A basic motto for life, and now an essential mantra as joint chief protector, wiper-upper, playmate, role model, disciplinarian and comforter to a wee bean.
Being a parent is hard, sure. Possibly the thing in life you can read the most about beforehand and yet still be the most unprepared for when that little bundle is placed in your arms – like a cute grenade. All the tactical preparation in the world cannot prepare you for what lies ahead.
The boundless joy you feel every time you even think about that little bean and how much you love him is inevitably mashed up with an equal number of WTF moments when you’re helpless and scared and sooooooo tired.
And no amount of muttering “What would Jack do?” over and over as you pace endlessly up and down with aforementioned grenade (which is probably crying and pooing at the same time by now) will help.
But no one really cares. Not really. They don’t care that you’re more exhausted that you thought could ever be humanly possible. They don’t care that you’re scared at least 85% of every (long) waking moment that you’re about to drop/hurt/turn-him-into-a-serial-killer/do other accidental and terrible things to your child, just because you’re clueless, have read so many conflicting parenting articles that your brain is even more befuddled than usual, and (did I mention it before?) you’re so very, very tired.
If they’ve already got kids, it’s either long enough ago that their own trauma has blurred and given them a rose-tinted version of parenthood. Or they’re an entire generation or two away and feel justified in regaling you with stories about how things used to be “in my day”, the implication of course being that things were far superior in their day and everyone today is a total ninny.
If they don’t have kids, they simply don’t believe you. They might nod and make sympathetic noises, but secretly they’re thinking that you really need to stop moaning or they’re going to stop giving up a precious weekday night to come round to visit. You have turned into a whimpering, mystery-stain-covered, drunk-after-one-drink shadow of your former self and they just don’t get it. You think back to those carefree days when you could skip through life without a thought more serious than where to go out after work and laugh. If only you’d known, and savoured all that sleep.
Then there are the friends and acquaintances who don’t yet have them but really, really want kids. And you don’t want to put them off. And you definitely don’t want to offend or hurt anyone who is having a difficult time having them. God, that would be terrible and consume about half a year’s worth of the Catholic guilt that you have left, even if it was done totally unintentionally. And there is ALWAYS someone worse off, on a sliding scale from got-less-sleep to suffered-an-unimaginable-tragedy.
If they have kids the same age, their problems will be different to yours. Not bigger or more important, just different, but similarly all-consuming and leaving little room to empathise with yours. Which is fair enough. Just acknowledging that we’re all in it together can form the basis of a great friendship, at least through these initial months/years. Breastfeeding en masse over a pub lunch after baby swimming class, comparing toddler tussle war stories in the brief, hectic minutes at the nursery/school gate. Just not comparing each other. No good can come of that, for your own sanity and the health of your friendships.
So, yes, it’s tough. Delightful, but undeniably and life-changingly tough. Whether you’re at home all day with the kids, hiding behind the bathroom door with a twix at 10.30am, or running ragged between work and kids, feeling like you’re not really succeeding at either. Your boss/intern doesn’t care that you only got four hours of sleep and can’t remember whether you actually washed your hair in the shower this morning. Your kids don’t understand that after the snuggles, wrestling, Lego and Fireman Sam-inspired rescuing, all you really want is for them to nap at the same time so you can sit down with an actual hot cup of tea and catch up on Scandal.
So all we can really do is suck it up. It’s what Jack would do (or maybe he’d just get Chloe to babysit instead).