by Jemma Harvey-Jones
the silent war

The Silent War

19.03.21 – In Which I Document My Failed Attempts At Parenting, The Dark Lord (Little M – 2yrs10m) And The Tiny Tyrant (Baby F – 6m)

(Some Of My) Honest Parenting Adventures: Thoughts I Probably Shouldn’t Say Out Loud, Things I Find Funny, Musings And Ramblings; Read With Your Tongue Firmly In Your Cheek.

Remember us?! So, it’s been just over a month… this isn’t going to be a weekly thing then.

I’ll just let that sink in and accept it for a moment. OK, done. As if I have a choice.

I’ll be honest: I thought I’d have done a whole heap more to the site by this point.

 I assumed I’d have way more of these posts in the bag and that I’d have ticked off way more of my ‘to-do’ list – all of those ideas that I wanted to post about. Oh, and I thought that the shop would have been up and running. 

I am however, most definitely not a ‘blogger-extraordinaire’ and I haven’t stocked the shop. I have not fulfilled my ambition. Yet – Note to self: Must learn to remember what I teach the kids.

I guess that’s the reality of having two though…

There really is very little time for you.

I have no idea how I am going to juggle it all when I’m back in the real world and the end of maternity leave is rapidly approaching.

Hand on heart I am really disappointed. I also feel really guilty admitting that. I won’t lie; I had hoped to be making just a smidge of money off of this by now; to be able to earn some ‘pocket money’ as it were, to buy all the frivolous things that part-time pay doesn’t allow.

I wanted to find a way to ‘have it all’. Like those folks from all the success stories that I’d read before beginning down this path.

 Don’t we all.

I know how lucky I am to have the best title, role and job in the world.

I am blessed beyond measure. 

Mother’s Day certainly shines a spot light on that too doesn’t it… when you think of anyone missing their own mum, desperate to be one, those with broken hearts, those that don’t have a relationship with their mums, or indeed children, those with children battling illness, living in fear and poverty…

My heart genuinely aches for them.

There is however a silent war that seems to burn within many mothers around the world and it is one that I struggle with daily.  From the moment that your child is part of you, the call to arms is sounded and it brings with it endless guilt, pressure and self-doubt. We are never doing enough, being enough or giving enough.  We battle each other, ourselves and strangers to compete for the ability to have it all, oh and of course to be doing it the best. And it’s hard to escape it. It’s an impossible juggling act demanding of us the perfect balance between not just one or two things, but everything. It is not enough to just be a mum. We need to work – not only to pay the bills but to maintain a career. We need to look the part; pregnant and post-partum don’t forget. Basic hygiene isn’t enough – no, no, no! Bouncy hair and perfect brows must be intact. We must keep a beautiful house, to cook not only nourishing but attractively presented meals – if it’s not ‘insta-worthy’, is it really baby-worthy? We must run marathons and hike mountains in between attending appropriate toddler classes. And don’t forget that all the while we must maintain an image of sanity and happiness with the perfect caption, hashtags and filter for social media. BUT the clock never stops ticking does it and there are simply not enough hours in the day. And if we’re singing to a different tune, admitting to ourselves and everyone else that we haven’t got all of our ducks in a row… well, the consequences…

the silent war

Sorry, but I’m failing. Articles like this don’t make it any easier to cope with it either. Being a mummy isn’t easy, but perhaps one of the hardest things to learn is how to grow the thickest of skins to cope with the disapproval of anyone who thinks they have the right to judge you, whilst you are simultaneously judging yourself. And let’s be honest, whatever anyone else has to say, you are your own biggest critic.

P.S. It was this realisation that drove me to start this series in the first place. However, noticing the date of Part 4, just over one month ago, is the timely reminder that has led to me consciously deciding to go all in, to accept and wear my mum hat and baggy jumper proudly as my main identity, to stop sweating the small stuff and to let myself off the hook for not making a big success of this. Yet.

I love my job. I’m a primary school teacher and proud of it BUT I no longer have the dreams of leadership that once spurred me on. Oh, and I won’t be deciding on how ‘part-time’ I want to be when I return from maternity leave by comparing myself to what friends, family and colleagues do. I’ll do it for me. I am first and foremost a mummy and that needs time too.

As for looking the part… sometimes I manage to hurriedly apply the war paint but most of the time dragging a brush through questionably clean hair and brushing my teeth is the limit. I will need to improve standards when I’m back in the classroom rather than risking the kids not recognising me though.

Onto the figure; well, nothing is changing very fast there so I guess I’ll have to worry about that another day.

What next? The house… it’s clean. It’s also messy. Boxes piled high in anticipation of a delayed house move, toys, after toys, after toys. I’ll just keep slogging away at it when I can. Soon it’ll be summer and we can live out in the garden anyway.

The meals. Hmm, we just won’t post them on social media.

Finally, does walking/dragging the dogs up the hill, whilst carrying a baby in a sling and balancing a wailing, dribbling toddler (with wellies covered in cow muck) on your shoulders count as hiking?

