Parenting – to stay or not to stay?

I’ve been trying to write a post on induction of labour for the past week without much success. While I feel strongly on the subject, as I think far too many women are induced too soon in Ireland, I’m going to leave it for another day. Today, I’m all about how hard it is to be a parent and how much more respect stay at home mothers or fathers should get from society. I’m going to cover a few of the challenges I’ve come across and I’ve only been at this parenting craic for 17 weeks!

I have one child, as babies go, he is as good as it gets. Eats and sleeps without much fuss 90% of the time. But it’s still hard when he’s having an off day and you’re singing ‘row row row your boat’ for the millionth time and walking miles around your living room trying to comfort a teething baby. It’s draining beyond belief. And then he’s finally asleep and you put him in his cot and breathe a sigh of relief… only to see him flip himself over on the monitor, and as you hold your breath in the hope he might just keep sleeping, the cries of indignation start! More walking and singing it is. They really are so cute when they start laughing at you when you are trying to get them to sleep until you look at the clock and see 3am.

Then there’s getting out and about. First, the packing of the changing bag, a person must be prepared for all eventualities. You have your nappies (at least 4 even if you’re only out for an hour), wipes (making sure there’s lots in the pack), cotton wool, nappy bags, 2 sets of spare clothes in case of poonami, a plastic bag for wet/dirty clothes, a sun hat and a warm hat (it’s Ireland!), socks (don’t know why but there’s always socks in the changing bag that are never needed), a cardigan/jacket, a blanket, a few toys, at least 2 muslins and 2 bibs, 2 made-up bottles in a cool bag and 1 bottle of cooled boiled water with measured formula separate (just in case 1 hour turns into 6 hours…), soothers (at least 2), teething gel, hand sanitiser, sterilising wipes for toys/soothers than might fall and the actual changing mat. Changing bags are never big enough. Once changing bag packed, then you pack the car. Buggy, rain cover for buggy, UV cover for buggy, carrier/sling, your own handbag or add purse and phone to changing bag. Add to that the carry cot, the bouncer and possibly a playmat if you’re going to someone’s house! So then you have to have the timing right. Do you try to go just after a feed? Risk – baby getting sick in baby seat. Do you go before baby is due a nap? Risk – baby doesn’t sleep in car and gets very cranky and overtired. Do you time it so baby will be due the feed when you get to your destination? Risk – nowhere to heat bottle or baby has meltdown while waiting for bottle to heat – see how handy breastfeeding would have been! Do you go while baby is sleeping? Risk – baby wakes while you are transferring them to carseat and is not happy about it. Basically there is no right time so you just have to go for it. And that is with one child, how do people manage with more than one? The packing and the timing becomes even more complicated! Some days it’s easier to stay at home!

The laundry, my washing machine has never been used so much. The amount of bibs and muslins alone could keep the machine in use every day. And then I find myself actually ironing muslins as well as all his actual clothes. It’s therapeutic ironing a muslin square – no buttons or creases, just a square. But then it’s used for 5 minutes and back in the laundry pile – I think I need to stop ironing them but I probably won’t!

Cooking, the great intentions I had of trying new recipes and making nutritious healthy meals when on maternity leave! Unfortunately it’s back to the handy spag bol or chicken fajitas or cheesey pasta or anything that can be done with minimum ingredients in minimum time. This is why I won’t be in a rush to put baby on solids, as bad as it is counting scoops (now we’re on 8!) that is when the cooking will have to go up a notch. My husband has even planted vegetables in the garden in the hope of them being on his dinner plate one day!

Housework – I remember someone saying that people only notice when you don’t do it. You can have your house immaculate and nobody will pass any heed but it will be noted if there’s dust on the glass coffee table or if there’s dirt from the buggy wheels on the hallway floor. Some days you’re passed caring but then the doorbell rings and you panic as someone calls without notice and you wonder when you last cleaned the bathroom. And my child can’t even move independently to make his own mess, that fun is all ahead of us.

I realise I’m painting a picture that may be a bit negative. I’m just trying to highlight how full on it all is. But (it is a big but) – there’s nothing like a big gummy baby smile to brighten any day, especially if the reason is just because they’ve seen you. Seeing all those milestones, getting all those cuddles, hearing little giggles or a real hearty laugh; it’s why we do all the hard stuff.

So next time you ask someone what they do and they answer ‘I’m a stay at home parent’, don’t change the subject, don’t turn your nose up – give the person some credit. It is the hardest job – you don’t get time off, you don’t get lunch breaks; I’m sure anyone doing it out of choice though wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s a sacrifice that I don’t think I can make, god that sounds selfish. As much as I dread maternity leave coming to an end, I also look forward to rejoining my colleagues, to looking after other women and their babies, to having some me time in the car and to having more money (and maybe justify getting a cleaner!). To be honest though, I need a break from the 24/7 job of looking after my baby – as much as I love the little munchkin with all my heart. It will hopefully make the time I do have with him even better. Then again in 4 months time when I’m due back at work I may think very differently! I don’t think women (or men) should be judged on their family/parenting choices. Every family, every child and every parent is so different. So now I have about 4 months to think about childcare options… 

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