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. Nothing can prepare you for the amount of work involved in parenting, but thumb-twiddling is definitely not a mama-worthy activity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining and there are some GREAT bits – coffee with other mamas, finally getting to drink gin again after being pregnant, the freedom to go on holiday without worrying about annual leave allowance and of course, the cuddle love with your bundle of joy.
Friend: “You enjoy a drink on Sundays now because you don’t have to get up for work”.
Me: (resisting the urge to punch said friend in the face): Firstly, when have you known me to not enjoy a drink of an evening and SECONDLY, no I don’t have to get up for work at the leisurely hour of 7am.
7am would be a freakin’ lie in! I now have a 24 hour job full time job, that is as relentless as it is rewarding, I haven’t had a full nights sleep in nearly 2 years and have to get up several times throughout the night sometimes for several hours. Deep breath. If I do have another glass of prosecco it’ll come back and bite me in the ass when I have to haul my sleepy, tipsy self out of bed in a couple of hours time to shush a crying someone repeatedly back to sleep. But it’s worth it.
2. Considering your tiny person, is just that, 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 3 hours because she 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 a winner 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. Your reaction times will increase, turning you into a pro-catcher and wrestler
Often a source of amusement for my husband was my inability to catch – keys, a ball…I was good as a child, what happened? Now mama to a toddler though, I amaze myself with my new-found skills. I can be looking in an entirely different direction, when alerted to trouble by the sound of silence, my hand whips out just in time to catch a hot, cup of coffee/sharp knife/ming vase that toddler has just managed to hoik off a table. Now I can catch anything at a moment’s notice! Other skills also emerge that you never knew you had – innovative nappy changing skills such as wrestling…
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 desperately wanting to join you in there as a toddler. Forget privacy. They will also sometimes have to wait and watch whilst you shower, which will involve singing nursery rhymes as the water streams down your face.
8. Always being on the lookout for suspiciously quiet toddlers
I guess it’s like the saying, no news is good news. But the opposite. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a quiet child is a happily playing 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 cell-age. Oh and patience. And temper. 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 a tiny bit the teensiest bit respectable for a few minutes each day and some down time. You’ll also need to do all these things whilst rescuing your child as they are drawn like Gollum to the ring 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 ready thought-out strategy about what you want to buy and where from. Don’t think you’re going to be able to happily peruse any aisles or gaze through tempting windows. This must be a military operation, then you might have 30-minutes if you’re lucky. Go outside of these rules and you’ll end up dashing out of changing rooms naked to grab the tiny escapee, dumping all potential purchases on the till counter and running hot and flustered for the hills. Or a bar. With a play area.
12. Sleeping when the baby does
Oh wait no that’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do, then you can clean whilst the baby plays happily without wanting for anything, cook whilst the baby cooks…
13. Changing your views completely on places like Industrial Parks
Once considered -in my opinion – the hell hole of the Earth, they now provide free entertaiment to your little one, are highly convenient and have tons of parking. What more could a mama want? Other options for free rainy-day child entertainment that you once thought you should avoid at all costs are pet stores, IKEA and Mothercare. Bonus if everything is in one place.
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, 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, 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 with me, for you will encounter the wroth.
17. Surrendering to your toddler’s destructive ways
No sooner have you tidied the living from the bomb-site it resembled 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 neatly folded away, it is swiftly removed by your handy helper and thrown elsewhere. Along with the contents of your wardrobe and chest of drawers that now look like a burglary as has taken place.
18. Sing/talk to yourself most of the live long day
As babies, we coo, sing and commentate on every action we undertake ‘mummy’s just going to get the milk from the fridge for you…’. It becomes weird when you are unable to stop doing this with no child and only your partner around. Without social awareness and the inability to speak, your toddler can ignore you as and when they goddamn feel like it, no matter how many times you ask them to do something/not to do something you’re chatter will often be ignored or met with a forceful or blasé “NO”. This is your excuse for the non-existent lack conversation that may come out of your mouth when you encounter another human being.
19. Suddenly become super hilarious
There’s no better confidence boost than a tiny person 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 rolling around on the floor crying and unable to breathe for laughing whilst they are tallying up ways of de-friending you in their mind.
20. Capturing their every move on camera
The saus just did a wee on the toilet! The saus just ate a green bean! The saus just rolled her eyes! The saus just walked down the hallway with a plate on her foot! The saus has got a rash! Is this poo a dodgy colour? The saus has got a tooth! All must be captured and whats’app-ed to the baby daddy and whoever else 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…
Mummy 1: “I’ve been dying to here about…Jack stop doing that! Erm, what was I saying, oh yes you’ll never guess what…”
Mummy 2: “oh that sounds nice, what…Margot don’t bite! Have I told you about…Stop it! What was I saying?”
You will hang out with other mummies, sometimes for several hours and you will leave feeling sane, to the sound of your toddler’s harmonising whines, but having learnt nothing other than the briefest snippets of information about each others 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, 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. Astonishing you with what they have learnt 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, sharing in their excitement for life and discovery of the world is one of the most amazing things in life. Treasure every second!
26. Laughing every day
Laughing at the hilarity that is your child, the craziness of the situation, the unfathomable predicament you find yourself in.