So yes, I’ll accept that this isn’t a little side hustle for now. This is what it is; my own little space, when I can visit it, to reflect on the little things that matter to me. And that’s fine. I’ll come here when I can but it’s my hobby, because let’s face it when do I have time (or opportunity given this new pandemic norm) to actually trot off and enjoy my hobbies of the past? To be fair I’m not sure I can even remember them at this point. If I put my life into acts like a play, I’m certainly not in the starring role right now!

Onto the tiny humans and survival with them in tow…

Potty training is going nowhere very fast, much like my stubborn baby weight so today’s topic of conversation is SLEEP. Which isn’t working out very well either.

When you have a newborn, people give you a lot of advice, most of it unsolicited. Mum will tell you what she thinks of your parenting style. The mother-in-law will tell you how she did things decades ago. Your friends will chime in with their insight, and to be fair you asked, but what worked for their baby doesn’t work for yours. Even strangers will come up to you on the street and tell you what they think about your baby’s crying, eating or general behavioural habits as they coo over him, when actually it’s a her. You must not let any of these unhelpful gems get you down. Avoid at all costs!

 My favourite, without a shadow of a doubt has to be:

“Sleep When the Baby Sleeps.”

the silent war

EVERYONE will give you this advice and you will nod along politely BUT it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. To me at least. Sleep deprivation may be near enough killing you, but those precious minutes when the baby is sleeping are essential for basic human decencies like going to the toilet or brushing your teeth. You might even get something to eat or a HOT drink. You have to weigh the pros and cons. Do you want to eat food and not smell like vomit, or would you rather be on the edge of settling into a blissful nap only to be interrupted seconds later by the baby crying out for you anyway, as if they sense your hope and desperation? It’s your choice.

Any anyway, the question I’m more interested in is WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU HAVE TWO AND THE OTHER ONE WON’T LET YOU? This little nugget of enlightenment is even more frustrating to hear then because it’s logistically impossible. My children are a dynamic duo, a terrible twosome and they have learnt to tag team my time so flawlessly that they literally do it in their sleep.

I’ve worked out that one of the challenges that I face to being ‘Super Mum’ is that my children NEVER RELEASE ME. Even at night…

Since the arrival of The Tiny Tyrant, The Dark Lord has slept in our bed. I’m embarrassed to admit it but I just don’t know what to do at this point. She refuses to even get into her cot or the toddler bed (that we bought in attempt to stir feelings of excitement and being a ‘big girl’ in her) these days and will only fall asleep in our bed. I am so tired by the end of the day that I can’t face the battle, plus it would only wind her up if we pursued it further and she’d never fall asleep sobbing and hiccupping. Occasionally we are able to then carry her through to her own bedroom, although she is usually back with us by 2am having woken herself thrashing around in her sleep. Then I get to experience the thrashing that the cot bars have taken… a fist to the eye, a heel smashing down upon my nose. Another issue with this situation is that since The DL has helped herself to our bed, I can’t put The TT in her crib next to it so that I might be able to go downstairs alone for the evening and enjoy dinner without bouncing the smallest of the tribe on my knee… The DL wakes The TT settling herself with her routine, The TT wakes the The DL as we try to settle her. Lose-lose. As for The TT during the night; I could set my clock by her waking up at 3AM in readiness to use me as a human dummy for the next three hours.

So, what about the daytime? Like any baby, The Tiny Tyrant sleeps quite frequently. Not as often as my first did mind.  Sleeping baby – that doesn’t sound so bad, right?  It is what most parents are striving for surely. I’d put money on it. However, and it’s a big however, The TT will only fall asleep on me. I diligently sit and gaze adoringly into her eyes, hissing at The DL to keep her voice down and not screech, whilst I breastfeed and watch as her eyes begin to becoming heavy, waiting for a moment to myself… BUT the millisecond that I try to slide away her eyes ping over and she whimpers.

On the rare occasion that I can put The TT down for a nap, The DL seizes her opportunity and demands a playmate or asks to “Cuggle!”. You can’t blame her to be fair, especially since the last twelve months in lockdown have meant no playdates with her little friends. I love my children… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I LOVE THEM VERY MUCH. Honestly, I really do. But is it really too much to just want a tiny bit of time to sit, stand or walk even without another human attached to me?

The DL decided that naps were no longer her thing just before she turned 2. I think this is grossly unfair! We were still able to persuade her to nod off in the car but it required a fair drive. When I was pregnant Mr WMD and I spent more times in cars with a sleeping baby then I care to think about – we stayed where she slept and adapted our lives to get some peace and quiet. Now even this strategy can be counted out…. I learnt quickly that a long drive with me trying to keep my eyes open wasn’t worth it because once the car stops, The TT wakes up anyway.

So, as you can see, I am definitely failing and I can’t pretend otherwise!

Anyway, that’s it from us for today, hopefully see you again soon…

the silent war

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