One of the worst things we say to new mums is: “it gets harder”. There they are, deep in the trenches of new motherhood, wondering what the actual fuck just happened to their life and we tell them it’ll get worse.
That’s not what you say to a woman who’s trying to say goodbye to everything she’s ever known about herself so she can rebuild herself from scratch.
It doesn’t get harder. It gets more complicated; there’s a difference.
Nothing will ever be as hard as dealing with your first newborn. You’ll feel the exhaustion in your hair and in your fingernails. You’ll feel boneless and moronic in the most devastating way.And the tiredness is only half of it. The fatigue comes from the never ending NEED. You surrender your whole body to that tiny babe. Your boobs trot themselves off to the milking shed, shrouded in imminent doom, your neck develops a knot that will never fully resolve from staring down at your ravenous child. Your back and wrist set up a picket line from all the picking up and putting down. Your skin will start to crawl with every nudge and graze as your body reaches its max capacity for human touch.
You will ache for a minute in the day when you’re not being used. There’s no break, ever. You will feel TRAPPED in your house because leaving just feels too damn hard and you will grieve for the freedom you once had.
So don’t pretend this is the ‘easy’ part. No it’s not brain surgery but it is the hardest slog of your life.
Then the need eases. The constant supervision, the incessant touching, the never sleeping… it all calms down and one day you’ll be sitting there and realise you haven’t seen your child for two whole minutes and you don’t worry because you know he’s (probably) fine – and that’s a freedom money can’t buy. MY GOD THE RELIEF.
But in place of the physical exhaustion comes something different. You’ll be slammed with defiance and attitude and emotions so huge they spill all over the supermarket aisle, in front of dozens of innocent bystanders and you will tear your hair out trying to make him behave or sit still or eat a vegetable or put his goddamn shoes on.
The never-ending battle of wills will have you yearning for that little baby you could restrain in the pram and silence with a dummy – because you’re remembering all the sweet snuggly cuddles, not the three hour screaming fits at 2 in the morning.
As soon as she starts to become slightly more reasonable and easy to talk to (control), she’ll start asking questions, big questions that could shape her whole character and you start to panic about how much you’re going to stuff her up. You weigh every single word, hoping you’re not unlocking the hidden psychopath inside. She’ll also talk – and argue – and talk – and argue some more, sucking up so much of your brain space that’ll you’ll spend all day every day trying to find new ways to distract her.
You’ll love her little personality and how independent she’s becoming, but you’ll sometimes wish you could go back to the days when saying, “mummy said NO!” was the end of the conversation – because you’ve forgotten that “mummy said NO!” never fucking worked.
And then one day you’ll pick up a total smart arse from school because he’s been hanging around that degenerate kid and you’ll be driven mad because he won’t listen to a thing you say. And you apparently need to devote your life to the school and homework and kids parties every bloody weekend and you’ll feel trapped in your car, wondering if you’ll ever get a break. Then one day he’ll tell you the horrible things some kid said to him at school and your heart will shatter into seven million pieces as you try and find a way to protect him from the world he has to go into every day without you at his side.
And while you’ll be able to eat dinner and go to the toilet in peace, you’ll sometimes wish you could go back to when he thought you were everything – because you’re remembering that affectionate little child who raced to the door when you got home from work, not the kid who argued/screamed for 45 minutes straight about having pasta for dinner.
Pretty soon, she’ll stop speaking to you altogether because ugh, as if you know ANYTHING, you’re just a mum. And when she does speak to you, you’ll only understand about 30 percent of it. She’s rude and ungrateful even though you spend hours every day trying to help her stand up to those bitches at school and trying to build her self confidence in a world bent on tearing kids down. You agonise how to help her be a decent future adult and you’re really not sure you know how to do it.
And as you lie awake at night, panicking about keeping her safe, you’ll wish you could go back to the days you were trapped at home with a kid who never stopped talking – because you can only remember the times she told you she loved you, and not the times she said you were the worst mum ever.
And then he’ll move out of home and never call you anymore and you’ll do everything you can to find out how he’s coping without being a Smother but you just want to know he’s ok. You’ll want him to know he can come home whenever he needs to but you need to try and let him go.
You’ll have all your days and all your nights to yourself and you’ll do whatever you please – but you’ll wish with all your heart you could go back to having a sullen teenager at home – because you’re remembering the times he grunted a thank you for dinner, not the days on on end of silence.
So no, it doesn’t get harder, it changes. The slog of it all eases. You’ll get your personal space and your energy back. Your body will be returned (slightly scarred and noticeably soggier). But as your child’s body and mind moves further and further away from yours, the emotional load you carry grows heavier and heavier. Luckily, as you wade through those years alongside your child, you become stronger and stronger.