Home Lifestyle Life, Pregnancy and Raising a Fearless Toddler

Life, Pregnancy and Raising a Fearless Toddler

by Roberta
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I yelled today. And yesterday. Sometimes, I don’t recognize myself in this woman that’s usually so hard to anger. I don’t like this person who resorts to raised voices and threats to get her toddler to do as she asks. But it’s late – he should already be at nursery, and I should be settling back in front of my laptop to carry on with my other full-time job. Instead, we’re refusing to put on our jumper, and then to get inside the car. I’m running on low energy levels and it’s becoming harder to manoeuvre around an almost 7-month pregnant belly. So yes, I yelled. And then immediately felt incredibly horrible when his lips start quivering and he hides his face behind his hand.

Every stage of parenting is unique in its ability to surprise us. We’re awed and shocked in equal measure, not only by the child but by ourselves. I’ve discovered things about me that I both love and abhor: the patience, the inventiveness, the ability to pivot and come up with distractions and ideas. I can invent games from a piece of paper tossed in my pocket, or whip up endless stories featuring a battered little sheep and an oversized Panda. More recently, I’ve discovered my acting capabilities in the little show I put up around B’s bedtime, where I’m a wolf about to descend a chimney and into the little pigs’ home. The laughter, I’m sure, can be heard next door.

But – but… I can also be triggered by a million little things – a random sock on the floor, puzzle pieces strewn everywhere, an overflowing sink, the hot laundry mess that is my bed. I cannot stand to be tested, when I’ve repeated “enough” over and over, only to be ignored, to have the vase topple and break. I’m at my limit when my toddler won’t look at me when I’m speaking to him, expecting, what? An adult engagement to my words? I am not me, then. I am an unfamiliar rage.

I’ve wanted a second child, I think, since I had my first. I knew they were meant to be two and the thrill of expecting was not diminished by the fact that I already had one – it was love, straight off the bat. But there are moments, really hard days of which I’m experiencing more and more lately, when I’m strung up so tight I can’t breathe, and a little voice in my head says

“Now add a newborn to the mix. Add another few years of this. You wait until…..”

And I just can’t see it. I can’t see how I’d cope. Self-doubt is a prickly thing, a discomfort that’s hard to shake off. I’m never doing enough and what I do I’m not getting right either.

I give my all at work, I really do, because I love it and I love the people I work with. But I know, deep down, that I should be able to give so much more. But the energy or the time or just life in general won’t allow it. Somehow, I carry some of that guilt too.

There isn’t a minute that goes by when I’m not thinking about whether I should be doing something else, something that’s bound to pile up, expire, finish (with horrible consequences) if I don’t attend to it. I’m either with Benji and he’s consuming my hours, or thinking about him, his cough, his days at nursery, his development. And this is where the difference between this pregnancy and my first lie.  There was time, with my first, to reflect, to prioritise myself and my work before the big day comes. Time to think and time to do. There’s none of it now. We just plough ahead, at full tilt, with very little time to do what I’m yearning to do. For me.

My husband and I grab snatches of conversations throughout the day because our two-and-a-half-year-old takes centre stage pretty much the whole time and in the evenings, we’re completely wiped out. I’m also suffering from a bad case of iron deficiency which adds to the fatigue. I’m ready for bed the moment my son is off.

So why? Why on Earth do I do it? And perhaps more importantly – how? How do we keep sane in an environment that’s constantly going at a 100mph? With a mental load that (seemingly) gets heavier and not lighter?

I have always wished for everything I now have, so why do I feel so out of my depth?

I wish I had the answers, but I don’t. All of these trappings; the guilt, the shame, the self-doubt, the identity bit that goes haywire – it’s a product of my own disposition and personality, layered underneath societal expectations, financial burdens and other similar big words. I can only control some of it, and only to a certain extent. But there are things I can do.

I can acknowledge that this is hard, I can see it for what it is. It’s unbelievably hard for anyone in this position – but I’ve seen time and time again that I can do hard things. And if you can’t beat the fear, as my friend Glennon Doyle says, do it scared.  

But what also keeps me going, despite the fear and the hardship, is that I know it’s not here to stay. Not the house that’s a constant mess, or the toddler phase where everything needs to be experienced first-hand and where things break in the process and pretty much everything we own is stained. They pass. Everything does.

And you know what the funny thing is? I find it unbearable that this phase, with his gap-toothed grin and his unconditional love will pass. That if I’m blessed with a second, all these mothering stages will flit by, and it’ll all be over soon. So very soon in the grand scheme of things. So what will it be? Do I want them to pass, or do I not? Yes and no, and no and yes. And no.

I told you it’s wild. It’s wild and maddening and hard. But I can’t begin to imagine this life in any other way. And I know it’s only going to get harder with a second – for a while. Then it gets better, then it gets worse and it gets better again.

We ride it, like we’ve been doing so far. Acknowledging our feelings for what they are, giving them space, letting them go.

And in the meantime, I hang on to these glimmers, these beautiful moments that I return to when it’s dark and I feel I’m not enough. Memories or sensations that I associate with happiness and which I encourage everyone to make a mental list of and to keep handy.

 

Baby’s kicks, reminding me I’m actually a walking miracle, thank you very much. I make people.

Benji’s I laf you, the way he holds on tight like he’ll never let go.

A walk, feet in the freezing water, his next to mine.

Watching him grow in confidence, knowing he’s loved.

A productive day at work, a striking out of a massive task.

Meeting friends and family over food.

Managing to find the precious time to read and write

A dinner date and the opportunity to talk.

Making my favourite pasta dish – and eating it.

I can do this – and more. Because the reward is disproportionate to the pain, and because it’s all fleeting. Be present for the glimmers, always.

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