Often, I have doubts about myself as a parent.
I am certainly not negligent or irresponsible. I know that I take good care of Devin.
Whether or not I parent him well, though, is something entirely separate.
When he was a newborn, I took solace in the oft-repeated line that mothers begin to understand the cries of their babies, knowing that this one means he is hungry, or this one means he is bored. I waited patiently for this knowledge to become apparent.
But it never really did. Eventually, I learned what his bored, attention-seeking cry sounded like, only after reading a description of it in a magazine. As for if he was tired, wet, lonely or hungry? I remained completely in the dark.
It is also common knowledge that babies like being talked and sung to. Many mothers do that without thinking – swaying their babies around and speaking to them in a sing-song voice, pointing out things in the room, describing what they are currently doing.
If I ever did that, it was because I was consciously trying. I would realise that, though I looked and smiled and made faces at Devin, we were spending our time in relative silence. So I’d force myself to talk, and I’d try to think of something to sing, and it was hard. I couldn’t even give a running account of what I was doing – that is how much difficulty I have getting words to my mouth.
I had hoped it would get easier, but it hasn’t. Everyone tells me, “it doesn’t matter what you say, just talk!” And that’s just marvellous, except, I can’t just talk.
Sleeping and feeding routines are too boring and extensive to delve into. I will say – Devin’s are lax to the point of almost insignificance. I’m not strict, I get easily frustrated, and I have practically every minute of every day to tend to his needs. That is to say, I don’t rely on his routines to keep a schedule of my own, because I don’t have a schedule. He’s been the centre of his world for the past year, simply because he can be, and I don’t really like that.
What have I done to amend the situation? Not much. And I don’t have any excuse for that.
I worry about his lack of social interaction outside of home. Because it’s basically non-existent. I was invited to join a mother’s group by someone from my hospital birth classes, but I never went, because the thought gave me no joy whatsoever. I don’t enjoy making new friends, and I am not very good at keeping old ones.
I would like to enrol him in childcare for at least one day a week, just for the social exposure, and that is a whole new, scary process that I have no idea how to handle, not least of all because I am afraid of making phone calls and general inquiries. Afraid.
How am I going to cope with the plethora of appointments, enrollments and inquiries that will be required throughout his childhood? I don’t know.
All these doubts, I think, stem from the fact that I have a very negative personality. I’m not inherently happy. When I am, I don’t know how to show it. Smiling takes effort.The only emotions I exhibit with any kind of conviction are anger and frustration. I’m socially anxious, constantly worrying. I’m impatient, extremely introverted, I have a short temper, but I am also often very passive.
These, I am finding, are not traits that are particularly conducive to smooth parenting. For me.
Overall, I like it. I like being a parent, I like raising a child. But, in addition to being interesting, funny and rewarding, it’s also difficult and fraught with doubt. I expect this is normal for many parents, but perhaps not in the same ways as my experience.
It disheartens me a little to hear that some parents downplay how easy and joyous they find parenthood to avoid upsetting those who aren’t having a great time. No one should feel bad that things are going well for them, and they shouldn’t feel bad for saying so.
On the other hand, when people like Jacinta Tynan write smug articles about how easy motherhood is and cast a huge, disparaging blanket over every woman who actually does find it difficult, I’m going to be pissed off. There is a big difference between expressing your experience of parenthood, and rubbing in your experience of parenthood and then suggesting that anyone who doesn’t feel the same is a horrible person who resents their child because they ‘can’t find time to read a book’.
Yes. I find motherhood difficult. Not because I have less free time, or less sleep. They contribute, of course, but my real challenges are with myself, my attitude, my doubts, my self-awareness. I don’t find life particularly easy, so why would being a parent be any different?
I love Devin. Too much to express.
And I love being his parent.
And often, I find being a parent hard.
And that’s just… the truth.