By Natasha Wells, mum to Edie, Avie and Bonnie and co-founder The Hood
I once read an article by someone stating that women need to stop complaining about how hard it is to be a mum, and to be grateful for what they have.
I think it goes without saying that most mothers know how very lucky they are; that they are blessed. I know how lucky I am, but I’ve always been open about how bloody hard I’ve found it.
I had wanted to be a mother ever since I could remember. I’d see mums pushing prams and thought how idyllic it looked and I longed to be one of them. When I finally became one, two weeks shy of my 35th birthday in December 2009, the reality was quite different. I found my pram-pushing walks were far from idyllic.
I would stop every two seconds to lift the cover of the pram that was protecting Edie from the hot summer sun to see if she was breathing. I’d stop again two seconds later to pick her up to stop her from crying.
Then I’d stop again two seconds later to see if, heaven forbid, she was still in there. I was a bundle of nerves, but I’m sure passers-by thought the scene idyllic.
I found the adjustment to motherhood difficult. Edie was an unsettled baby due to a pretty traumatic birth in which she suffered a fractured skull, and I struggled to adapt to life with a baby, 24/7.
Nearly six years later, I have surrendered to the fact that my life is no longer my own, that I can’t watch movies in the middle of the day, or exit the house within one minute of deciding to go. I’m okay with that now. Most of the time.
I do, however, sometimes struggle with the demands of being a mum. One minute I’m a calm, earthy, Mary Poppins-type nurturer; the next I’m an irrational, crazy replica of Annie’s Miss Hannigan.
This photo was taken 20 months ago, when Bonnie – our ‘surprise’ baby, born 19 months after middle-child Avie, and less than four years after our eldest, Edie – was about five months old. I’m smiling, just, but I don’t remember smiling much then. It was taken during a time that was particularly challenging; I was in the depths of trying to meet the demands of three children aged four and under, being pushed and pulled in every direction with nothing left to give. Nothing to give to myself, and nothing to give to my partner, who really only wanted a conversation at the end of the day, but I wasn’t even capable of that; I was too tired and I wanted to be alone.
We had recently moved out of our beloved family home, money was tight and causing stress, and when my partner and I should have been working as a team we were, in fact, heading into our separate corners ready to fight.
Every day was hard work, mainly due to sleep-deprivation. Most nights I would dread going to bed because of what lie ahead: up and down all night feeding a baby and settling an irrational 2-year-old, praying that they didn’t wake at the same time, because dad just didn’t cut it in the middle of the night.
Some days I couldn’t see how things were going to get better. There wasn’t much joy, but still I knew what I was doing was valuable and I found contentment in that.
One day my best friend came over, and as I was saying goodbye to her I burst into tears and thanked her for coming to visit, for still wanting to come to spend time with me even though during the two hours she was there it was chaos, running from one child to the next and unable to finish a sentence let alone hold a conversation. She was – like other close friends, my sister, my new found kinder mums, and the fellow mums in my hood who were always willing to lend an ear and offer support – my saviour during that year.
Bonnie has just turned two, and I can see the light. There is much more joy in my days. I am seeing glimpses of my old self, and I feel like I’m reaping the rewards of all the toil that’s involved in raising small children. I can see all the opportunity that is before us.
Mostly, I am so glad the last six years are behind me, because I wouldn’t have it in me to do it again. Although in some ways I wish I could go back and do it all again – go figure.
So, to the person who said we should stop complaining – no, I won’t. I won’t stop being honest about my feelings. I never have and I think it’s important to share the good times and the bad times, it makes us feel less alone and more connected, and at the end of the day isn’t that what brings us the most joy.
I saw a friend today who is 9 months into raising her first child, and she asked ‘it does get easier doesn’t it?’ Yes, Yes, Yes I answered, easier and so much better.
Go gently fellow mums. You.Got.This.