I want to be an octopus

Apparently, octopuses (octopi?) don’t actually have tentacles, technically. Tentacles only have suckers on the ends. Octopuses have arms. Lots of arms.

I could do with some extra arms.

When we had Baby Boy last December, I wasn’t worried that I wouldn’t have enough love for both the kids. I had a feeling that my heart would expand to encompass them both, and it did.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the feeling of not being quite enough for both of them.

Baby Boy has never known any different, of course. He’s always had to share me. Always had to cry a little bit longer, to be put down sometimes when all he wanted was to be in my arms. That’s just the deal, really, with second kids.

Jellybean was the one who had to adjust to my loyalties being divided. She was the one who had to put up with me being unavailable at times, stuck on the sofa with an ever-hungry baby attached to me. And as hard as I tried, it was a big change for her to deal with.

Now she’s used to it, of course.

It’s just me.

Some days I have this feeling that I am just not enough for them both. Physically, mentally, or emotionally. At any given moment, they both need different things from me: one needs help on the toilet while the other one needs me to stop him from eating something he shouldn’t. One needs cuddles because he is feeling overtired and sad, and the other needs me to roleplay preschool because it helps her to feel more confident. One needs me to explain what the difference between our heart (the organ) and our ‘heart’ (as in the core of who we are), whilst the other needs to shout in my face so that I understand how much his teeth hurt.

Some days it feels like a logic puzzle, a game of arranging tasks into order depending on their immediate importance, but also taking into account the long-term impact of neglecting certain areas. It is about deciding what is vital and what wouldn’t matter if we didn’t get round to doing it today. It is about balancing both their needs and splitting myself fairly between them, but then some days, for example if one of them is ill or upset, the balance gets tipped slightly one way or the other. Of course, I have to take into account all the things that need to be done outside of them as well.

I am competent at it: I can do it (mostly) without feeling like my head is going to explode from stress and anxiety. In fact, I thrive on it some days. Some days I go to bed feeling like I’ve just, I don’t know, learnt to juggle five bowling pins whilst riding a unicycle. That was really hard today and I did it. Yes!

Other days, though.

Other days I go to bed feeling like I’ve been spread too thin.

Other days I go to bed feeling emotionally battered.

Other days I go to bed feeling like I’ve let them both down, and the day has been a long, torturous example of how much they both needed me and, despite my physical presence, I was unable to be there in the way that they needed.

And it sucks.

I add an extra layer of guilt and pressure onto myself (because that’s a useful thing to do) because I am a stay at home Mum. This is literally my job, and I am this close from getting sacked. Or at least a severe disciplinary.

If you’re reading this thinking I’m being hyperbolic, well, I am. That’s what I do. But I’m also not. Because no-one tells you this: when you imagine a stay at home parent, you imagine baking and long walks with puddle jumping and educational activities and the odd (or, you know, frequent) pyjama-and-film days. If you’re being really realistic, you might imagine dealing with the odd tantrum or occasional colds and you think: meh! I can deal with that.

I mean, I can deal with a preschooler’s stomach bug and a teething, miserable baby and horrific PMT and stomach cramps at the same time. I can do that stuff, and I can do it well. I just hate going to bed at night feeling like I’ve let them down because there’s just not enough of me to go around. I hate looking back on all the moments where Jellybean has begged me to play with her and I haven’t been able to. Or all the moments where she’s wanted to have a deep conversation and I’ve been too tired to think straight. I hate looking back on all the moments I’ve just left the baby to his own devices because I had to to other things.  Or the moments where I’ve not been enjoying them, but just longing for bedtime, because I am so tired from months (years!) of no sleep.

And I say this after a relatively calm day with my husband at home, with plenty of time for both of them. I say this as a mother to two happy, charming, and lovely little kids whom I adore and adore me in return, and whom I thank God for every single day. I say this as a person who is generally quite confident in her parenting abilities most of the time and is genuinely loving being a Mum:

Some day I go to bed and I feel so utterly wrung out, emotionally, physically, and mentally, that I’m too exhausted to even cry about it.

That’s it. I wish there was some kind of happy lesson to learn from this, but there isn’t. But I suppose if you’re feeling this way too, you’re definitely not alone. And tomorrow can be better. And you’re enough for your kids. They don’t always show it, and you might not always feel like it, but you mean everything to them.

And if you’re a parent of three or four or five or even SIX kids (the thought of which makes me feel a bit faint): I salute you.

And I think God should have designed humans with a few extra pair of limbs that you can use when you become a parent. And also extra brain power. And the ability to gain double the amount of rest from half the amount of sleep. Just saying.

Keep reading:

He loves me

September: one more year before school

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My Random Musings

 

He loves me

Our baby boy is seriously in love with me.

There’s a few theories we’ve got about this: one is that it’s a ‘boy thing’, one is that he can’t have my full attention all the time and therefore wants me more often, another is that it’s because I’m breastfeeding and he associates me with food, and therefore, ultimate happiness.

Whatever the reason, I have a tiny little shadow that follows me around all day. Sometimes he bursts into tears if I walk away from him. If he’s sad, he calls for me. (‘Mama! MAMAAAA!’) If I’m playing on the floor with Jellybean he tries to climb on my back like a little baby monkey. If he hasn’t seen me for a little while, he burrows his face into my neck and sighs with happiness.

Sometimes he lays on my belly and just gazes into my eyes and gives me a totally goofy, open-mouthed, four-toothed grin. (Often a bit of dribble plops out of his mouth onto my face, which is nice for me.)

I don’t know how to cope with these feelings.

On the one hand, of course, it’s totally exhausting. Jellybean was different as a baby: out and about, she would cling tightly onto me, never letting me out of her sight. But at home, she was quite independent. I used to love sitting back with a coffee and watching her play. And yes, she would happily snuggle up with me for hours (literally) reading books together, but she didn’t need me to carry her constantly.

