If you are reading this, you have probably recently had a baby. One of the myths of motherhood is that we will enjoy every moment and also that as soon as you deliver your baby, you will immediately fall in love with your little one. Are you feeling less joy than you expected to? Having a baby can be wonderful, their tiny toes, the smell of their hair, the cuddles but it is very common to feel weepy too.
The “baby blues” as its known affects 60-80% of all new mothers. It usually occurs within the first three days following birth and continues for a couple of weeks and goes away on its own. Speaking to other new mums, gentle exercise and going out for a walk can help clear your head but the experience is different for everyone.
We spoke to Busylizzy member Christina – Mummy to Niko (3), Alexi (2) and Ariadne (6 months) for her thoughts…
I actually find having three children (all under four years) less stressful than having one. It’s true. And no, I’m pretty sure I’m not delusional. I sleep less, spend more, have to remember information and schedules that I’d never imagined could exist (immunisations, nursery runs, Busylizzy classes), and I’m certain my local GP surgery are sick of seeing my face (no pun intended). But I’m calmer, happier, and more confident and in control than I’ve ever been. Sure, leaving the house is a military operation (Change bag? Check. Three different sizes of spare clothes? Check. Snacks? Check. Pram and buggy board? Check. Everybody got their coats, hats and shoes on? Of course not). And I could do with a lie-in, I really could. But I’ve shed that unsure, useless, ‘what am I doing with my life?’ post new-baby feeling. And that’s because, after having baby no1, I learnt two things about survival: you need to value yourself and you need to be a little selfish.
After coming out the other side of the black hole of tiredness and shock that is new baby no1, I, like most women I know, felt left behind and lost. I used to have a professional job and now here I was, spending the days doing the 1950s housewife act without the glamour but with the addition of having to scrape puke off my shoulder and ignore the splash of pee on my left sock.
Then, one day, something clicked. I was under-valuing all the skills I was accumulating while on maternity leave. Take multi-tasking. I actually used to think I could multi-task before I had kids. Oh, yes, talking on the phone and e-mailing simultaneously was multi-tasking. Now, I’m signing for a package with a baby on my hip, calming the tantruming toddler clinging to my leg, counting the seconds so that the baby’s milk doesn’t over-cool, keeping an eye on the food so that it doesn’t over-boil, have the phone glued to my ear, and am mid email-composition on my mobile. And I don’t even think of it as multi-tasking!
Then there’s patience. (How many times can you read The Gruffalo back-to-back before succumbing to the desire to tear your eyes out? Quite a few, it turns out!). Negotiation (“If you stop screaming and get off your brother’s back, you can watch a Mister Maker before bed”). Simplifying complex concepts (“The sun goes to sleep at night and that’s why it gets dark” – fact) and time, people and everything-else management.
Once I’d gotten the memo on valuing my new, however temporary, role as stay-at-home carer, I also started to let selfishness creep in. It was my husband who first sat me down and said, “You need to start doing things for yourself.” “And when exactly would that be?” I asked. “When I’m cooking, cleaning, changing, feeding, putting to bed or…” “While doing some or all of the above,” he said.
And he was right. I hate it when he’s right.
It started slowly. First I listened to free online lectures from Coursera while hanging the clothes and cooking. Then I started doing online courses while feeding. Then I started writing fiction, reading books for myself (99p e-book deals and Goodreads Giveaways are definitely the cheapskate way forward) and even took a pilates trainer course.
And the kids? I don’t ignore them! I still read to them, do arts and crafts, make puzzles and take part in an array of Busylizzy classes together. But, judging by the lego castles they build and make-belief roles they play during the ‘me time’ that finds me supervising from behind a screen or book, not always having my undivided attention doesn’t seem to be doing them any harm.