Our son Ethan turned five earlier this month. FIVE. While he was beyond excited and eagerly checking off his countdown chart each morning, I was sat there thinking, “Where on earth did those years go? Did I blink and miss them?” I’ve decided to look back and share with you something I’ve learned from each year since becoming a mum. Here we go…
Zero to one: It’s possible to survive (just about) on very little sleep.
Oh God I love sleep. And I don’t mind admitting that lack of sleep was one of my biggest concerns about becoming a mum. Close friends who know me well were worried too. How would I cope?
In all honesty, I need a good seven and a half hours to function the next day. Well, what can I say? Something kicks in, some sort of survival mode, and you just have to get on with it. Yes, it felt horrendous at times - sometimes I didn’t really know if it was day or night - but we came out the other side in one piece. So if you’re an expecting mama who loves to catch plenty of zzzs, please don’t worry too much. I promise you will get through it. If I can do it, you can too.
One to two: Mum-friends are everything
I’m so lucky that I was part of an awesome NCT group - we really hit it off and are still on WhatsApp pretty much every day, even if we don’t get to see each other quite so regularly anymore. You need to find like-minded mum-friends who you know will have your back. You’ll celebrate the good times together and you’ll be there for each other during the tough times. You can send a desperate WhatsApp message at 2am when you’ve lost the will to live, and you know someone will answer you. Find your mum-tribe and hold onto them.
Two to three: A little bit of space is good for both of you.
The first time I dropped Ethan off at pre-school aged two and a half, and went back home alone was quite a moment. It was a real mixture of emotions. I felt sad about leaving him, but it was important for him to spend time with other children, and to learn that other grown-ups could look after him too. I also realised that I was desperately in need of some time for me. It felt very odd at first. I barely knew what to do with myself and I even felt guilty about it for a while. I found myself spending all my time cleaning. It’s taken a while but I’m now at that point where I absolutely understand how important it is to spend some time alone. There’s no need to feel guilty about it…although of course we all do. I think ‘mum-guilt’ is just an inherent part of being a mum unfortunately! But do, despite the guilt, give yourself that time. You deserve it.
Three to four: The tantrums will eventually subside.
Oh wow, this was tough. Ethan had terrible tantrums. I started to question everything. Why is he like this? What have I done wrong? Am I a bad mum? Will he be like this forever? There were times when I didn’t want to take him to play group, for fear of being embarrassed by his behaviour and frowned at by other mums with seemingly perfectly behaved little ones. I forced myself to go still, even though it was tough. But tantrums are a normal part of behaviour for most children. It's part of their development. You have to learn to deal with them in the best way for you and your child. Don’t follow conventional methods if they really don’t work. Time-out absolutely did not work for us. I tried it, and it went terribly. Ethan was inconsolable. What worked best for us was for me to remain calm (however hard this was), and to be a reassuring presence while he got himself together. We would talk about his behaviour afterwards, once the storm had passed.