There aren’t many pieces of parenting advice from my antenatal classes that have stuck with me, but there is one thing that our tutor said that has come back to me time and time again over the last seven years.
She told us that around eight weeks after the birth of your first child you will suddenly be hit with the crashing realisation that THIS IS NOT GOING TO STOP.
You’ll get up every morning and you’ll do the same things you did yesterday. These tasks will change over time, but there will always be tasks. She told us that it would suddenly hit us that this child is here to stay.
“And that is both a wonderful and a difficult thing,” she said, knowingly.
She nailed it. I remember holding that growing little boy as he started to smile and gurgle and thinking incredulously: “You’re mine. And tomorrow when I wake up you’ll still be mine.”
I don’t think a day has gone by since then when I haven’t heard myself thinking: “I can’t believe I am doing this again.” Tasks feel the same, they look the same, they are the same. It is the ultimate Groundhog day.
Between the hours of 7am and 9pm every day I’ll do everything to keep these children alive and the house still standing. This involves a series of mundane tasks that have to be done but from which little joy is gleaned. In amongst this are an endless list of random requests and relentless questions that I must deliver a response to, whether physically or verbally. There are sudden tears, howls of laughter and many, many catastrophic food spillages. Every day someone will lose a shoe. Or a cup. Or their mind. It’s like gravity. You can rely on it.
And whatever has happened, however tired, drained, hoarse, tearful, frustrated or numb I might feel, whether someone has done a shit on the rug, thrown juice on the sofa, lost their welly, killed my spirit, told me I look like a man with long hair, stabbed me in the eye with a toy sword, asked me why I’m not as kind as their teacher, made me crawl from room to room looking for a lost bottle of milk under every surface, felt-tipped all over my new diary, even if I have spent the day longing to be able to do even one single thing for myself, even when I can’t believe I will have to do it ALL again the very next day when I don’t think I have an ounce of me left to give, when I lean in to kiss their little sleeping cheeks, I still get that surge of disbelief. That strange and ridiculous juxtaposition that parenthood slams us into and from which we can never escape.
“I can’t believe I get to keep you.”