Any of you following me from the beginning would know I was a nanny to two wonderful twins before becoming a mom. If there was one thing I can say with certainty, it’s that I was a pretty kick-ass nanny. I’ve always had this way of connecting with kids that made working with them just seem like a breeze.
When I became pregnant, all this experience with children gave me this illusion that I was prepared. I had been in the trenches, I had learned and perfected all the tricks. I was ready.
How wrong I was.
There is never anything that can prepare you for the complete lack of personal identity that sometimes goes along with being the ‘primary’ parent. Especially as the stay-at-home parent. It’s so constant and you lose yourself a bit in this role.
Add a global pandemic to the mix and it is enough to wear even the most mentally strong down.
Something they don’t tell you about becoming a parent is how isolating it can feel. In a way, it’s you and your child on this little island. You feel this overwhelming sense that no one else can care for your little as well as you can, no one can love them as fiercely, no one can give them as much as you can. Thinking this way can easily lead you down a path where you are a 24/7 parent and you slowly lose hold of yourself as an individual parent.
From the beginning, some of the choices I made set things in motion that would cause my daughter to be more dependant on me than my husband. This wasn’t the plan, but sometimes things just happen and you don’t realize what you’ve been doing until you’ve been doing it so long it’s hard to get back to a place to undo it all.
I solely breastfed.
Although I did pump, she didn’t take to bottles easier and it became easier for me to just constantly breastfeed. This eliminated some important bonding with my husband, and if I could go back and do it all over again, I would have buckled down and really tried to get them both into a routine of bottle feeding.
This is a bit of a touchy subject for a lot of people. Doctors say it’s not ideal and not safe, but cribs are a modern invention and something mostly used in first world countries. Co-sleeping seemed like the best choice for me because I was hit with this brutal anxiety when my daughter came along and I would spend the whole night just staring at her, waiting for the tell-tale rise and fall of her chest to let me know she was okay. I couldn’t sleep without feeling her, without knowing without a single doubt she was okay. It also made night feeding so much easier.
These two things made my daughter completely dependant on me. It wasn’t long before I began to feel as though she was my whole life. I was with her through the whole of the day, and while a lot of parents got to turn off at night, she was my whole night too.
I had become a 24/7 parent.
She was my days, and she was nights.
This routine had become so cemented that I didn’t even realize my mental health slipping. What had started off as bouts of anxiety had turned into constant anxiety. I was exhausted and began having a lot of really low days. I would set aside times in the day to cry. I just felt so full to bursting with emotions I couldn’t sort through, I felt I needed to let it out and cry to purge myself and get on with the rest of the day.
The routine of getting ready and taking pride in what I looked like fell through the cracks and just basic maintenance was no longer a thing. I often showered with her because I couldn’t steal time away during the day to be alone. Which meant I often skipped on things and routines that made me feel good about myself for quick and convenience.
Looking in the mirror at the woman I was now almost hurt.
My pregnancy and anxiety had brought back the acne I thought I had battle and conquered in my early 20s. The dark skin under my eyes that had always been something I’d been self conscious about seemed darker and larger. My hair, once this full mass of happy curls, was now thin, brittle, and lack-lustre. Although I had never openly thought of myself as beautiful, suddenly the task of even looking representable seemed unattainable.
In an age of social media, it’s definitely more difficult to feel great about yourself as a parent who feels like they don’t have it all together. Instagram moms are an unattainable status. With these massive, clean houses, daily pictures where they looked flawless and children in coordinated outfits that just look so well behaved and happy.
Meanwhile I am wearing the same yoga outfit I have been wearing for days, my hair has been so neglected it’s somehow straight even though my hair is naturally curly, I am battling yet another breakout, and my child is lying in the middle of the living room in a pile of her toys while screaming at the top of her lungs. Where are these social media moms? Where are the ones that show the chaos, that show the unhappy daily moments, and make you feel less alone in your struggle?
Where are the moms who haven’t slept in their own beds in a week? Their nights spent curled up with their little because they just won’t stay asleep and it’s not worth trudging back and forth to your own room in the dark. Where are the moms who haven’t cleaned the house in weeks because any moment they are alone they marvel at just sitting by themselves, untouched? Where are the moms that cry while they’re making lunch because they know their toddler isn’t going to touch any of it?
Parenting is hard.
24/7 parenting is even harder.
I applaud any parent out there who spends the same amount of time I do with my daughter and hasn’t completely come unravelled. Although I love my daughter with every beat of my heart, I have never been so completely underwater in my life, just constantly drowning.
For any struggling 24/7 parents out there who, like me, are just struggling to keep their head above water, I SEE YOU.
I hope you find a way to navigate these treacherous waters.