“Mama wins today,” I smugly said to my husband over dinner tonight.
He smirked at the conviction with which I made that statement.
“Mama wins today,” I repeated, as I proudly looked at the settled, alertly awake newborn in my arms, the happy, albeit exhausted, toddler on his lap eating a nutritious meal I had prepared, made from scratch with fresh, wholesome, food-blog-worthy ingredients, which involved oranges, greens, purples and pinks.
Are you a brand new mother, mama? Or have you been a mama for a little while now, but have no idea how to handle the stage your child is currently going through? Or are you, like me, trying to navigate the treacherous new path of being a mother of one more than you previously had? Or are you a veteran mama that is just going through a more trying time than usual?
If so, then maybe you’ll understand my sentiments.
Being a mother is not a competition. That’s not really what I mean by “winning”. But it sure as hell does feel like a video game sometimes. Just when you think you’re ahead, gathering all the digital fruit and dodging all the bad guys with their big chompy teeth, your big scary video game ultimate arch-nemesis derails all of your efforts and you think to yourself: I was just about to get to the next level, and now I’m back at a space well behind square one. (As you can probably tell, I didn’t play a lot of sophisticated video games as a child.)
Tuna has decided to occasionally drop her nap altogether, which makes for quite a delightful afternoon. Sometimes – no, all the time – I really need the adult to child ratio to drop to at least 1:1 for part of my day, or if I’m lucky, 1:0 if they both decide to nap at the same time.
My darling newborn daughter cries a lot. A lot. Sometimes, inconsolably, and it pushes me to the point of desperation because I don’t know how to make her happy.
This is new for me.
Tuna wasn’t much of a crier. I actually can’t tangibly remember any severe crying episodes where I threw my hands up in exasperation and didn’t know what to do. But then, Tuna was my first, and time and patience was something I had in abundance. My attention was exclusively reserved for her every need. Heaven help anyone or anything that tried to get in the way of me running to her every time she made a peep. Puff, who has been bestowed with this nickname by her Papa thanks to the orchestra of grunting sounds she makes whether asleep or awake, cries a lot more. It could be that that’s just her newborn personality, or it could be that she often has to wait for me to attend to Tuna before I can get to her.
For the past month, I have not felt like I’ve been winning. In fact, every day I have felt a little bit more like I’m losing. Losing, terribly. Becoming a worse mother, day by day. Yelling too much. Snapping too much. Crying in frustration too much. Feeling guilty that my children were seeing me this helpless, this weak, this powerless.
I knew that the transition from one to two kids was going to be difficult, but not this difficult. Nothing could have really prepared me for this. Guys, this is hard.
Looking back now, I realise that I had gotten to the point with Tuna where I felt like I had it reasonably together as a mother. Of course, there were bumps in the road, but it all felt manageable. I could usually figure her out and nothing felt totally impossible.
And I suppose I expected that feeling of ‘togetherness’ to continue when Puff arrived.
In fact, I can honestly say that this is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.
But today, oh today. It’s 8.50pm. Both babies have been asleep for the past hour or so. A walked out of Tuna’s room just as I had finished up the dinner dishes just before 8 o’clock and we both basked in that weird, quiet moment.
Everyone is alive.
Content, I’d like to think.
The apartment doesn’t look like a trashed day care centre.
Puff didn’t cry as much today.
Tuna didn’t scream as much today.
I didn’t lose my cool as much today.
I made dinner. I made dinner. I made dinner.
I wasn’t as hard on myself today, and let go of some “nevers” and “absolutely nots” which, when I looked at it from the perspective of me as a mother today, versus me as a mother two years ago, are things I am comfortable moving into the “negotiable” pile. Some things are not negotiable, and A and I are both clear on what those are. But these things – well, they were things I imposed on myself, with no compelling reason behind them. They just caused me stress. Things that made me feel like an inadequate mother if I even entertained the thought of them.
Letting go can be so therapeutic. It’s freeing. It opens up possibilities you never would have previously considered. It makes you understand perspectives you never would have appreciated otherwise. Perspectives that maybe you judged without being in that other mother’s shoes.
I’m going to bed tonight without thinking anxiously, “Oh my gosh – how am I going to get through another day of this?”
In fact, these little, teeny tiny wins today, have given me a renewed sense of confidence that maybe, just maybe, this is not going to be the insurmountable feat I thought it was yesterday.
I’m going to take this one day at a time. One hour at a time. And in some moments, one minute at a time.
And you should too.