It’s been a long time since I last wrote something; and the reason for this is pretty simple; young babies aren’t actually that exciting to others outside of your own family. We all splash this stuff all over social media anyway – hey look, here’s my kid leaning on a walker, or rolling over, etc. And that’s not to take away from the excitement we feel as parents for these achievements – they really are fantastic, but they aren’t very interesting for other people to see, and certainly very difficult to write about. Particularly when you aren’t a natural writer or can’t compose a witty prose longer than two sentences when your son / daughter face-plants into the dog.
What I did want to write about is something that I have felt as a father, and that other parents (mothers and fathers) have spoken to me about. And that is the pressure we are put under, both by ourselves and the media and society to show how much we conform to the idealistic view of family tranquillity. Some sentences I’ve heard and my internal, cynical monologue:
- My child is an angel, they sleep 14 hours straight through every night. They have since they were born a year ago. We’ve never struggled to get sleep. Yeah, well if that’s the case, why is your child napping twice a day and why does your makeup make you look like a buttered corpse
- Poo and sick? No problems here, they only make solid poo’s and don’t really do the sick. I saw that post on Facebook from your partner about how your child filled a car seat full of shit
- I wouldn’t dream of giving my child anything other than breast milk. Anything else means your child won’t develop properly. Sorry, what is “properly”? Every child develops at a different rate and with different skills at different times. Also, have you ever tried to breast feed premature, needy twins? Nah, didn’t think so. If your tit milk is so good, how come I see children on formula with at least the same level of skills as yours? Stop reading the daily mail and do what’s best for your child
- I’ve felt this connection with my child from the moment they were born. My best mate forever and so much love instantly
This last one is what I’m driving at really with this set of scribblings. I love my children, I really do. And from the moment they were born I have loved them and recognised I would do anything for them and give them anything they need. However, what I haven’t necessarily understood, or felt, is an instant connection with both of them.
As soon as I held them, I was confused. I had little to no idea of what to do, how to hold them or protect them. All I knew is that they had to be kept full of milk and needed to keep breathing in and out. I didn’t get a spark of connection, but I did feel very protective of them and knew that I liked them both very much.
What you are told is that you should feel something, but not all parents feel it. I know this because I’m open about it, and it has drawn honesty out of other parents. Myself and others have basically just felt a blind panic and an overwhelming sense of a lack of skills over how to successfully parent the bag of flesh I’d been handed.
As the months went by, it certainly changed as I connected to them at different levels. I still loved my children and found them an endless source of fun, affection and inspiration. The other thing I felt that you’re made to feel bad about? Frustration. Why can’t I be frustrated at 3am when I’ve had an hour’s sleep because one of the little humans is having a bad night. I would never blame them or hold a grudge because of it. But can I be grumpy and annoyed? Sure I can. I get annoyed when my wife gets out of bed to help me during the night. She works so hard with them during the day, she should get the nights off. But does it mean I love her any less or will hold a lasting resentment towards her? No, it doesn’t. It’s a snap shot of time – mainly at my own failings to adult in a competent enough manner that I don’t need help.
As a father, I’m trying to do my best, and we’re held to a higher, ideological degree of what parenting looks like, and that often leads me to question how poor a father I am. I stumble, frequently, through fatherhood. Because I’m clueless. But I’m trying. My wife is a hero, she educates, she nurtures, she nourishes and seems to take it all in her stride. But I know she has tough moments too. And she knows that’s ok. Ultimately, she is the stronger parent, and I know that. I certainly couldn’t do what she does – I’ve taken the easy route and I go to work 5 days a week. If I tried to do what she does, then the kids would just be left to play on the rug, devoid of food and covered in stool while I have a very visible breakdown in the cupboard under the stairs.
The other parenting ideal I struggle with is this one of connection. I cannot, and won’t comment on, single child families – because I am not qualified to do so. What I can say is that it’s not unusual to feel a greater connection with one of your children then the other(s). It doesn’t make you less of a parent to the other. My wife and I have naturally gravitated towards opposite children – we still love the other child as much, but we can tolerate the frustrations of one child more than the other. I’ve seen it in others too – a good friend of mine has two children also and it’s so evident to see that he has a greater connection with the younger of his two children. He’s still a great father to them both.
I guess what I’m trying to say, in a very long winded way, is that parenting is hard. And it’s ok to be the person who gets annoyed or frustrated. As a parent, you will protect your child from yourself and others (if you cannot protect them from yourself, please be honest and see someone about it), but we’re still humans. If you went to work and someone just shouted in your face for three minutes, you wouldn’t feel compelled to cuddle them and whisper in their ear. And yet, we do that with our children and feel bad when the screaming hurts our brains.
Don’t beat yourself up. You’re better than you think. You’re a good parent, even when you think you’re not. Make mistakes, learn, grow, develop. But more than anything, stop holding yourself up to what are the ideals of a good parent according to the internet. By all means, gather others opinions, but these are your kids, and your experiences. Enjoy them