I once went to a yoga class where the instructor said to me: “If it feels easy, then you’re not doing it right”
True enough, I was doing it very wrong as when the instructor re-adjusted my feet into the correct position, I felt the burn in every muscle that I did not know I had.
I wonder if the same can be said of parenting – that if it feels easy, then we’re just not doing it right.
Do we need to push ourselves harder to get the best out of ourselves and our children?
When Zachy was first-born, my body was physically tested to its limits. I had an emergency c-section following 36-hours of labour. I struggled to breast feed for a plethora of reasons that I will go into another time, so was on an express/feed/change/sleep/repeat rotation, with a side order of infected c-section incision and a dollop of exhaustion on top.
Physically, the first 6-months felt like an endurance test. Emotionally, it was a rollercoaster.
Fortunately, this stage passed quickly and smoothly, but only to be replaced by the next challenge of trying to establish some essence of a feeding and sleep routine.
Just as we felt we might have cracked that, it was time to start weaning. We followed the Baby Led Weaning approach with much success and Zachy took to solids like a pro, so it was just up to me to make sure he got a balanced diet and enjoyed tasting new foods. Slowly, he started to drop milk feeds until eventually he was eating the same things as us.
As he started crawling around, it was more difficult to get things done around the house.
I nipped to the loo once and found him under the dining room table when I got back. I started taking him to the loo with me after that.
But, as frustrating as it was to have a baby attached to my hip as I got on with the basic human requirement of using the toilet, I somehow worked it out and adjusted my schedule to fit around his ever-changing needs.
I’d shower while he had his morning nap, make dinner during his afternoon nap and then pretty much spend most of his waking hours following him from room to room and up and down the stairs.
We visited my sister and I’d barely speak to her as we each just shadowed our own children, occasionally shouting out to ask to borrow a wipe/cloth/nappy bag.
This was all when I was still on maternity leave, when we’d go to the park every day and I’d let him have a little roam on the grass. Or, I’d pop him in his buggy and we’d visit the aquarium, the farm or the swings. A change of scenery from following him from the living room to the hallway and back again.
It got more difficult again when he turned one and started to walk, around the same time that I had to return to work.
He also dropped his morning nap and I had to work out a new time to shower. I found 5.45am to be the most effective time to get a full lather rinse repeat in. I waited to shave my legs until the weekend when the Greek God(zilla) was home and could cover.
It took a while for us to work out a morning schedule, an evening schedule and the right childcare for him and I won’t pretend it was easy. The first year after I returned to work, tested me again both physically & emotionally. I seemed to constantly be with a cold, a cough, mouth ulcers or chicken pox. Worse than all of these ailments though was the attacks of WMG (Working Mother Guilt) that would sneak up on me daily.
We powered on through though and when the right childcare was in place and with a shared drop-off and pick-up system, life has certainly seemed a lot less stressful.
The Greek God(zilla) and I work different hours – he is usually out of the door by 6.30am but home by 4ish. I’m on a regular 9-5.30 office shift.
Zachy and I have developed our own little weekday morning routine that seems to work for us. There’s a bit of a teeth brushing conflict to iron out (he does not want to brush his teeth/I do want him to brush his teeth) but I manage to get us both out of bed, watered, dressed and out the door on time most days. With a bit of help from Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom.
The Greek God(zilla) does the afternoon pick up and bath (result!). I get home for the last hour of stories, teeth brushing (grrrrrr), cuddles and bedtime.
Then, either the Greek Godzilla or I will make dinner, depending on what is on the menu – we each have our own skill sets!
We might put a load of laundry on or stack the dishwasher or tidy up Lego bricks.
We might watch Eastenders, he might watch a dvd in bed and I might blog. Sometimes there is wine. Once in a while, one of us will arrange to go out with our friends and now & then we might arrange to go out with each other. Now and then.
At weekends, we take a day each on the early shift (& I take my sleep-in almost every week now) but try to all have breakfast together.
Zachy might then have a friend over to play or we’ll do some painting, singing, counting, play with cars, read stories, puzzles, make playdoh dinosaurs, bake cupcakes, water the plants or go to the park for a whizz round on his scooter.
There’s the odd toddler tantrum here and there, and the big meltdowns are not pleasant by any means, but they do not feel like the end of the world either and generally life is much simpler now that Zachy is two & a half.
I still worry if he is getting enough stimulation or too much. I still worry if he is eating enough or too much. I still worry if he is sleeping enough or too much. I worry that I am not doing enough or too much. I worry a lot.
But being a mother does not feel as hard as it did, as often as it did. I crave more time with Zachy, not a break from him. I no longer think wistfully back to how free I once was to come and go as I please.
It is good.
Dare I say, fun…?
Am I doing it wrong?