Warning expectant mothers about their imminent lifestyle change is a bit of a no-no, right? I mean, it’s pointless telling someone to enjoy visiting restaurants or having perky boobs while they still can. And you definitely can’t say, “Becoming a mother is the hardest job ever. Good luck!” Because the pregnant lady can only truly focus on her present situation: being pregnant. Advice is meaningless. The only way to find out what it’s like to have a baby is to … have one.
When I had my first baby it suddenly dawned on me that I would no longer have delightful, uninterrupted 10-hour sleeps. I know – duh! Although I was fully aware of this predicament prior to the birth, I felt oddly surprised when the time came. I remember waking up for my daughter’s first feed and thinking Oh my God, I have to do this several times every night for an indefinite period. Several times! Every night! A couple of weeks later I realised something else: that I would no longer get to spend any time alone. The breastfeeding thing only lasted a year. The not being alone thing, though, lasted seven.
When my kids were little they were almost never away from me. On weekdays my shearer husband often left the house at 5.30am and returned after 7pm. My parents and in-laws lived too far away to babysit (and worked full-time anyway). And my friends – well, they had children of their own to look after.
For the most part it was just me and the kids. So everywhere I went, they went too. I took them to gallery openings, house inspections, book launches, friends’ weddings, my own wedding, dentist visits, cafes, gym classes, funerals, bank meetings, festivals, police stations and university tutes. They came with me to every pap test (“The doctor just has to check my cervix. You stay up this end with me.”). They came with me to every wax appointment (“Why’s that lady putting honey on you, Mum?”). And once I even took my son to a job interview.
I’d come across an ad in the local paper: Casual Receptionist Wanted. I hadn’t really been looking for work, but the hours were perfect: one 5-hour shift per week (either Saturday or Sunday) and every fourth weekend off. A bit of extra cash would be nice, I thought, and there would be no need for childcare. So I emailed my patchy resume and crossed my fingers.
A few days later I received a call from the office manager; she wanted to know when I could to come in for an interview. “Oh, any time,” I replied. “But I’ll have to bring my two-year-old.” I hoped that she had children herself and would show some empathy. There was a slight pause on the other end of the line – I gritted my teeth, ready for rejection – and then she said, “That shouldn’t be a problem.”
When I arrived at the office I pretended that it was entirely normal to bring a child and a tub of dried fruit to an interview. Fortunately, my prospective employer seemed somewhat delighted that there was a toddler present. “And how are you, sweetie?” she said. “What a good boy, helping Mummy today.” Although my son sat on my lap, dropped sultanas on the floor and regularly interjected (“Wheels on bus go round. Love dat song, every person?”), the interview went surprisingly well. Apparently having a little companion made me relaxed and articulate in a situation I would normally have found stressful. I ended up being offered the job.
Plenty of parents would never dream of taking their kids to adult appointments and events because 1) Being with children is often difficult and annoying and 2) “Me” time has become quite a thing. Certainly, my lack of parenting respite was often exhausting. I can’t deny that looking after two small children for 14 hours every day didn’t send me bonkers. But the truth is, I never enjoyed having time on my own. I so badly needed a rest and yet I wanted the kids with me constantly: ah, the paradox of motherhood.
When I was pregnant, people did give me advice. They told me to make the most of one-on-one time with my husband and being spontaneous and going on holidays and having a disposable income. But no one told me how all-encompassing motherhood would be; how I would almost never be alone. And nobody told me that I might actually like being with my children; that being on my own might feel strange and wrong. I suppose it’s just as well – I wouldn’t have taken much notice anyway.
Do you take your kids with you on appointments?
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