I can remember a time, when I was pregnant with my first child, when I sat at the table raving on to a child-free friend about the kind of mother I was going to be.
First of all, I would be having a drug free, natural birth. My child would be exclusively breastfed for the first six months, then we would introduce organic, home-puréed solids to his diet. There would be no TV watching, oh my word no, only educational activities chosen and conducted by me; we would spend every waking minute basking in each others love and company. He would wear trendy, hip clothing – there would never be a cartoon character print shirt in his wardrobe, gosh no! He would be reading alone before he started school, of course, and he would start school the year he turned five, just like his parents did. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.
Mmmmmhmmm. Riiiiight. Let’s all take a moment to laugh at my pompous expectations. But in all seriousness, I believed these were realistic expectations. My son is now four, and let me tell you, things have not gone to plan for any of the things listed above.
THE DRUG FREE BIRTH
Motherhood has never “gone to plan” for me, from day one. When my waters broke unexpectedly at just 33 weeks, I was so naive. My son was born via an emergency c-section – there goes that drug free birth, out the window! Due to the stress & early delivery, I struggled to produce milk. After weeks of pumping I was still only making a maximum of 8 mls every three hours or so – not nearly enough to feed my baby. The doctor told me to give it up and use formula, and that was that. My dreams of breastfeeding, too, flew out the window.
HOME MADE, ORGANIC BABY FOOD
Ahh. Now we come to the wonders of home made purées vs the exhaustion of a new mother. I had envisioned myself steaming and blending just about everything you can imagine and serving it up for my sweet child, who would of course devour it happily – here comes the aeroplane and in she goes! Mmm. I underestimated the will of a very small child. You might think you are the boss (and you totally are) but there are some things you just can’t control. Like your child’s eating habits. No matter how hard I tried, my son tried harder not to eat. I mean, sure, he was ok, he’d eat most fruits and yogurts. We started off pretty well. But his palate didn’t really expand past that. No matter how many family meals he received, diced up nicely in his high chair, he’d scream and throw it to the floor. I contemplated investing in a tarp to put under the high chair so I could just carry the mess outside and hose it off. It was guaranteed that most, if not all, of his dinner would land on the floor. By the time my son was a toddler, I was offering him just about anything that resembled a dinner, frozen nugget or not. If I could just get him to take a bite of anything I’d be so relieved. (My son is now four and whilst his eating still is a struggle at times, we have come such a long way. He is also above average in weight for his age and always has been somehow, thank goodness!)
I must say, for the first year of his life I stuck by my no tv rule. We spent so much of this time playing together, and basically basking in each other’s love and company, just as I’d dreamed. He was (and is) a very attached little man and he enjoys playing games and talking with his mummy. But when his little sister came along, I found myself suddenly short on time. I now had two little people to divide my time between, and I couldn’t exactly get down on the ground and play whilst feeding a newborn. Welcome to the family, television! At 5am, when I’d barely slept and could hardly function, TV was a godsend. I have no regrets. My children have amazing imaginations and they rarely sit still – I have no qualms that I have created couch potatoes by allowing them to enjoy some kids’ shows. Sometimes I wonder who’s taught them more, me or the TV? It’s unbelievable the amount of information they can cram into a TV show for toddlers. Recycling, compost, the seasons, these have all been learned about through stories from our favourite cartoon monkey. Not to mention basics like counting, colours, and shapes.
My son cannot yet read. I imagine, though, were he an only child, he most likely could. I was apparently starting to read at his age… but I had no siblings to play with. My children are only fourteen months apart, and as the years go by, this gap seems smaller and smaller. They are the very best of friends. They play together all day, every day, from their waking moments until bedtime. They laugh and bicker, sing and play, and they love to be silly. This can make educational moments difficult. Given they are only just three and four, we do lots of play learning, and we read book after book with one another and sing the alphabet all the time. They just can’t point to and name every single letter yet. And that’s OK. My son goes to preschool, and it will only be a matter of time before my daughter does too, then they’ll be off to primary school, bringing home spelling lists and readers. When they’re ready, they’ll be ready. It’s that simple. Kind of like toilet training, but we’ll leave that topic for another day.
I imagined my children dressed as tiny adults, looking hip and fresh, cool as cucumbers. They wouldn’t wear cartoon characters on their clothing, oh no, they would never be the least bit tacky. I would dress them much the way that Princess Kate dresses both George and Charlotte. Life would be glorious. And they’d ALWAYS have clean faces. Mmmmm. Well, this didn’t happen either. My kids are almost always wearing a character of some description, and that’s ok. Because it makes them happy! They love having their favourites on their clothes, and it makes getting dressed so much easier than it was when I was trying to force a small child (who already wasn’t keen on clothing) into the coolest outfit… that he had utterly no affection for.
The point of all this is to show you that no matter your expectations as a mother, it’s completely alright if things don’t quite go to plan.
Like someone famous once said (John Lennon, I believe): “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Motherhood is just the same.
If I could go back and tell myself anything, my best advice regarding parenthood would be to throw the instructions out the window and just roll with what the days bring. It’s a fast evolving gig, and every day your children are changing. Enjoy them now, and forever. Try not to worry so much, mama.
So what if they like to watch a little TV now and then, and snack on a cracker or two? I won’t judge you.
Jess Hunt is a freelance writer from Australia. Her work has been published by some of the country’s biggest parenting websites, including: Essential Baby, Kidspot, and Mamamia.
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