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The truth about parenthood

Nadia Jaynes is a super mum, but not Superwoman...

Published on July 2nd 2010.

The truth about parenthood

A colleague confided in me last week. She’s a first time mum with an unbelievably cute 14 month-old and she told me that she and her husband “probably needed to talk”. I’m pretty certain all new parents come to this “we need to talk” stage – but I’m damn sure none of us will admit it.

The modern woman expects to sprint out of the maternity ward wearing nothing but a string bikini and a fresh faced smile. I can’t speak for everyone but I left hospital in a dress that resembled a hessian sack and I looked no less pregnant than when they took me in.

I’ve come to realise (and girls you’re won’t like this), we’re trapped in a prison of our own making. We women are so obsessed with being all things to all people, we’re not honest with others or ourselves.

We don’t talk and we don’t confide about the true trials and tribulations of being a mum. We spend so long convincing everyone that we don’t need help, we’re fine and loving every minute of mummy-hood that to say or feel anything else is somehow like admitting you’ve failed at the ultimate test in life.

Our addiction to glossy mags doesn’t help either. We’re confronted with pre and post pregnancy pics of countless celebs reminding us just how quickly they lost their flab (6 weeks in most cases). We conveniently overlook the fact they employ nannies, personal chefs and trainers to get there. A mum nowadays must be thin, fashionable, beautiful, successful and able to out-bake Jules Oliver in a muffin contest.

The modern woman expects to sprint out of the maternity ward wearing nothing but a string bikini and a fresh faced smile. I can’t speak for everyone but I left hospital in a dress that resembled a hessian sack and I looked no less pregnant than when they took me in.

When the girls get together, we boast about how few nights out we’ve had and it’s the ultimate achievement if we’ve never had to rely on a babysitter, nursery or grandparent for help.

“Have you seen the rings round my eyes? Three hours sleep I had last night” is a sure fire Monday morning water cooler winner. Motherhood is the new martyrdom, and the more of your life you lose, the more of a mum you are, it seems.

I know we’re all lucky to have our children; there are many people desperate to have kids and ultimately it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, but that doesn’t change the fact that having a baby is bloody hard work. As a couple it hits you like a sledgehammer. There’s no warning – and why? Because we ladies are too busy telling each other what wonderful fun it is and how much we love our new life.

Spontaneous nights clubbing, and weekend John and Yoko style bed-ins are out, while relentless early mornings and ridiculously late nights are most definitely in. Broken sleep is mandatory and I guarantee if you’re lucky enough to schedule five minutes for some “us time”, mum’s way more likely to be found curled up in her “no chance” nightie snoring like an overworked warthog than puckering up for a smooch. In fact as a new mum, the thing that amazed me most about couples with three, four and five kids, was not the fact that they cope with them – more that they found the time and energy to keep procreating.

My chunk of hunk and I escaped to Glastonbury last weekend. There was much debate over taking the little man but we eventually concurred that he was still a tad too young. Even then I found myself justifying the fact he wasn’t coming with us to friends and colleagues “he’s just a bit young still, has a night time nappy on” etc, etc.

Celebs make it look easy- Jamie and Jules Oliver

As I left my boy I felt incredibly, painfully, guilty. Mummy’s going away - not for work, not because of an emergency, but purely, simply, to go have some fun with Daddy.

I’m not sure why we thought the little one would care. He was with Grandma – wonderful grandma who he loves. She had all kinds planned for him and yet I felt like he was the latchkey kid, despite the undisputable fact that for the other 360 days of the year he is firmly tied to my apron string. On the first occasion that we rang and asked would he like to speak to mummy he quickly responded “no thanks grandma”.

He painted and baked and explored with Gran, whilst I - (Nadia not mum) had time out with my man, a buff young Red that I adore (the guys ripped ok?). It’s not an easy decision to make, leaving your child for five days- but in our time away we reminisced about our journey together, we relaxed, laughed, drank and danced with friends old and new.

That’s five days to not worry about early mornings or stressful bedtimes. It was just us, amongst friends- a lovely reminder of how life used to be. I’m not saying I’d ever go back to that life permanently- I love my son more than life itself. But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nice to remember that before everything else, before being a mum and before being a dad – we were, and most importantly still are, a couple.

We’ve been through the mill me and this guy, new baby, house renovation, career changes, sleep deprivation, illness, my awful PMT which, for six years I diagnosed as not at all period related and more due to the fact that my fella just happens to get inexplicably, unbelievably more irritating on the 26th of every month (I love him at least 96.8 per cent more because he never argued that fact).

There have been highs and lows, tos and fros and yet crazily, astoundingly, we’re both still here and relatively sane. That in itself is an achievement. We probably deserve stickers that say “We rode the new parent roller coaster and survived”.

I guess the whole point of this article is that I wish I had read something like this when I was a new mum – something that made me realise, I wasn’t just a bit pants at it all.

It’s so hard to admit that having a child has at times put an unbelievable strain on us as a couple. There have been many occasions when lack of sleep, lack of quality time together and the endless monotony of cooking, cleaning and washing has conspired to convince me that a dirty sock or an unwashed mug was reason enough to walk out the door and never come back.

But that doesn’t mean we’re failures- it means we’re human. Most new parents “probably need to talk” because let’s face it, as new parents it’s the one thing we never find time to do....

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