I doubt highly there would have been anything I could have said to my pre-children self that would have put me off the idea, however if I had the opportunity to travel back in time and offer that me some parenting insight, it would probably go a little something like this…
– breast is best, but once you have fed a baby for a year you can kiss goodbye to your pert DD’s. They are gone forever, be grateful that you had them in the first place and don’t waste your precious energy lusting after them
– ditto the gorgeous skinny Diesel jeans with a 26 inch waist that you used to love wearing so much
– unless your little darlings are elsewhere don’t expect to go to the loo in private
– it will take you a whole year to read a 300 page book
– holidays will never be never be relaxing again!
– forget all about a sex life while the kids are small, and don’t even bother thinking about the R word
– you’ll argue with your other half about a hundred times more than you used to, and have days when you hate him for no reason at all
– your in-laws will pee you off no matter how hard they try
– every single parent on the planet has moments when they wish they could send their offspring back to where they came from
– BUT (and this is really important) no matter how hard your day has been, and how brutal the witching hour, when they are finally asleep, you will love them so much it actually hurts
Although I don’t have her in my life any more, in many ways I feel sorry for my mother. She had a rotten childhood and it’s no wonder she turned out the way she did. My Grandfather was killed young, in a road accident, and left behind my Grandma who was pregnant with their sixth child, along with five kids aged between one and ten. They were living in the States at the time, and she came back to the UK to raise her family alone, and never allowed another man into their lives. She went to work six days a week and her kids all resented for it. They would have preferred to have had a mum who was home more, but she thought she was doing the best thing by ensuring there was always money for a roof overhead and food on the table.
Grandma was one of three, a very respectable lady who could always hold her head up high. Her sister and husband on the other hand were classic dole bludgers. They would regularly have their electricity cut off and not have any food to give their children. Fortunately for them help was never far away, although I can’t help but feel having a back up just exacerbates a situation like that. All I know about Grandma’s brother is that he was a businessman who was out of the country lots. When he came to the UK and stayed with the family, he would creep into my mother’s bedroom late at night. This hideous abuse would shape her entire life, much to its detriment.
My eldest aunt married young was left for another woman, and brought up their two kids alone. Aunt #2 married a violent drunk and endured a life of domestic abuse (towards her and their two kids). Next is uncle #1, the success story of the family – despite getting his wife pregnant at 15 they worked hard to have a decent life. He didn’t have much to do with his family when I was still in touch though. Then there’s my mother, who you’ll hear about on this blog. Next is aunt #3, a classic damsel in distress, always has a drama but always seemed fine in the end. Then there is uncle #2, the baby of the family who was given the name of the father he never met. Back in the early noughties before I was estranged from them all he was totally messed up in the head. He’d regularly get hammered on drugs and alcohol, and frequent ladies of the night even though he had a lovely wife and three kids at home. Oddly enough most of my cousins seem to have done fairly well for themselves, although my half brother and sister are another matter (more on them another time).
The psychologist and Guardian columnist Oliver James has written a series of books about how your parents mess you up. No matter how hard they try not to repeat history it almost always ends up happening. Classic example of this is my mother being hell bent on her girls not going through what she did with her uncle, but unfortunately for me, not doing enough to prevent it from happening. More on this later too, I’m not quite ready to open up that particular can of worms just yet.
I guess my point is that for my mothers lot, their childhood really did dictate their lives. The girls all chose partners badly and they and their kids all suffered the consequences. You have to actively break the cycle of dysfunction to ensure your own children do not have to endure the bad experiences you did. Rather than just talking about what I am or am not going to do, I’d like to think my actions speak louder than words and this will count for more when it ultimately comes to protecting them from the demons that stole my childhood.
Angelina Jolie has spoken out about the preventative surgery she had recently after discovering she carries the BRCA1 gene. She has been praised for giving hope to other women in her situation, and has herself said she feels empowered by the decision and not at all unfeminine.
When I was 11, I lost my beloved grandmother to cancer after she fought it for over two decades. She had a mastectomy on one side and ten years later had another. A few years after this the disease came back in her womb, and she passed away in hospital the day before she was due to have a hysterectomy. My memories are blurred, but I think she was 56 or 57. At 14, my aunt who was just 44 died of breast cancer within a year of being diagnosed. I have two friends (aged just 38 and 41) who are in remission as we speak.
