It’s a balancing act, this motherhood lark. Some are able to walk the tightrope with accomplished poise, never falling off. Others have the fine finesse of a trapeze artist, swinging gracefully from one situation to another; any fumbling disguised or forgotten in a triumphant final flourish. My mothering possesses neither of these qualities. In fact, the only thing it has in common with either of them is that right now, is it feels like a bit of a circus.
Amidst the mountains of washing, the brightly coloured trail of toys that frankly, I was too tired to put away the night before, and the cups and plates waiting to go into the as yet, unstacked dishwasher, I sometimes feel overwhelmed; that I can’t keep up. My Big Top is a mess. Everyday life has become comedic, we lurch from one clown like skit to another. There are days when I feel that I am slowly losing my metaphorical marbles. One morning recently I picked up a jar of marmalade and tried to drink from it, thinking it was a cup of tea. That’s the level of madness that I’m at right now.
Millions of women have two children. Surely it can’t be that hard, can it? Sometimes it feels that way. All I know is, after 8 weeks of waking every 2-3 hours each night, I can barely remember my own name let alone what to put on my shopping list. This last week I’ve been house hunting, looking for a place to rent. During the course of a morning’s viewings I constantly had to check where EB was, that I’d picked up the car seat and put him back in the car and hadn’t left him sleeping in his Maxi Cosi in some uninhabited flat. My head felt so full of noise, I worried I'd have an 'out' moment and just forget him.
Sleep deprivation and general exhaustion are responsible for the fact my multitasking capabilities are off kilter at the moment; that the house looks a bit of a mess, that I’m slightly unorganised and that I certainly don’t look anywhere near the yummy mummy I’d like to be. My mantra for 2013 was to treat myself kindly, so I keep telling myself that all that stuff doesn’t matter (right now). What I am finding hard though, and what does matter, is managing the dynamic between Pip and EB; balancing my time with each of them and nurturing the relationship between them. That matters to me. A lot.
Pip loves being a big brother, he really does. He’s so proud of the new addition to our family. He is very sweet with EB and very tactile - but alas, not very gentle. Some days I fear that EB is in danger of becoming a human canon ball. Whoever invented the Baby Bjorn bouncy chair clearly didn’t design it with older brothers in mind. It’s OK, I tell myself, we just won’t use the chair when Pip’s around. Yet even a pat on the head from Pip seems to turn EB into a nodding dog. Boom! Down comes a massive hand on to EB’s delicate crown. ‘BE GENTLE’ I cry for the umpteenth time that day. I hate myself for it. I know he’s only trying to be affectionate, but my pleas of gentleness seem to fall on deaf ears. Big clown loves to play with little clown and sees nothing wrong with what he is doing. In the meantime, Mummy, the frazzled ringmaster, becomes increasingly stressed out.
Try as I might, I can’t seem to help Pip find the balance between showing affection and doing it gently. A number of weeks in now, I’m finding it increasingly hard to remain patient, to parent calmly and say; ‘Well done, nice and gently, that’s right.’ It’s taking all my will power to resist the temptation to bark; ‘Do NOT do that to your brother. You’ll hurt him’. If I reflect on it, it makes me sad. I don’t want to have to constantly be telling him off for not being gentle enough. I don’t see malicious intent in his actions, just the adoration of an over exuberant three year old, but managing it is turning out to be a full time job.
Inside my head I can hear the broken record of a mother with her needle stuck, continually repeating; ‘ Be Gentle’...'BE Gentle'...'BE GENTLE’. I tell myself millions of babies have survived the rigorous demonstrative love of older siblings and it will be fine, but trying to balance protecting my youngest whilst not wanting to discourage my oldest from demonstrating his love seems so difficult. Who’d have thought that something so well meant would be a cause of stress? I’m hoping it’s just a phase, that it will pass soon. My new juggling act will certainly be much easier to perform if it does.