“Enjoy this time; it goes so quickly.”
These were the words uttered to me on numerous occasions when my baby boy was just a few weeks old. The thing is, I remember thinking I bloody hope it goes so quickly. Because to be honest its pretty rubbish at the start. It’s hard for me to say that as a mum. It induces the obligatory guilt that one feels whenever we are even slightly less than positive about having a baby. It’s as though saying we’re not happy all the time, in every moment, means somehow we love our child less. It doesn’t, just for the record.
So, here’s a radical statement about the early days of parenthood:
It’s okay not to enjoy them. Like, at all!
Bet that’s not in many of the baby books.
Being a mother is stressful. If anyone tells you (in word or general demeanour) it’s all an enjoyable jaunt through life with a fabulously cute and perfect companion, they are lying. Or they are in denial. Or they are trying desperately to impress the world. Or they are an android prototype set to usurp human dominance on the earth.
When else in your life would you expect yourself to enjoy getting four hours broken sleep a night and being too busy or tired to take a shower? The first few months are bloody tough so be gentle with yourself; enjoy what you enjoy and get through the rest. There are likely to be moments of unutterable affection between you and your baby, but they may be few and far between for a while. Please don’t feel guilty about that. I mean, you will feel guilty about that, but just so you know you’re not the only one, not by a long way.
And it’s the guilt that’s the killer. The tiredness, feeling overwhelmed, the frustration when your baby starts crying again at four in the morning, half an hour after you’ve just finally put them down; all this is pretty darn tough on it’s own. But when we pile guilt and worry on top of it, it becomes crushing.
So I’ll be honest will you, I had some lovely moments in the first weeks of my son’s life but, overall, I didn’t enjoy it. I wish I’d realised then that this was just fine and had no long-term implications for my feelings for my son, or our relationship (he’s basically my best friend, sad but true).
In fact, I vow never to tell anyone with a baby under two months old to ‘cherish’ this time together. Because when we can cherish it we will, and in those moments we can’t we really don’t need to be told to!