On giving yourself a break when you have young children
Right back in the swirly, whirling mists of time when I had a toddler and a tiny mewling newborn, I wrote a post about how it’s impossible to get anything done when you have a baby.
Three years on I have a nearly-six-year-old and a not-even-a-toddler anymore and you know what? Things haven’t really changed…
Sure, you have more time, and things are easier. They will actually entertain themselves for longer amounts of time. And some days it’s easy to karate chop through your to-do list like a Power Ranger on aallll the caffeine, on top of the world.
But as they get older things are also harder and more time-consuming in a myriad of different ways.
It does seem like you have more time, and by this I mean hands-free time *does baby-free jazz hands.* But instead of holding and burping and feeding, you’re actually snack fetching and running up and down the stairs to fetch whatever important thing is at the opposite end of the house, buying more new socks and longer leggings and bigger shoes, brushing hair, brushing teeth, finding shoes, fetching and buying food and making food and making more food when they don’t like that food, making sure there’s enough school uniform or that you even know where the school uniform is, that you’ve done the reading, refereeing, one-plait-no-I-wanted-two-plaits, joining in a lengthly and important debates about which is the best Equestria Girl and also listening, emotionally supporting, cheerleading, hugging and being there, basking in the good and trying to deflect away the bad.
When they start school it seems like it’ll be a lot easier as they are out of the house more, but there are so many more things to know and do and remember. And forget.
And when you have a house / work / deadlines / a general life combined to fit around that time as well as a small window of child-free time in the evening where you need to do everything else and it would be nice to maybe relax a bit, it can be an effort to do everything or even anything, can’t it?
Just like the baby days, some days I’m amazed that we even make it out of the house (disclosure: some days we don’t).
Having older-young children is take-your-breath-away-brilliant – they have opinions! They can read and write! They like the things you do! The chats! The hugs! The fact you made these amazing little people! – but let’s face it, it’s still equal parts exhilarating and exhausting.
While I’m happily terrible at a lot of things – like this, this and this – I’m great at beating myself up about things. Like comparing myself to other, seemingly more successful people who have small children and seem to manage an awful lot. There’s the social media bombardment about super-successful parents, the ‘mumbosses’ starting up gazillion pound businesses while giving birth who are instantly incredibly profitable and successful and have a sparkly clean and wholesome Instagram lives and probably never wear odd socks. While I’m I’m lucky if I can get my ASOS returns back before 28 days and just this second I’ve remembered that the biscuits due today for the old people’s school party are still in my kitchen (which is undergoing building work and covered in dust).
But you know what?
It IS hard having small children (especially when you don’t live near all your family, or have or even want unlimited childcare, or money, and when your children STILL don’t sleep and often cry when you leave the room – let’s hear it for the parents of super-clingy children! Hi from one).
And is IS hard to find the time to do anything, when they need almost all of your time and time and headspace and nurturing – they’re only little.
But it’s most important to give yourself a break about it all.
It’s OK, I reckon, if you’re not the most mega-successful at everything or even anything. If you are, great! If you manage anything of merit at all, it’s brilliant. If you wear matching socks, I salute you.
But I also think that the old newborn mantra of ‘everyone’s fed, no-one’s dead’ being a measure of a sucessfull day should still apply, way past the just-out-of-nappies stage. It’s a season, it’s a stage. They are only little once. Breathe.