I remember the day like it was yesterday.
I had just arrived the doctor’s clinic for an appointment for my, then, toddler daughter and had to carefully coax my fourth-month-old sleeping baby out of the capsule and into the ring sling I was wearing.
It was her third nap for the day and our fifth time in and out of the car. As I tightened the sling and nuzzled her in close to my chest, I grabbed my other daughter’s hand, and we walked into the clinic. My baby continued to sleep on my chest, as my daughter chatted my ear off.
While waiting to see the doctor, another mum sat beside me and struck up a conversation. Her baby was about the same age as mine, and she was busy pushing her back and forth in the pram, trying to settle her. Back and forth went the pram. The mum’s sense of desperation was palpable.
“Does this get easier?”
“What routine is your baby in?” she asked.
And then I laughed and laughed.
Not because it was that funny, but because I could remember quite vividly what it was like being a first-time mum. I remember the hours I used to spend every. single. day, alone in a dark room, patting and shushing my baby – willing her to go to sleep. I remember how occupied my mind used to get over my baby’s sleep, almost to the point of obsession.
But then I had a second daughter.
And a third daughter.
And a fourth daughter.
Let me tell you, by that point, anything resembling a routine went out the window – along with any sense of control. Routine? Hah. Predictability? Hah! The overall feeling that I have my shit completely together and know what I’m doing? Hahaha.
What I wish I knew
Being a mother to so many small humans has given me the reality check I probably could have used a long time ago, and that is: life is so much more enjoyable when you go with the flow and stop fighting against everything. From the beginning, I wish I had known to relax all my expectations and to be a lot gentler on myself. I would have saved myself so much stress and anxiety.
The truth is, on this funny old journey that is motherhood, there are no rules. I don’t know whether it gets easier or if we as mothers get more creative and resilient. It’s probably the latter.
The only ‘routine’ that I employed in those early years was that my arms were free to cuddle and comfort and that my children were for the most part, happy. It didn’t matter if they were filthy, it didn’t matter if the washing pile kept getting bigger and it didn’t matter if there were dishes in the sink. It only mattered that at the end of the day, we still liked each other and I didn’t feel like turfing them onto the roof – which, let’s face it, some days I totally did (and still do, *ahem*).
In tuning out the expectations of others and letting go of all the ‘shoulds’, I was able to tune in to my children – and I am a far better mother for it.
So this is what I told the mum that day in the doctor’s office, who I could sense needed some hope to cling to. I told her to hold her baby, stop watching the clock and counting sleep – and to give herself a break because mothering is not easy – but yes, I suppose it does get easier as we find our way through it.