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I’m the first of my friends to have a baby, so I get asked a lot to describe motherhood. Obviously I wheel out all the old classics. “It’s exhausting, ha ha!” I say with a laugh as I mentally calculate the number of broken hours of sleep I had the night before. Four or five. “It’s amazing.” I say (probably after a slightly better night’s sleep) as I gaze at my (probably sleeping) little boy and wonder at his beauty. “It’s hard work,” I admit, when I’m replying honestly. “Harder than I thought.”
Having this conversation with a friend last week, she relayed something that another mum friend of hers had said in answer to this question. And her simple, honest answer has really stuck with me.
“It never stops.”
Because honestly, magical, amazing, hard, emotional, incredible, moving, exhausting and challenging as motherhood is, that’s what it all comes down to. It’s all-consuming.
You’re always looking forward to overcoming a hurdle, whether small (will he swallow this last mouthful of Weetabix without spraying it over me with an almighty raspberry?) or big (will he ever sleep longer than four hours without waking up screaming for me?). But the truth is, once one hurdle is overcome (he swallowed the Weetabix! Jubilation!), another always arises (he’s trying to eat the hairdryer, oh dear).
The big challenges are always lurking in the background, the small ones forever arising and passing by. Time passes by so quickly when it’s divided into the daily routine of your tiny dependant – nap, feed, meal, play, nap, play, bath, bed, and however many tiny trials and tribulations you get through each day, the to-do list is never empty. They never, ever stop needing you.
As they grow, their needs change, but your responsibilities as a parent remain the same. Be there for them. Keep them safe. Try to make them happy. Love them.
The working day is never done.
I’ve only been doing it for nine months and I’m already exhausted – and fellow parents have stopped lying to me now. I’m in on the secret. It doesn’t get easier – it just changes.
On particularly tired days (or more often on the 3am shift) do I want to hand my notice in? Sure.
Do I wish I earnt holiday and benefits like my old job? I certainly wouldn’t turn down a week in Barbados.
But I’d want to take my boy with me. My Weetabix-spraying, hairdryer-eating, floor face-planting, never-sleeping son, who has challenged me more than I’ve ever been challenged, and taught me more about love than I’d learnt in 29 years in 9 short months.
So we’ll keep on going. We’ll never stop.
Thank you to my amazing mum, Jackie, who has never, EVER stopped. In 30 years.
First published: July 1, 2016