There are two ways to look at one ordinary day of parenting. You can focus on everything that went wrong, the squabbles in the back of the car over each of them wanting the same toy, the umpteen times throughout the day you raised your voice, or the fact that healthy dinner you cooked might as well been thrown back in your face for the response it got. Or you can focus and meditate on your blessings, the giggles as you play together on the living room rug, those intoxicating after nap sleepy snuggles, or the look in those sparkly blue eyes as they laugh and they make 'smoothies' out of bubbles in the bath.
For the most part, I do the latter. Of course life isn't perfect, but it's good. Really good. I have a husband who is my partner through and through, who supports, encourages and guides me always. Yes, we argue, we say things we don't mean, or sometimes we aren't the kindest we could be to each other, but for the most part we are happy and strong. I have two little girls who don't really need any more description other than they are my life. They can test my patience endlessly, they can have their moments where it all gets too much, but for the most part they are well behaved, happy little people. They are my family.
After years of working every single spare hour we could, of working the hardest we ever have in our lives, of sending client emails in the hospital after giving birth to LL just hours before, we finally are both living our work dreams, or at least close to them. After years of that awkward embarrassment of going to family parties with a cheap bottle of wine or nothing at all because we couldn't afford to buy anything, of not being able to treat those we love at Christmas or birthday's, or years of budgeting our weekly food shop with no luxuries at all, we finally are comfortable with money. We can afford the odd luxury or to finally make our home into the space we both love. It's not meant to be a sob story, far from it, even on our toughest days and of course there were and are still tough ones, we know we are lucky.
So incredibly lucky. And so blessed. Which is why when on those ordinary days of parenting where I don't focus on our blessings and instead I focus on everything that went wrong, I just feel so terribly guilty. On those days, I often turn on the news. I see the real sadness in the world, the true suffering, the shocking and tragic stories going on far away and a lot closer to home, and I feel so guilty for feeling and acting the way I do from time to time.
This week has been one of those motherhood guilt weeks. I am quite behind on work, day to day life things, and other things as well. I've been going to bed late, around 3am most nights as to cut a long story short I have serious computer issues and have been needing to back up every thing to various different hard drives. I've not been feeling very motivated and I definitely haven't been the best mother I could be. I haven't been fully present, I've been losing my patience over things that didn't really warrant that kind of response, and I've not been as engaged and playful as I should.
Earlier this morning, very early in fact, Mads shouted out from her bedroom. She goes through phases where for some reason she gets into a pattern of waking a lot earlier than her normal time, they normally stop as fast as they begin and she's back to her usual 7 am wake up. But for some reason the last few days she's been really unsettled, waking up a bit in the night and then around 5 am in the morning. I don't mind her waking up, I don't mind her being unsettled, she can't help it, but what I do mind is when she continues to keep shouting in the morning until we go to her as then it wakes up LL who she shares a room with, and of course at that time LL is fast asleep and not ready to get up. This then makes for two grumpy children and two grumpy parents.
We told her yesterday and the day before that to shout us once when she wakes up and we will come and get her, it's simple enough. She's only four, she's still only little and maybe sometimes I expect things of her that perhaps I shouldn't. Anyway this morning at 5am she shouted continuously over and over for us, resulting in waking LL up again who was fast asleep and not ready to wake up at all. And I shouted. I lost my patience probably more than I ever have with her, partly due to my own tiredness, and shouted at her so loudly. As I was doing it, I could see her little eyes fill up with tears and her face look actually frightened. Even while I was doing it I knew it was completely over the top, that I was out of order, and even while I was doing it that familiar feeling of guilt crept in.
It was all resolved a few minutes later, we all got up and snuggled on the sofa and watched a film. Which is where we are now. But I cannot shake off the way I feel. The way I reacted. The way I flew off the handle at her and the way her little face looked as I was shouting. There are days where I hate myself for the way I have acted. There are days where I am so disappointed in myself for not being as engaged as I should, for not playing that game they asked me to play and instead tidying the kitchen. Or looking at my phone absent mindedly when I should have been watching them dance around the living room. There are days where I lie in bed and I wish more than anything I could replay the day again. To be more present. To cuddle more. To parent better. And then the next day will come and the same thing will happen. We all know parenting can be mundane sometimes, that motherhood can be relentless and exhausting. That it's not all cuddles and happy kids, and extraordinary times. But that doesn't stop the guilt.
It's now not even 7am on Saturday morning and we are snuggling under a blanket together, one tousled, messy bed head either side of me, their warm, pyjama clad bodies nestled into mine while I type this. I don't normally have the laptop out when I am with the girl's, but it's so early I am bending the rules, we are all practically still asleep anyway. The sun is shining outside and the birds are chirping and the film they are watching is about to finish. That ever familiar motherhood guilt is knawing away inside of me about the way I acted earlier. So I'm going to turn this around. I am putting down this computer and I'm going to shake away this guilt. We have a lazy weekend planned, with lots of jobs, but I am going to make it fun one.
I'm going to cuddle. I'm going to play. Even at the weekends, usually my mind is full of things I have to do the following week, even if I'm not actually doing them. But I'm going to forget about work, or blogging, or computer issues. I am going to turn off my electronic devices this evening and snuggle with my husband and watch a film. I'm not going to absent mindedly check instagram when my children are present. I'm going to remember my blessings. That these most ordinary of moments are the ones I truly love the most. I'm going to enjoy every moment of our regular, old mundane with my family. I am sure I will lose my patience slightly, or have to discipline them, or raise my voice. But I am not going to feel guilty for it if I do.
I can't always be optimistic and positive. I can't always get it right. Sometimes, like earlier I can get it spectacularly wrong. But I can accept that, move on and learn from it.
Motherhood isn't always plain sailing. But it's definitely always worth it.