No matter how much you think you know what parenthood will be like, no matter how many babies there are among your wider family and friends, there is nothing that can prepare you for the reality. I recently started a new job, bidding adieu to the responsibility of sole carer for my offspring and so, feeling a bit nostalgic and inspired by the Huffington Post article that featured Stay at Home parents’ photos, I’ve put together my own version of what it means to be a full-time Stay at Home mama. The good, the bad and the ugly.
1. Maternity leave is basically a holiday
Yah. A holiday where you are unable to sleep, have time to shower by yourself and where you spend most of it slathered in sick/toothpaste/food and another person’s bodily excretions. A holiday that will make you look as though you have aged 20 years and leave you unable to remember your own name. On certain days.
2. Considering your tiny person, is so tiny, you don’t half have an awful lot more laundry to do.
Often with a little helper in tow.
3. Being stuck on the couch for hours because the baby only naps on you.
Full bladder or not, there’s no way you’re moving, having spent several hours trying to get your newborn to sleep in their bed and failed.
Oh and a new found adoration for coffee, wine and gin that you have also never thought possible…
5. Learn to do everything one-handed
Ok at first, it takes some getting used to – consider yourself winning if you manage to avoid garrotting and impaling yourself within those first few weeks, but it truly is amazing how adept one eventually gets at this.
6. You will gain ninja-reaction skills
You may have forgotten what day of the week it is, but you amaze yourself how you are now able to catch a hot cup of coffee/a sharp knife/a ming vase that your toddling child has just managed to bang into. Other skills also emerge that you never knew you had – like wrestling a wriggling creature into a nappy – how can such a tiny thing be so strong!?
7. You will never go to the bathroom alone again
Your youngster will get the joy of accompanying you to the toilet whether they like it or not as a newborn, and then continuously want to join you in there as a toddler. Forget privacy.
8. Always being on the lookout for suspiciously quiet toddlers
Don’t be fooled into thinking that a quiet child is a well-behaved child. It normally means they are up to no good. Think penned toilets, Crayola-ed stairs, munching down a good wad of playdoh, inserting keys into a disc drive, that sort of thing…
9. Losing significant brain capacity.
Sleep deprivation, pregnancy hormones… they all add up to one thing: loss of brain cells. My motto these days is, if you lose anything, always check the freezer, you know, just in case you put the lost item in there…the things I’ve found frozen…
10. Learn to be a serious multi-taskier if you want to get anything done
Blogging with a sleeping baby lying on top of you, batch-cooking a child’s dinner whilst eating your own, cleaning, emailing and talking on the phone, every second counts if you want to maintain life, a house that looks the teensiest bit respectable for a few minutes each day and some down time. You’ll also need to do all these things while rescuing your child as they are drawn to anything that may place them in mortal danger.
11. Shopping like a ninja
If you absolutely have to go shopping with a baby, be prepared. I’m talking snacks, slings, buggy, a strategy about what you want to buy and where from. You’re not going be able to happily peruse aisles, it must be a military operation. You might have 30-minutes if you’re lucky.
12. Sleeping when the baby does
Oh wait no that’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do, then you can clean while the baby plays without wanting for anything…
13. Change your views completely
I would once have avoided industrial parks like the plague, but now they provide free entertainment, are highly convenient and have lots of parking spaces. What more could a mama want? I’m talking IKEA and Mothercare and nearby giant pet stores are an absolute bonus.
14. You get to make the most of the sunshine instead of longingly looking at it from your office desk
Not in the same way as a holiday, I’ll re-iterate that once more. But if you have a blast of a summer whilst you’re off on maternity leave then take to the garden, the park and the great outdoors armed with paddling pool, shade and suncream and that once elusive English summer is yours for the taking!
15. Accepting that most food and liquid will end up on the floor, in your hair, in their hair and on your clothes
Make a mess. Clean the mess. Repeat. It’s amazing a) how much mess it is possible for a baby to make – some of their best work literally takes a few seconds and b) how little you start to care about the grossness of it. In a moment of brain-lapse, you may even find yourself actually eating the regurgitated food they have just spat out…Excrement, urine may have once repulsed you beyond belief, now they are just part of everyday life.
16. You cannot ever explain or fathom quite how tired you are
For those of you whose babies have slept through the night since they were wee scraps, I’m afraid we cannot be friends. The rest of you, welcome, we stand together, tall and strong, in hope of one day defeating these night time terrors, regaining our brains and in search of that most holy of grails ‘sleeping through the night’. Hungover friends, or those people who’ve just woken a bit earlier than usual need not apply…or even attempt to compete, for you will encounter the wroth.
17. Surrendering to your toddler’s destructive ways
No sooner have you tidied the bomb-site, then along comes a helpful toddler to destroy it within seconds. Packing takes infinitely longer than it ever did, not just because you have to remember other people’s stuff but because once folded away, it is swiftly removed by your handy helper and thrown elsewhere..along with the contents of your wardrobe and chest of drawers, making it look like a burglary as has taken place.
18. Sing/talk to yourself most of the live long day
With babies, we commentate every action undertaken ‘mummy’s just going to get the milk from the fridge for you…’. It becomes weird when you are unable to stop doing this when your child is not around.
19. Suddenly become super hilarious
There’s no better confidence booster than someone finding everything you do utterly hysterical. Whether it be dancing like a lunatic, talking in a silly voice, making funny faces or simply putting their cup down in front of them. It only becomes slightly awkward, when to your dismay, you test out your new comedic powers on other adults, leaving yourself unable to breathe for laughing while they are tallying up ways of de-friending you.
20. Capturing their every move on camera
She just did a wee on the toilet! She just ate a green bean! She just rolled her eyes! She’s done a poo! She has a tooth! All must be captured and whats’app-ed to whoever you think may express a care for mutual rejoicing and discussion.
22. It means that a simple cooking project can quickly turn into your very own Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory
Edible silver baubles in place of a carpet, icing sugar worktops, everything in the room is eatable! Because every possible ingredient has been spilt several times over, smeared on everything and plastered to your clothing.
23. Never finishing a sentence/conversation…
You will hang out with other mummies, sometimes for several hours and you will leave feeling sane, but having learnt nothing other than the briefest snippets of information about each other’s lives.
24. Hanging out with your mummy friends
Playcafes, baby groups, the pool, the zoo are all infinitely more fun with other mamas. And there are so many other reasons to treasure these ladies. 3am Facebook chats, nipple chaffing updates, poo-related bragging, you name it, they understand.
25. You get to spend all the time in the world with your baby
Some days may be harder than others, but every day will blow your mind. And you will think to yourself, how did I create such an amazing human! The smiles, the cuddles, those unbeatable giggles, their innocent, matter of fact minds, the conversations, their excitement for life and discovery of the world is one of the most amazing things in life.
26. You will laugh every day
Laughing at the hilarity that is your child, the craziness of the situation, the unfathomable predicament you find yourself in.