I was reading an article in a magazine yesterday on post-natal depression. The opening paragraph discussed some of the common myths of parenthood. You know the ones. Parenting is always rewarding. Having a baby brings you closer together as a couple. Babies sleep. You should be available for your children 24 hours a day.
The one that stood out to me was this one: Everyone else is coping.
This is the one I always fall for. It always appears to me as though everyone else has it together when I feel like I am struggling hard with all that looking after children involves. It can be a lonely feeling.
I don't think we as mothers do ourselves any favours here. I think that many of us work hard to cultivate the image that we are going fine, that we are managing everything very well and that life is just rosy, thanks very much for asking. I am highly guilty of this. It perpetuates the myth that everyone's coping and it means we are not being honest about what we are actually going through.
So in the interest of keeping things real and to enlighten anyone that knows me in real life and thinks I am in the "coping" crowd, I would just like to say that on many days I don't cope well with my kids. I get grumpy with them often and particularly in the mornings with getting them off to school and in the evenings with feeding them and getting them to bed. I know it's not great and I've been working hard to try to be more disciplined about not getting cranky with them so much, but it's a very hard slog some days. When I'm tired and they're tired, it all gets a bit much. There are lots of days when I end up calling my husband mid-afternoon to remind him to leave work right on time so he can come home and help me sort out the noisiness and arguments that are going on. Without his support, it would be very difficult to get through these busy times of the day.
I know that not everyone else has the luxury of being able to make that 4pm phone call of despair. Being alone in what feels like a very deep hole with children who all have needs (often simultaneously!) is a challenge. The morning and evening parenting rush hours are particularly unrewarding times at which the feeling of non-coping is at its strongest (and the feeling that everyone else is managing well is also creeping in). Survival becomes the priority. It's relentless. And it has to be gotten through every single day.
I'm praying for those who have to manage these times alone and with limited support. And thinking about how I can help them. Meals are one way, I guess. That would be one less task for them to get done. I'm trying to think of other things I can do as well.