Apparently breast cancer is heredity, and the younger the family member was when diagnosed the higher the likelihood of you carrying the gene mutation. This does not bode well for me, and I have lived with this knowledge in the back of my head for years. It’s like cleaning the top of your kitchen cupboards – you know the chore needs to be tackled at some point but you put it off and put it off until the dust and grime is so gross you can’t bare it any longer.
The question is do I get myself tested or not, and what would I do with the information if it came back positive? If the answer is nothing, then it’s pointless having the tests done in the first place. Surely I have to be prepared for the worst case scenario, and follow it through the way Angelina has done. I would need to be certain I was finished having babies in that case, and I don’t know wholeheartedly if I am yet. Hopefully this is not a decision I will have to make any time soon, but right now instead of being at the back of my mind it’s in pole position right up front.
The problem with opening up cans, is that worms go flying everywhere.
Although I love my long suffering husband very much, every now and then (ok daily at the mo) I hate him and want to punch him in the face. I feel sorry for the poor guy, but am positive that he feels exactly the same about me. Having a young family is bloody hard work, and I’m beginning to understand why many couples end up going their separate ways before the youngest has started school. There’s just so much to contend with already, and being nice to one another often takes a back seat.
This morning is a fine example – first off we were up at 5am which is not a great start. After being awake for over an hour 4yo wanted to make her breakfast, she played around and took ages in doing so. I went upstairs to get ready for work and the whole time I’m up there I can hear that she’s still messing about and not really eating her food. He’s getting really angry and then starts going on about what a waste this is, blah blah. She gets down from the table at this point and is now playing with her toys saying she wants to eat at nursery. I come downstairs and he’s fuming. I say that he should just let her go hungry and next time she’ll want to eat. He now gets peed off with me.
In the midst of all this I realise I am two minutes late leaving for work and will miss my train if I don’t run out the door right then. Help me please I say, but he’s still annoyed with me and doesn’t. I end up running out of the house muttering FFS quite loudly and promptly collide with an elderly gentleman neighbour on his morning stroll to get the paper. Oooops! Sorry I apologise, you didn’t need to hear that. He has a wry knowing grin on his face, one that says don’t worry, been there many a time myself dear.
Fortunately my memory isn’t up to much these days, and all is usually forgiven rather quickly. Had I not written just this post I probably would have forgotten the incident by now. I was very comforted recently by seeing an interview with married folk in their 80’s and 90’s – apparently the longest surviving couples bicker on a daily basis.
When my four year old was a baby I used to get really annoyed with comments that friends with more than one child would make – such as ‘two kids is much more than just double the work’ and ‘you don’t realise how easy it is having one until you have another’. You get the picture? It used to really pee me off, but now I completely understand where they were coming from. I would never say things like this out loud to my one-child friends (as I still remember how it made me feel) but I do enjoy having a good moan to my husband and other mummies in the same boat.
My second daughter was a classic angel baby, and even during her most trying moments hasn’t been too difficult to contend with. She slept through the night at nine weeks (all by herself), fed well as an infant and always has a smile on her face. Unless she’s teething or unwell she’s one of the happiest little girls I’ve ever encountered. She doesn’t need constant entertaining and can amuse herself. At fifteen months my only gripe is that she is still a little too fond of the breast and isn’t displaying any sign of giving it up. Not a gripe really, I’ve loved being able to feed my babies.
In stark contrast her sister was (and still is) quite demanding. She had reflux from two weeks meaning feeds were difficult, and although she was fairly content she had awful tantrums from a very early age – and still does to this day. She didn’t start properly sleeping through until nine months, and is up for hours in the night at least a few times a week now. At just eleven months she pushed me away when I tried to feed her, telling me in no uncertain terms that she didn’t want my milk anymore. She flits between being a happy loving child and a sleep deprived monster – which I can certainly relate to on days where I’ve had just three or four hours sleep! Above all else she is extremely jealous of her sister, and the easier and lovelier the littlest is the more demanding and attention seeking she will be. She is really well behaved at nursery which pleases me, but also makes me sad because it’s clearly all for mine and my husbands benefit.
I have recently pondered back to the simple days when we only had one to consider, and wondered about the child my eldest would have been. In my fantasies she is perfectly behaved all the time and life is easy as pie. Of course the reality would probably be another story and I’m sure being an only child would have come with a different set of problems. I’ve been told that when it comes to small children it doesn’t get harder than having a baby and a toddler, and I take great comfort from this. As tough as these early days have been, I cling to the hope that they will both be better off in the long run for having each other.