I actually have more bags packed for this trip to Aldi than I did for a three week backpacking trip in Europe!
As I stood in my kitchen, dripping with children, the absurdity hit me. In 2003, I travelled across 4 countries with 2 small bags and one great friend. We visited Spain, Italy, Switzerland Austria and saw so many incredible sights. With a limited budget and a VERY limited wardrobe.
But this wasn’t 2003, this was 2015. The closest I was getting to a European adventure was finding some orecchiette pasta shapes in the middle aisle of my local Aldi. My two small carry on bags had been replaced by a three year old (NO he’s not potty trained yet, thanks for asking) and a 7 month old (who despite my pleas has started crawling early).
"Messy and real just the way they were meant to be."
This wasn’t my first rodeo either. I already had two “older” children.
What does that even mean “older” children?!? A phrase battered around by health visitors that implies our load is slightly lighter by the fact that they’re not in nappies still. But somehow misses the point that they aren’t quite up to cooking themselves a three-course meal or, in fact, being able to do much at all independently!
'No one is perfect and by extension no element of our lives will be perfect.'
As any parent will tell you, a simple trip, like one to the shop, can turn into a Lord of the Rings style epic saga. Faster than you can say, “sit down in the trolley” 60 times in as many seconds, this shopping trip will have you speaking Elvish and hanging onto a bottle of Specially Selected gin saying “my preciousssss”.
This is the dichotomy of modern parenting. Often what is presented as “simple” or “effortless” is not. Having the perfect house. Body. Relationship. Children. All effortless. And when you cry out, “I’m struggling here, is anyone else struggling?!” people are hesitant to respond because isn’t this all supposed to be effortless. And if it isn’t, what does that say about us and our short comings?
For the record, what is says is that we are human. We are flawed. No one is perfect and by extension no element of our lives will be perfect. Our houses, our relationships, our children are messy. Messy and real just the way they were meant to be.
I’m by no means an expert but I’ve been at this parenting gig for over 15 years now. Here are some tips:
- Good enough, is good enough. That’s right, take that perfection! You’ve tried your hardest?! Sounds like you’re winning to me.
- There are 6 basic human emotions and only one is happiness. The other emotions identified in a 1970s study were sadness, disgust, fear, surprise, and anger. We are meant to feel them all so please feel them all daily. You don’t have to be happy all the time!
- Please don’t treasure every moment, but be present for all of them. If anxiety has you tripping and worrying about what will be or what has been, take a breath and come back to the present.
- Feeling overwhelmed? Set a timer for 5 minutes and see what you can do! That pile of laundry? Paperwork you’ve been dreading? A mindfulness session? Just 5 minutes can make a difference to your outlook.
- Find your village. People that support you and help you when you need it most. Your cheerleaders. These don’t have to be family and are especially important in the early postnatal days.
- Paying for professional support is not a luxury or self indulgent. Why is it we as parents will buy our babies that 100th baby grow they really don’t need, but we feel guilty paying for a lactation consultant? Or maternity support? Or a therapist? Or for a really nice massage after we have birthed out a whole human? Professional support is necessary a lot of the time and should not be viewed as a luxury.