for over a decade, I’m often more sensitive to the warning signs that I might be slipping. Right now however, I honestly can’t tell if it’s depression whispering to me, or if this is just what it’s like being mum to a toddler. I think most parents will be able to relate to this, and most non-parents will think I’m being over the top.
So here is why being a mummy sucks: –
I honestly can’t stand the contradictions. ‘But I really, REALLY want pasta Bolognese’ she begs – followed ten minutes later when you serve dinner with ‘I don’t want pasta Bolognese, I want something different,’ as her voice rises and the tears start to flow, ‘I don’t liiiiiiike ittttttt.’ We don’t offer her another dinner (otherwise I would currently be preparing the 31st dinner of the night) but it still doesn’t make it any less soul-destroying. You think you’ve just served the perfect meal (the one she has consistently loved for the past 2 years) and instead, this contrary little elf rains all over your parade. Quite frankly it’s tiring at the best of times, and most of the time just downright annoying. When you deal with this all day, every day – whether it’s because you gave her the wrong coloured soup, or the broken biscuit that can’t possibly taste the same, or maybe the pens instead of pencils – well, let me tell you – it drives you insane. I know it’s not a reflection of me, my cooking, my choices, or of my parenting, but it still chips away at your mental health and makes you feel like one massive disappointment.
Similar to the contradictions, the mind-changes that a toddler goes through in any 24-hour period is astounding. I can’t take anything at face value anymore, and that leaves me with a really horrible mix of doubt and suspicion. Sometimes as parents we have to overrule the decisions our child wants to make – because let’s face it, they just want to throw ‘normal’ out the window. But wherever possible, I try my hardest to let Willow make her own decisions so that she can learn about consequence. As she slowly begins to think more about how decisions may affect her, the time spent making the decision in the first place has grown exponentially. I’m faced with a ridiculously long time wasted as she chops and changes between desperately wanting a bowl of grapes one moment, and not being able to live without a kiwi the next. In the back of your mind you are thinking ‘I could have finished writing my book by now,’ or ‘that was twenty minutes I could have spent sorting the washing’. It’s annoying, it’s frustrating, and it leaves me feeling like I’ve been banging my head against a brick wall.
When you nip to the kitchen and come back into the living room to find purple pen up the wall, it’s hard enough trying to keep your cool when the only other person in the house is innocently pleading ‘it wasn’t me’. Need I say more?
Willow hasn’t just got a memory like an elephant. She’s got a memory like a whole bloody herd of elephants, who have all made life-long virtual notes – complete with indexing and a search function. You know when you have to just say something to keep the peace. A flippant comment such as ‘we can go to the slide and swings tomorrow honey.’ Well tomorrow will come and all hell fire will rain down if I don’t keep that ‘promise’. Of course remembering something from one day to the next is fine, but recently I’ve been faced with ‘But mummy, last week you said we go to toddler group on Frys-day’. I hate that guilty feeling when she looks at me with that expectant grin, and I have to break it to her that today is now Saturday and we missed toddler group. Not only does she remember things from one week to the next, but she can recount details from a holiday we took 5 months ago – and gets frustrated when I simply can’t remember ‘that ride we went on with the man in front.’ I mean come on, 5 months? I can’t even remember what we ate for dinner last week. It paves the way for frustration (hers) because I just can’t keep up with her memory.
Somehow our 3-year-old has gained negotiation skills that would make the FBI weep. You stupidly assume, after telling someone twenty times that they could only have one more whatever, that they may have listened. I mean, it’s a pretty fair assumption. Can you imagine if every single conversation you had in the day, meant repeating yourself over and over and OVER. It would drive you nuts, right? Just think about it. You casually pop into Costa for a coffee to start the day. ‘Can I have a latte please,’ you ask as the barista passes you a croissant. ‘No, a latte,’ you repeat. They ask you if you want a croissant instead. ‘A latte,’ you say again – this time getting slightly irate. The barista asks if you want sugar with your hot chocolate. ‘I said I want a latte,’ you reply – trying to keep your cool. They hand you an iced tea, and you are ready to scream and throw the damn drink across the room. You then decide to pop into the newsagent next door to buy a bar of chocolate to calm your nerves. ‘What’s that,’ the shopkeeper says, ‘you want some crisps?’ I can tell you now – it’s tiring. When day in, day out you are on constant repeat – when every tiny little decision becomes a negotiation and you are constantly forced to fight your corner, understand when I say that by lunchtime you’ll be exhausted.
Having to watch a tiny little person single-handedly destroy stuff, is really tough. From drawing on the walls to throwing hard objects around – Not just once, but over and over again, despite the calm explanations, the discipline, and the terrifying outburst of anger that you simply couldn’t keep under wraps. It seems that no matter what angle you approach this from, toddlers just have no respect for you or your belongings. Yeah, yeah. It’s their way of learning and expressing themselves – they don’t know that what they are doing is disrespectful. But as a well-mannered, caring adult, it’s really hard to keep your cool and tell yourself it doesn’t matter. Because when the person you love and care for responds by throwing a wooden pan at your computer as part of some kind of animalistic ‘game’, who wouldn’t want to simultaneously cry and scream?
