It is hard to admit when you are struggling as a mother.
Each stage of being a parent seems to have a terrifying title- that First Frightening year, the Terrible Two’s and Threenager. I am not being cocky when I say that we blitzed the first couple of years with our daughter. Routine based, a great sleeper, hater of mess; I would read articles and wonder why I didn’t have a baby that was typical of each stage.
“Consider yourself lucky”
Then we hit three and the issues started to appear. Nothing major. Areas that we needed to tackle as a team. We blitzed through the milestones of the age; toilet training, starting daycare, improving her speech, big girl bed.
“I am totally rocking this motherhood gig”
And then, like all good made for TV movies, there comes a point where the main character gets too caught up in their inflated ego and BAM – reality bites.
Welcome to the F-cking Fours.
I am not entirely certain when the wheels of my parenting ability fell off, but I suspect it was somewhere around the strike of midnight on September 26th. Our Daughters 4th birthday.
I had heard the rumours. The ones told to you in hushed tones over a glass of vino, or by the mother at swimming with older children, or by the mum clutching a coffee like a life raft after a boat crash. “Four is a really shit year”
How bad could it be? Really?
This tiny human who I grew in my belly. Who I birthed. Who I worship. Is suddenly telling me that the way I do everything is incorrect.
We had our son’s baptism on Sunday. We don’t have one photo of the four of us. Not one. Instead of standing with us for 6 seconds and smiling, she proclaimed that it was “too scary” and clung to her grandmother like we were asking her to slam her fingers in the door for sport.
I can hear you say “well that isn’t that bad” and of course, it isn’t. And if we had had a blissful week of love and adoration, I would of brushed it off. But it came at the end of yet another full on week and I could feel my Mother rage climbing up my throat and wanting to explode out of me.
“You are’t my best friend”
“You are rude”
“I don’t love you, I only love Daddy”
“No, YOU do it”
“WHY DID YOU CUT MY SANDWICH LIKE THAT. IT’S RUINED”
These are the phrases I hear the most.
Four year olds’ are tough.
Their bodies are growing at such a fast pace that their brains just cannot compete. All reasoning and compassion is gone. They don’t have the tools to digest why they can’t smash the snow globe against the hard surface, only the reaction when it inevitably breaks and you stare at them saying “I literally just told you that would happen”.
I find myself desperately trying to explain things to Olivia but failing. She has her own way of thinking now, her own emotional reactions, her own patterns of behaviour. Carving out her own identity and testing the boundaries of her new found power.
Most days, I feel like it is my fault. I am not great with strict routines or hard on bedtimes. I never really enforced when she ‘should’ be hitting her milestones. I let her move at her own pace. Indulging her every whim. She needs and wants for nothing.
But on rare occasions when the guilt lifts for enough time that my rational brain can kick in, I know that this stage cannot be avoided. We want her to have this stage. To declare to the world who she is and to show us how incredible she is. It is just really hard to remember that when she is poking her tongue out and telling me off for asking her to pick up her pencils.
It is hard to admit that I cry. Often. I should be tougher, but I am not. Underneath I am a giant marshmallow wrapped in, well, a fleshy marshmallow.
Since having William three months ago, two distinct things have happened;
I have become the most organised I have ever been in my life. Yeah right, I can hear you snigger. No really. My house is in tip top shape, the bills are paid, the washing gets done every day, we go on walks, we go to swimming, we play, we laugh, we go to the park, Christmas is wrapped and ready for Santa.
I have also mentally felt pretty low. Days of feeling like I haven’t done anything right. That I cannot handle another meltdown from Olivia over something trivial. That my marriage is adrift in the sea and I am desperately fighting to reel it back in. That we will never have enough money – even if we both work nights and days and weekends and never see each other. That I cannot understand how so much stress can come with some of the best moments of your life.
Post Natal Depression? I can hear you wonder. Maybe. I have dealt with anxiety and depression on and off for my entire life. I am self aware enough to know when I am not coping. Perhaps I do have a touch of the black dog.
But it is also exhaustion. Not the kind you get from not sleeping well for a few days. The kind where you are literally at capacity and running at capacity at all times. When every single tab is open in your mind and stays open until a week later you stumble across it and think “why the hell was I wondering how many bedrooms that 12 million dollar home had” because I can totally afford that (thanks Domain pop ups).
I look at my children and I feel that feeling, I love them so much I may nibble off their pinkie toe.
Raising a four year old who is fierce, determined and smarter than myself, is hard.
And whilst I find it hard to admit, there is no shame in saying that right now, it is hard.
Whenever someone is pregnant I say two things. The first is that they will rock child birth, every woman deserves to feel empowered before undertaking the most insane and beautiful job we can do as women. The second is that motherhood is a punch to the face. It quite literally turns your entire world upside down and inside out. Leaving you with the inability to know what day it is or why you have your shirt on inside out or how you safely transported your family without falling asleep at the wheel.
“Some days I amaze myself. Other days I put my keys in the fridge”
Today will be a key in the fridge day.
Chances are tomorrow will be too.