No Rules, No Manual, and No Right Way

by Katherine Sharp September 02, 2017

A lady's face

When I was younger, I never wished that either myself or my situation were different. I accepted who I was, how I looked, and how I acted. I laughed a lot. Most importantly I liked the person I was.

Becoming a mum has changed my view of myself a little. I struggle to switch off and relax, I suppose because as a parent, you rarely get time to yourself. Even a shower or toilet trip usually involves a little person interrupting. The stresses and strains of the various stages of parenthood kick in from day one and affect not just you individually, but your relationship with your partner. There are days I've hated the sound of my own voice repeating things or the odd snappy comments as tiredness has taken over.

As a new parent (especially a mum), you can find yourself obsessing over everything, trying to see patterns and creating some form of routine. It can be tricky as things change all the time. As time goes on, different challenges can still crop up: sleep, potty training, and illnesses to name just a few. It's hard not to let things get to you sometimes and have a good old grumble or a cry.

For me as a parent, the second time around I'm more relaxed about some things. I've learned from the first time that you just have to stop obsessing about the things you can't change and handle the things you can. Even so, I still find things get to me. Having two has been quite tough, particularly in the first few months as lack of sleep builds up and affects my mood, making me feel down and struggling to cope. I've hated feeling this way, I just want the fun, happy me back.

I started to compare my situation with other mums', wishing I could have more sleep or a baby without colic, or wishing I could lose baby weight quickly like other mums had. When I had a miscarriage, I found it really difficult to hear about other friends who were pregnant, especially the ones who were due when I would've been.

On that basis, however, I realize that others may look at me or my family and wish for their situation to be more like ours. From the outside looking in, things can seem perfect, but in reality, we all have our ups and downs.

Generally, we tend to try and promote the happy, harmonious, fun side of being a parent (especially on social media) and don't really admit any struggles. Why would we? You don't really want people to read about the tough bits. I would never know if a mum-friend was really down unless she told me. I've had to openly say in the past, "I feel down" or "I'm struggling," to get the support I need. I can't expect others to guess, especially when everything appears to be rosy.

I'll admit I've questioned my ability as a parent in the past. I'm guilty of going for easy food options, for example. I'm guilty of giving them the iPad instead of playing with them. Guilty of bribing to get them out the door (or back in!). Guilty for spending more time with my younger daughter as she needs me more at the moment. Guilty that I wanted to start introducing the bottle to make it easier rather than solely breastfeeding. Guilty of thinking others might be doing it better.

Why should I feel this way? What is making me feel this way? Why am I comparing my situation with others, the media, and other pressures? I'm ultimately doing it to myself. It's down to me and the way I view things. My kids are wonderful, bright, kind, and full of life. I should be happy and accept I'm doing a good job!

There are so many circumstances I can't change in life. One of my favorite quotes is, "You can't change the direction of the wind but you can adjust the sails." We will face tough times, but rather than let them take over, we can adjust things to make it that bit easier. For example, I have to accept that my husband and I can't go out on many dates anymore, but we are in the house together after the kids go to bed. We need to make the most of that time, switch off from being parents (and our phones), and focus on us for a bit.

I know I'm still the same person with the same views and values, it's just that my circumstances have changed. They'll continue to change. I'll adapt again, try to stop thinking about it so much, and be happy with everything I have.

Behind closed doors, every parent has something they struggle with. Few people admit how tough things can be, but with the rise of bloggers like "Hurrah for Gin" and "Part-Time Working Mummy," the struggles and strains are out there for mums to identify with.

In reality, every mum has a different birth experience (no two are ever exactly the same), a different child with a different personality and needs, different husband, job, and family circumstances. Why spend precious time trying to compare? The one thing we all have in common is that at some point, every parent (and not just parent but person), will find things tricky or difficult. After all, there are no rules and no manual.

That's when you need to speak up. Never be afraid to admit what's going on or how you feel. It doesn't make you weak or inadequate. It actually takes some balls to do it. People will always assume things are okay until you talk about it. We can help each other.

Remember, every mum has walked where you have and every mum has stepped beyond it.

Katherine Sharp


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