Kids are like sponges. Kids are discovering all the time, Kids are always watching and learning by example. I know, I know – I’m so grateful that we acknowledged this from day one and always tried to work it to everyone’s advantage. But I can’t control what she copies and a lot of the time that makes me cry inside. Often I just want to eat a biscuit without hearing that little voice ‘Mummy can I have one too.’ Or say something to my hubby without our little parrot repeating it over and over again. Worse than copying us, or bringing home tendencies from the more aggressive kids at nursery though, is her incessant need to copy the irritating CBeebies characters (I’m looking at you Bing) When she first started watching the stupid bunny I admit that I didn’t see how we would live to regret it. But Willow is able to not only copy his pathetic mispronunciation of words that I know she knows, but she does it with his irritating voice too. This week we did some painting, and I was faced with thirty minutes of ‘Diiiiip it, wiiiiiipe it, paint.’ – Over, and over, and over, and over. By the time her ‘art’ was finished I wanted to burn all the paper in the house, throw out the TV and tip the paint down the sink. It was like water-torture. Slow. Painful. Relentless.
So that sounds like a positive thing, right? – Something we all want to see in our children as we gaze at them across the picket fence, our hearts filled with love and pride. Well you know what – If I hear ‘I can do it’ one more time today I think I’m going to scream. Just like the procrastination, often you just want to get things done. Whether it’s pulling the training pants down so she doesn’t pee all over the sofa, or putting on our shoes so we can make it to the shops before they close. Gone are the days when I could just do it for her and get on with the morning. I know it’s great that she wants to try, and trust me – I’m not deliberately trying to quash that. It’s just that when you already know she can’t do something, because perhaps she hasn’t learnt to drive yet, or isn’t tall enough to take coats off the hook. Well, that’s when it feels like little miss independent has been sent to try you.
A bit like the above, sometimes you just want to ‘pop to the postbox’ or ‘quickly go for a wee’, and your toddler will do absolutely everything in their power to prevent this from happening before the turn of the century. So, you battle for thirty-five minutes to get her shoes, coat and scarf on and you step outside only to realise you are still in slippers. Back inside we go – after a five minute discussion about why the recycling bin has moved 3 millimetres, only to finally leave the house, make it almost out of spitting distance before she declares she wants her gloves – which are back at home. Of course they are! You try and reason with this little monkey for another ten minutes, ‘But sweetheart it’s summer and you don’t need gloves’. She has cemented her feet to the ground and is starting to scream, so then you try the drag and distract technique ‘Ooh look at that tree over there,’ I say, hooking my arms underneath hers to try and drag her from the spot. She has other ideas and pulls out all the stops with the vicious back-arching and wailing method. ‘Ok, Ok. Let’s go back and get your gloves,’ I say – anything to get her to move. Finally she is walking again, but every three steps she stops to admire the grass, the pavement, the cat-sick and trampled daisies. I tell myself we aren’t in a rush and I should be patient, but in all honesty I feel like I don’t want to step outside ever again. Of course as soon as we finally make it back to the house, she says ‘Mummy.. I don’t need my gloves’. I refer you back to ‘The Mind-Changing’.
There is one upside to this battle though. Since becoming a mummy I’ve begun to really appreciate the value of time. Every ten minutes I get to myself is as precious as that week-long holiday I used to take without a second thought. If we know that Willow needs to have her nap after lunch or we risk her having an utter meltdown, well then we will make sure that the morning isn’t wasted. This means going out to the shops without a shower, taking her out for a walk without applying lotions and potions, or grabbing whatever clothes are nearest so that we can just get in the car and go. Once upon a time straightening my hair would occupy me for ages before I felt I could face the world – now I just tie it back and hope for the best.
The new-found appreciation for time is also why you’ll rarely see me sharing cute video’s of cats sneezing, or posting links to photos of ‘the funniest thing you’ll see all year’. You know why – because I just don’t give a shit anymore. Those are three minutes I could have spent hanging the washing out before another wash load starts to smell musty. Or a minute longer for me to close my eyes and enjoy silence. And I’m actually really grateful for that. Procrastination is what keeps us from success, and now I’m a mummy I want nothing more than to find success – because that will balance out all these moments where I just feel like I truly suck.
So there you have it. Not only have I joined the club of parents who are exhausted from the broken sleep and nights of creeping into the nursery to check our children are still breathing. Perhaps you can also understand why I also feel that I am slowly losing my mind. I admire anyone who can cope with all of the above on a daily basis and take it completely in their stride. Right now I’m just not really that kind of person. Yes, there are wonderful moments – and most of the time they are enough to completely counteract the annoyances. But every now again the balance feels like it has shifted dramatically, and it leaves me wide open to those depressive tendencies.
Of course I love Willow dearly, and know I am ‘lucky’ to have a healthy, happy little girl. I write this because it is my way of trying to reclaim a little bit of sanity during my moment in motherhood when I feel like I just want to curl up in bed and cry.