parent opinion

'Being a mum is the happiest I've ever been. I feel like I'm not allowed to enjoy it.'

It was about six months into my first pregnancy that I finally confessed my greatest fear.

I was having dinner with a friend, already a mum-of-two, and she asked if I was excited for what was to come.

Excited wasn't quite the right word, I explained cautiously. Not quite right, that is, in the sense that I didn't feel excited at all, because I was entirely consumed with abject terror at the prospect. Being a mum, I had been led to believe, was really hard. And long. With no breaks. And no sleep. And no joy. And no light at the end of the tunnel for 18 long years.

"But you'd know all that already!" I said.

Watch: A spoken word video staring Laura Byrne articulating the contradiction of pressures that mothers face in their daily lives. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

Oddly enough, she didn't have the look I'd come to expect from other mothers when I discussed the impending birth of my baby (a sort of jaw-clenched 'yikes!' expression which clearly conveyed that, although I was making a horrible mistake, it was too late to back out so there wasn't really much they could do to help). 

Instead, in almost a whisper, she leaned in and confessed her dirty little secret.

"I love being a mum." (Pause while I gathered my jaw off the floor).


"I think it's really fun, and I reckon you will too."

Well, not to argue with a genuine real-life mother, but I was pretty sure she was wrong. See, unlike a newborn baby, I wasn't born yesterday, so I knew one thing about parenting with a pretty serious amount of certainty: it is hard, and it only gets harder.

Sure, I hadn't even given birth yet, but the message was pretty bloody hard to miss: I was already on the receiving end of the "you just waits". 

What's that? You had a nap while pregnant? You just wait until they baby comes - there'll be no more sleeping!

Your newborn is miraculously sleeping through? You just wait until the four-month regression.

Your daughter has just started smiling? You just wait until she starts teething.

You can't believe he's crawling? You just wait until he's walking - now that's a nightmare!

They're a lovely kid? You just wait until they learn the word 'no'.

You've finally settled into a routine? You just wait until the daycare sickness kicks in.

Nighttime wake ups under control? You just wait until you have to toilet train them!

Your child is the love of your life? Oh, you silly little fool, you just wait until the tantrums start.

Honestly, you can't fault the PR - the messaging is clear, consistent, and unwavering. Parenting is hard work. It's relentless. It's exhausting. It's thankless. It's the hardest job you'll ever do, and did I mention it's exhausting?


I understand that a lot of this is pushback from a time when mothers felt like they had to pretend parenting was perfect. It's so important that parents feel like they can speak honestly about their experiences. But it's starting to feel like the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction: that it's frowned upon to talk about the good parts of parenting, for fear of invaliding the struggles of those around you.

Parenting is work. But it is also so much fun. It is so joyous and so silly. It's re-learning how wondrous the world is through totally fresh eyes.

And the truth is, most parts of it aren't permanent. There's always something else around the corner. "You just wait" isn't the wrong phrase - it couldn't be more accurate - but it's wielded as a weapon when it could be a lifeline.

Oh, you're nervous to meet your baby?

You just wait until they grab your finger with their chunky little first.

You just wait until they give you an unprompted cuddle. 

You just wait until you get to rediscover the awe of rain, and dogs, and cars, and balls, and dinosaurs, and flowers, and swingsets, and swimming, and eating raspberries, and blowing bubbles, and all of life's tiny pleasures you've been taking for granted without even noticing. 

You just wait until you see them solve a problem on their own. 

You just wait until they say your name. 

You just wait until it's late in the afternoon, and you catch the eye of someone else who's just as obsessed with your child as you are - a partner, an aunty, a grandparent - and you share one of the most life-affirming moments it is possible for a human being to have: here we both are, loving this little person, and isn't it the biggest privilege on earth. 


You just wait until you put them to bed at night and watch their chest rise and fall and feel so stupidly lucky, like maybe there's been some kind of mistake, because of all the billions of kids on this planet, imagine the chances that you would get yours. 

And you just wait – oh, YOU JUST WAIT - until you hear them laugh.

Image: Supplied.


Since becoming a mum, I've had a number of friends without kids confide in me that their greatest fears are the same as mine were: that motherhood, and particularly early motherhood, is hideous and awful and doomed, and your main emotion during your babies' early years will be wishing time would move faster.

And so, I tell them what my friend told me.

"I love being a mum." (Pause while they gather their jaws off the floor). 

"I think it's really fun, and I reckon you will too."

The first time my son said 'mama', I texted another mum friend a video: "I think this is the best day of my life. I can't imagine ever getting tired of this."

"You will," she said. "You just wait until he follows you around screaming it 100 times a day because he wants the iPad."

Maybe she's right. But I've decided not to take her word for it. 

Because so far, everything about being a parent has been so much better than I was told it would be.

And I can't wait.

Listen to This Glorious Mess where we share the best and worst pieces of advice we received as a first-time parent. 

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Feature Image: Supplied.

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