It’s fair to say that I found the first year after my daughter was born very tough going. Yes, we had ‘the moments’ – the euphoria of those first smiles and steps, those midnight cuddles when the whole world seems to stop and you just marvel at the amazing little person you have created. But bloody hell, there were some lows – those colicky, vomity calamitous days when nothing you did seemed to work, you were drowning in mess and so utterly overwhelmed that you accidentally set fire to the bottle warmer (again…)
Hands-down, the thing I found the hardest was the sleep deprivation. The four-month sleep regression hit us like a freight train – seemingly endless nights of rocking and whispering and back-rubbing, then EVER SO GENTLY placing her down, only to start all over again 30 minutes later. Her first birthday came and went, and the chances of her ever getting anywhere close to ‘sleeping through’ seemed about as likely as a lottery win…
Thank goodness there were two of us to share the load; I have no idea how I’d have coped otherwise.
“Hang on though – doesn’t your husband work?”
Apparently (because you can’t move for ‘that’s not how we did it!’ tales from the parenting coalface once you’ve joined the club), if one of you is at work full-time, the person at home is on night duty. They need their rest; this is what you’ve signed up for – end of.
Cue those all too familiar waves of mum guilt – was I being selfish and lazy? Was I shirking ‘my job’ and piling too much responsibility on J? I’ve thought about it and no, we both felt that 50/50 was absolutely the fairest way to go for us.
Of course, there are many situations where this just isn’t possible. It depends on how you’re feeding, and the kind of job your partner has. If them not being at 100% capacity at work would endanger lives, then I completely understand that a good night’s sleep is paramount. And many people have no choice but to go it alone.
BUT – if it is possible, why on earth not?
These days we’re both back at work, and when she’s had a bad night it’s certainly no picnic juggling spreadsheets, meetings, and projects the next day. But I can safely say that days at home with her were just as exhausting, if not more so – at least at work I can go to the toilet on my own and eat a sandwich with both hands…and the whole ‘but you can catch up during the day when they’re asleep’ thing? She was more of a ‘sleep for 30 minutes at a time, if you’re lucky, and you maintain the optimum level of movement/bangin’ lullaby tunes throughout’ kind of gal, so no, not really!
Yes, my husband’s job is important, but keeping a tantrum-tastic child alive and happy and healthy and stimulated, whilst desperately clinging onto your own sanity (AND finding time for all those chores that keep the cupboards stocked and the washing up from collapsing in a heap on top of you) is pretty vital too!
Whether you’re in the office or in the home, you’re both working bloody hard, so why does only one of you get to clock off in the evenings? Isn’t it better for everyone’s health and happiness if we all get regular opportunities for a bit of shut-eye?
What worked best for you?
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I’m the mother of a gorgeous 17 month old daughter and live with my husband in Northamptonshire. Parenting for me can be something of a beautiful nightmare; I wouldn’t change being a mum for the world, but do spend rather a lot of time swearing quietly into the fridge and counting down to wine o’clock. If it’s soft-play horror stories and random CBeebies musings you’re after, then please visit my blog. You can also follow me on Twitter
Image credit: Siobhan Butel