Baby Boy is different. Baby boy is happy and confident and cheeky and likes to explore when we’re out and about. At home, I need to be in his line of sight at all times, at the very least. He stopped his brief stint of sleeping in his own bed for six or seven hours at a time. Night times are now a constant battle of him wanting to come into our bed and snuggle up next to me, and me wanting not to get cramps from laying in the same position all night long.

But I love it.

It’s ridiculous but I love it so much that it actually hurts a little bit. Because one day he will be a grown man and at that point, gazing into my eyes will be a little bit weird. So I’m trying to make the most of it.

I’ve used the phrase ‘second child syndrome’ quite a lot. Because frankly, in comparison to Jellybean, he gets ignored often. I’m also far more relaxed about things, which is why I find him emptying our tissue box and crawling under our table to reach the books and pulling CD’s from the shelves and instead of thinking ‘uh oh!’ I just think ‘… meh.’ If a few crumpled pages in a book buys me a moment’s quiet, I’m all for it.

But although he doesn’t get the Royal First Baby Treatment, he does get a lot of love from all of us.

Which is really the main thing babies need, right?

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September: one year left before school

September: one year left before school

So, it’s happening: you’ve started pre-school. You’re a September baby, so you’re starting at the grand old age of four. You’re my baby, but you haven’t been a baby for a long time.

I’ve always liked September better than January for new starts. I like the crisp summer days, the sense of possibility, the neat and orderly routines starting again. I like that last little burst of summer before the nights begin to draw in. I like September even more since you were born, on a muggy overcast day in a big hospital, where time seemed to swell and almost stop. It started up again at double speed from the moment air first hit your lungs.

This means that, this time next year, I will be waving you off to school. You will look tiny, despite probably being the oldest, in your shiny new uniform. Judging by my reaction to my niece starting school, a bafflingly long time ago now, I will probably be crying quite a lot. Not tears of heartbreak. Starting school is amazing and exciting and I’ve been looking forward to it. But tears of … longing? I suppose. Tears that come inevitably when one era ends and another begins.

Because what an era it’s been. I know it’s kind of uncool to say this, but you and your brother have changed me immeasurably. I’m not who I used to be. Becoming your mother has changed my life.

I’m not going to lie, it’s not always been easy. Having a baby is an incomprehensibly life-changing event. It flips your whole entire world upside down and when everything settles, your priorities are totally rearranged.

I gave up work because of you. I did like my job a lot, but I knew I couldn’t make it work. You were an anxious baby (to put it mildly). You needed me. And to be honest it was an easy sacrifice. I got to be your full-time, 24/7 watcher. I was (and still am) your gatekeeper, the one responsible for introducing you to our beautiful world. And I have loved every minute of it (well, almost every minute). I’ve watched, in astonishment, as you have learnt everything you know. Some of it taught by me and your Dad, but most of it just learned by yourself, as if by osmosis. I’ve rediscovered the beauty of the natural world, through your fascination with it. I’ve marveled at how complex and amazing human beings are. How quickly children grow and learn. I’ve watched your wrap your head around concepts like time, money, creation, and love. It all comes naturally to you – you’re a kid. You’re built to learn this stuff. But it’s amazing to watch.

You went from a tiny little 6lb 1 newborn, to a chunky, bald baby with a big beaming smile, to an adorable pouty-lipped toddler, to an intelligent (and sometimes, admittedly, infuriating) preschooler. You love to dance, and you do it with grace that astounds me and Dad (because where the heck do you get it from?!). You like … dinosaurs, and cucumber, Moana, and Paw Patrol. You have an imaginary friend named Amelia who accompanies all of our make-believe games.

I know you better than anyone. But I don’t know you completely. You’re not mine, you see. You’re just on loan to me until you become a grown-up. More and more, I don’t quite know what goes on in your head, because you are not an extension of me. You are you.

Next September, you will start school. And you will be spending much of your day away from me. This is exciting and scary and sad and wonderful.

We have one year left to go. One year of you being at home with me. One year of me and you getting grumpy with each other sometimes. One year of me trying to juggle keeping you occupied all day with also trying to write and look after your brother and keep the house from being completely filthy. One more year. After that, we won’t be as free to do whatever we want, whenever we want. We’ll be together, but on a more restricted schedule.

So let’s make this count.

Here’s to unbrushed-hair-and-pyjama days, where we leave the blinds closed and watch films and eat popcorn. Here’s to the weather growing colder, and reading snuggled under your duvet with a torch while your brother naps. Here’s to all the kinds of play I can think of in the tuff spot in the garden. Here’s to spontaneous walks to the park first thing in the morning, with the whole place to ourselves. Here’s to spontaneous walks to look for snails and insects and to gaze at everybody’s Christmas lights. Here’s to seed-planting in the spring. Here’s to random trips to McDonalds just because, followed by a run around Homebase looking at the pretend bathrooms and bedrooms and imagining that they are ours. Here’s to baking cakes because there’s nothing else to do. Here’s to making forts, playing shops, playing doctors, playing ‘camping trips’. Here’s to out-of-season holidays (amen!) and long, lazy, summer days where we get home sticky and exhausted and covered in dirt.

And for realism: here’s to days where we get grumpy, where sometimes we are poorly, where sometimes we are tired, where sometimes planned activities go wrong. Because we have plenty of those, right?

But I still treasure them.

Next September, I’ll be waving you off in your school uniform. You’ll be holding a book bag and looking small and fresh and new. I’ll be excited for you. Your whole life, stretching ahead of you, limitless possibilities, and I just have to watch in awe as you take it on bit by bit. Always here for you, always proud of you, always remembering the early years we had together, treasuring the memories we made.

Let’s rock this year together.