Kids make life chaotic
I look around my kitchen; I see dirty socks and bibs, unwashed dishes, scrunched up tea towels and unread magazines. My floor is strewn with pieces of splattered fish and potato and there’s one lone shoe. I know I’ve got about 90 minutes until he wakes again.
Before I had my son, I thought my life was busy. It wasn’t. When you’ve cleaned the kitchen for the sixth time in a day after three meals, a snack time, and play time, you’ll understand. When half of the food you lovingly prepare ends up in his hair instead of in your baby’s mouth, you’ll understand. When the playtime mess pushes you enough over the edge that you have to pick up everything and shove it in a cupboard, just to see your floor for a few brief seconds until it is once again peppered with toys, you’ll understand.
Combine these daily rituals with food shopping, cleaning, tidying, washing (oh, the endless washing), finding and preparing nutritious food*, nappy bin changing (because no-one wants their house to smell like poo), educational time, bath time, story time, bedtime, and some work to help pay the bills, you get a real taste of a busy life.
The days may not seem so challenging if these tasks were only necessary for the working week; starting at 9 and ending at 5.30 with weekends for a bit of free time. They don’t. This is daily. EVERY. SINGLE. HOUR.
If you get to escape the carnage and go out to work you might think you’re getting an easier ride. You’re not. Not only do you have to work (and work isn’t a holiday either), but the baby chores are still there when you get home.
To non-parents, I can only akin caring for a small person to a bad day at the office. When you have a calendar full of meetings that you can’t cancel, your phone is ringing off the hook and there are people hanging around your desk waiting for paperwork and answers. All you want to do is tell the world to f**k off, but you can’t because your job pays the bills.
Imagine this amount of pressure, but you have the added stress of a small person’s life in your hands. Your baby is relying on you for every bodily function and need, every nugget of information you can teach them, every ounce of love you can give. Add this to the fact you can’t get out for a couple of drinks at the pub once your day is done because your day doesn’t end at 5.30 pm. Your day ends when your kid is in bed and shooting z’s. Even then you can’t get out because, funnily enough, leaving your kid home alone while you head out for a few ‘it’s been a long week’ beers isn’t really acceptable behavior.
Kids have to eat*
My son eats some random combinations of food. Whatever nutritious foods I can find, I fling them together and make a meal. Natural yoghurt, broccoli and pasta? Tick! I’m covering three food groups. Sweet potato, banana and rice? Tick! That’s three more!
Kids have to eat; regularly, might I add. They require at least three nutritious meals a day. It might not sound much, particularly since you also tend to eat three times a day, but making healthy food this regularly takes thought, planning, time and a lot of patience. It’s particularly challenging if a hungry baby is squealing at you.
Gone are the days when you think ‘let’s just eat out tonight’. You’re a parent now and that means you must be home with your child or you have to find a babysitter. Unfortunately, babysitters cost money making what could be a ‘cheap eats’ night out a 5-star luxury slice of takeout pizza.
Not only is making it to a restaurant and choosing the appropriate outlet a challenge, but the food you order for the baby is often not nutritious, soft or easy to eat. Also, unless you’re super prepared (which isn’t always my strong point), you don’t always have the right utensils. The result? The baby shoves the metal spoon a little too far down their throat and you get shot with disapproving looks while you extract the metal apparatus from the face of your red baby.
People will judge you
Wherever you go and whatever you do someone is judging your parenting. There’s always someone who knows how to raise your kids better than you do…
‘Don’t be one of those parents that just leaves the baby to entertain themselves while you have a cup of tea.’
‘Don’t you think the baby should have on more layers of clothes in this weather?’
‘When was the last time the baby had spinach or broccoli or a piece of fish; are you feeding him properly?’
As parents, we know we mess up. We know our kids should be wearing more layers or more than one sock, or that he should be eating broccoli gratin not cheese toasties, but life is hard and we’re doing the best we can.
They’re worth it
Kids bring oodles of baggage and there’s no denying that life with a baby is tough. However, when you look into their soft dopey eyes or see their little sausage toes as they’re sat flicking through an upside-down book, gurgling to themselves, you wonder how you would cope in a world without them in it.
There are days when you think you’re about to lose your marbles and then they toddle along the floor pushing their cart full of blocks, full of smiles. It’s just you and their adoring eyes sucking you back in ready to lug those bags a little further. Luckily, for the continuation of the human race, those heart melting moments just keep on coming; like first steps in the fresh winter snow that won’t stop falling.
I don’t know what it’s like to have more than one kid, plus mine is only a year old so I know there are many more challenges and heartwarming realities to come, but for me, I know he’s changed everything.