You’ve all heard people say it, right? In a number of ways, I imagine.
- “Seriously. You have no idea. Parenting is the hardest job in the world!”
- “Forget brain surgery. Parenting is the hardest job in the world!”
- “No doubt about it. Parenting is the hardest job in the world!”
- “Sure, being a Landmine Remover wouldn’t be easy, but parenting is the hardest job in the world!”
Before I had children, I thought people who said any of the above sentences, or similar, were exaggerating for effect. I just figured they had previously not experienced any real difficulty in a job role. How very naive of me. I now realise that they were simply stating a fact.
In my experience, parenting truly is the hardest job I have ever had. I’m not just talking about the basics of it, either. Yeah, sure, there is a lot to do. Things we possibly haven’t ever had to tackle in our previous child-free, get-to-lie-in-on-Saturdays-with-a-hangover life. When our children are tiny, we find ourselves stuck in a continuous loop of feeding baby, burping baby, changing baby’s nappies, bathing baby, dressing baby, putting baby down to sleep, doing copious amounts of laundry (none of it our own infant-vomit-covered-clothing) and comforting baby. Over and over. And over. I originally started to type ‘sleep, eat, repeat’ after that long list of baby-related chores, but ‘don’t sleep, eat biscuits, repeat’ is probably closer to the truth! And for mothers who breastfeed, that mundane (let’s be honest here – it gets boring!) routine intensifies due to the fact that nobody else can really help with those 3-hourly feeds, unless you express some breast milk, but that takes time as well. And when you are a mother of multiples, you can definitely add on some more ‘awake’ time! ‘Double trouble’ = double the work = double the sleep deprivation. And let me tell you in no uncertain terms, sleep deprivation is an absolute bugger! No wonder it has been used as a form of torture by some military groups, who have broken the will of a prisoner by simply keeping them awake for days. Not sleeping can cause psychosis, a deterioration of cognitive functions and a breakdown of the immune system. No wonder new parents can lose their temper, cry, feel depressed, suffer memory loss, possibly become ill and experience a general feeling of malaise. I certainly did. Quite frankly, I was SO crazy with bone-aching tiredness in the first six months of the twins’ life, I’m surprised that my husband and I didn’t divorce! I still vividly recall (and with a fair amount of embarrassment) the time that Mike and I had a screaming argument, in which I dropped the C-bomb with gay abandon. While my mother-in-law was visiting. Not my finest moment.
Then, as our babies start growing, we get more used to the daily
grind routine. We get better at it. In fact, we may even begin to relax a little. That, my friends, is a mistake. Why? Because the little darlings lull you into a false sense of security and then they move the goalposts! One day, you’ll leave them lying peacefully on the living room floor, gurgling away quite happily at the toys dangling from their baby gym mat, while you sneak off for a much-needed poo, and when you return, they’ll be halfway to the bloody front door! God knows how they got there, but they will have graduated to moving when you least expect it. And that changes everything.
If having a baby is a steep learning curve for some, then having twins was positively perpendicular for me!
The Penman Twins are two-and-a-half years old now and I am still learning. Every. Single. Day. Learning which aspects of parenting work for me and which don’t. Learning new ways to handle the issues that arise from being a parent. Learning how not to react to a tantrum-throwing, psychopathic little person. Learning how deeply I can actually feel the love for said little people. I suspect that I will never stop learning.
The daily responsibilities of parenting don’t concern me as much as other aspects. I am more than able when it comes to feeding, clothing, entertaining, teaching and, of course, loving my children. But it’s a scary thought that I am wholly responsible for raising a person who can show empathy, share love, express feelings, know how to be happy. This is the part that I find the most difficult. The emotional side of parenting. My emotions, yes, but more importantly, their emotions. I want them to be happy. I want them to have a great childhood. I want their memories to be good ones. I want to ensure that they know how to manage their own emotions. I want to lead by example. That’s why I currently go to see a psychologist. How can I teach my kids to be zen, when I am so highly strung that I could string Christmas lights for Jesus? But that’s a topic for another blog.
I don’t know if other parents can relate to the things I have shared. I sometimes feel like I’m the only one who struggles. Other people seem to breeze through this parenting gig. I continuously struggle my way through. Sometimes I feel so lonely. I feel so tired. I feel so unqualified. But then, my kids will cuddle me, and I feel so blessed. Or someone will tell me how beautifully behaved the twins have been, or how clever they are, and my heart swells with pride, and I dare to say to myself “Maybe you’re getting better at this, Liesa?”.
Time will tell.
*THIS* is what sleep deprivation looks like. The twins were two weeks old here. Flynn on the left, Riley on the right. I may look tired, but I love this photo. I still think of life as a miracle when I look at this picture.