Over the festive period I caught myself exclaiming, on a daily basis, how hard parenting is. Pre-children, the week after Christmas was filled with nothing but films and leftovers. This year, I found myself exhausted from trying to entertain two over-tired and overwhelmed children in the pouring rain.
I began to crave being outside, longing to go for a big walk on New Year’s Day to start the year afresh. With this intention, I headed into the countryside so that my girls could ride their scooters whilst the fresh air swept away my cabin fever. The girls started whining before we had even parked the car, and their noise only eased with a trip to the cafe about twenty minutes later.
I accepted that they were tired. No amount of sleep after Christmas seemed enough to help them catch up on the excitement of the big day. I snuggled them onto the sofa and put a film on, which held their attention for a while. After that, they announced that they were bored. We played games, made dens, and drew pictures together. We baked, read stories and wrote thank you cards. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and began staring longingly at the sofa.
Day trips that they normally loved were harder work than normal. Meals became mash-ups of leftovers and beige freezer tapas. Christmas presents were squabbled over. Feeling tired and overwhelmed myself, I flicked through photos of the previous few days. My phone was full of pictures of my smiling children enjoying the magic of Christmas, playing with family and friends. It’s true that there had been some lows that I didn’t feel the need to photograph, but there had also been a lot of highs.
With two small children with me most days, I have started to find that the highs often come from the smallest things that might have seemed insignificant before I became a parent. Finding a tree that is perfect for climbing, scooting down a big hill, or all of us singing along to a song on the radio.
Perhaps I need to change my expectations of what is manageable with small children, especially at times when excitement and exhaustion go hand in hand. We might not be able to go out for a long walk on New Year’s Day anymore, but we can go for a quick scoot and then sit outside the cafe in the winter sunshine clutching cups of hot chocolate. Perhaps staying at home all day won’t keep the children entertained, but inviting friends over for the afternoon will guarantee that the kids are kept happy and occupied whilst I enjoy some much needed adult company.
I have realised that the full range of emotions at Christmas can be exhausting for both children and parents alike. We all need some downtime, but as parents finding time to rest can be difficult whilst the children are awake. Watching TV (other than Paw Patrol) or reading a book now need to be reserved for the evenings once the children are in bed, when I can enjoy an hour of quiet time to myself. Just as long as I can keep my eyes open that long.
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Hannah is a freelance writer living in Bristol with her wife and two daughters aged three and one. When she’s not obsessing about getting the laundry done, she can be found eating potatoes. You can find her on Twitter, read her blog and follow her on Facebook
Image credit: Jonathan Meyer on Unsplash