Mum guilt. You know what I’m talking about ladies – it’s that sick feeling you get when you drop your kid to kindy to go to work and they won’t let go of your hand. Knots in your stomach that won’t go away when you’re trying to focus on making a sandcastle but you’re thinking about that exam you should be studying for or the date that you ideally need 8 hours to prep for. It’s a very real thing, and in my opinion it’s not talked about enough.
When I was a teenager I distinctly remember my parents telling me that one day when I had my own kids I would understand all the parenting decisions they made. And I was all like “can you repeat that? I’m busy texting boys on my Motorola flip phone and working out what colour vodka cruises I’m gonna underage drink tonight”. But now I’m 26 with what feels like 40 years life experience under my belt and I get it. I finally understand why they made me wear the sensible leather shoes to school instead of the Dunlop Volleys I begged for. I know why they got so angry when I skipped school, or snuck out of the house. I know why they wanted to know where I was every second of every day. Because being a parent is flipping terrifying.
From the moment my baby irreparably destroyed my body and entered the world – I had a natural, overwhelming urge to wrap him in bubble wrap and lock him in a cupboard to keep him safe. The thought of adolescent Henry sneaking out of his window in the middle of the night while I’m asleep makes me feel physically ill. I’m going to go ahead and say it – our parents really did know what they were on about. For example, as an adult I now know that dunlop volleys give absolutely no ankle support and Lord knows I do not earn a wage that can support chiropractic needs of a minor. Now here I am, captain of ‘team sensible shoes’ and let me tell you I didn’t see that coming. But more importantly, as an adult I can honestly say that the biggest life lessons I learnt were from the biggest mistakes that I made. And so as a parent I’m striving to walk the line between letting Henry work things out for himself, but making sure he doesn’t die in the process.
I had a temporary mental breakdown recently. I’m talking full blown ugly crying, the kind where you can’t catch your breath to get your words out and you wake the up the next morning with puffer fish face and eyes that look you’ve rubbed a joint in them. I want to spend every minute of every day with Henry’s little squishy face, but I also want to work so that he can eat, and spend time with adults so I don’t go crazy and murder him in his sleep. I feel like I’m attempting a world class juggling act every day of my life, and every now and then I blink for a little too long and my kid is 6 months older. So anyway I’m blubbering like a toddler who’s dropped a lollipop and my mum grabs me by the shoulders and says words to the effect of “you’re doing your best and when he grows up he’s going to realise that”. And once I pulled myself together enough to reflect on that, I realised she was absolutely right (surprise surprise) because that’s exactly what I did when I grew up.
Sometimes as parents we need to take a step back and remember what it is that we are trying to achieve. I mean to be honest I want my kid to grow up to be a successful neurosurgeon like Derek Shepard from Greys Anatomy, with a smoking hot wife who is low maintenance leaving my son to offer me financial security and life long company just in case due to a highly likely twist of fate I remain single forever… BUT – what is more important for now, is that he survives licking the floor and jumping off couches for the next few weeks. Mums (and dads) give yourself a break. You’re doing the hardest job in the world – hug them lots, and catch them when they fall, because realistically that’s all you can do, and one day they’ll thank you for it.