Things have been really hard over the past few months.
I’ve been a bit worried (and so have people around me) that I was going to crack and I asked myself whether I was going through a delayed post-natal depression.
Things were unbelievably hard.
So hard that I’ve found myself wishing that I wasn’t a mum.
And if I’m honest, going a bit further, wishing that I didn’t have Jenson.
This latter point feels a lot more worrying to me because it wasn’t just a wishing for times gone by, but wishing that the son I adore wasn’t in existence.
This wasn’t how I knew I felt when I thought about it logically.
I love him.
I’d give my life for him.
I truly believe he’s here to teach me as much as I’m here to guide and support him as he develops.
But I felt so depleted, with nothing to give, and I noticed how he had started to bring less of a smile to my face. A smile that had always come regardless of the hour he awoke or the naughtiness of his actions.
Why am I telling you this?
Because it’s a narrative which is not spoken about much in the world.
Parenting is talked about honestly among good friends, but there’s not a dialogue in society about how hard it is to be a parent.
There’s the truth-based comedy about parenthood found in ‘hurrah for gin‘ or the ‘unmumsy mum‘. It allows us to laugh about waiting for 5pm to reach for a glass of wine to take the blunt edges off motherhood. We smile at the raggedy mother with her little despots who refuse to eat anything other than beige processed food.
But it doesn’t go as far to say ‘seriously, being a mother can push people over the brink’. (Or at least, this is not what I’ve seen in the parts of it I’ve read).
We remain mostly silent as a society about the realities of motherhood:
How far it pushes you.
How serious an endeavour it is.
How challenging it can be.
And in this silence comes a lack of understanding, a lack of support, a lack of honesty.
There are the reassuring looks of other mums when they see other children in meltdown and the ‘how’s it going?’ that we give out to new mums. But there is the sense (at least from the experience I’ve had) that once the newborn stage is over – with the lack of sleep, poonami explosions and trials of breastfeeding – that you should just be able to get on with it.
And in my experience, this is a relatively easy stage compared with what comes after.
Don’t get me wrong, I found the newborn stages hard, but not nearly as hard as the shuffling around of my life to make space for the desires and wishes of my son as he starts to know what he wants.
Now life is dictated by his desires, his wishes, his needs.
And mine have to come second for the most-part, which is so hard if you’re like me and need space and time alone to stay sane. If you’re opinionated and have wishes of your own.
At the early baby stages, Jenson was my shadow and I was allowed to pretty much do as I wanted.
But now, even when I get to meet up with other mums and friends, I’m only able to be half-present as my mind is scanning for hazards to Jenson – where he is, what he might do to himself, how he is interacting with other children.
And yet I’m left to get on with it.
There’s no support apart from the support I cultivate around me, risking other people’s judgement as I dare to say how I sometimes wish I wasn’t a mum.
How I sometimes wish that I didn’t have Jenson.
I thought long and hard about sharing these thoughts with you, dear friend, because they seem like a slap in the face to all those I know who wish beyond measure to have a child and are struggling to do so.
And I’m half-worried that, in a Handmaid’s Tale-like twist, these words will be used against me in the future. Judging me unfit to be a mother in the same way that June and Luke’s relationship was invalidated because of their past.
But I want to change the narrative that we hold as a culture.
I want to see more honest, open conversations about the challenges of parenthood at all stages.
I want us to be honest as a society about how hard parenthood is – it’s the most difficult job I’ve ever had.
And I believe that starts with people speaking out about their truth.
Thankfully I’m starting to feel more like my own self, due in part to the support of my family and close friends and in part due to speaking up more and saying what I need from my husband.
Thankfully I’m wishing less that I wasn’t a mum and am grateful for having my son.
Thankfully I’m able to smile more.
But it doesn’t take away from the truths I’ve shared with you in this post. Motherhood is the most challenging thing I’ve ever had to go through.
And I know it will continue to be challenging along the way.
I know I’ll continue to need the support of family and friends to get me through it.
I hope if you’re also struggling, you’re able to share how you’re feeling with those close to you.
Or I hope that, at least, my words help you to feel less alone.