Struggling with a newborn? Need a quick pick-me-up? Read Lou’s highly amusing (and a little bit naughty) take on the parenting catch-cry, ‘It gets easier…’
When you first have your baby people very helpfully let you know that after the first three months it gets a lot easier. So you wait, like the sleep-deprived psycho that you have become, and watch the clock tick by.
You rip the pages out of that stupid day-by-day inspirational calendar that your mother-in-law gave you and hurl them into the bin with all the frustration of a small dog desperately humping a couch cushion. You watch out your window at the world of normal people passing below and wonder when you’ll be back amongst them, worrying about inconsequential things like the weather or getting home in time to watch The Big Bang Theory. It’s always being repeated, you fools! Watch something better!
Sorry, I digress. So you’re treading water in this difficult time of adjusting to life under the power of a tiny dictator, whose yells you have to interpret, and who has a very complicated relationship with things like sleep and defecation. Just one more month. Just two more weeks. You know it’s an arbitrary deadline but it feels so comforting to feel as if there’s some light at the end of the tunnel that’s not your husband prying your eyelids open to let you know that your tits are leaking on the doona again.
The three-month mark arrives with a whimper and a bang. The whimper being your sniffles because you realise that nothing really seems to have changed and the bang being ironic because there’s no banging whatsoever going on in your house anymore.
It’s still really hard. You still don’t know what you’re doing. You’re still in a complete fog. So what’s up? When does the easy part start?
It took me a while (my kid is two and a half years old and his most recent public performance involved him screaming the word BOOBIES repeatedly in Target to a captive audience of shocked old women) to realise what’s going on with this “it gets easier” rubbish. It’s not that the actual act of parenting gets any easier or that your kid becomes any more compliant or willing to behave like an actual human being. It’s that your goalposts as to what constitutes as “acceptable” keep shifting until you find that you’re letting all manner of shit just slide right by like a naked toddler giving you the slip on a leather couch.
New mothers are under a hell of a lot of pressure – relatives, in-laws, more experienced friends, what we see in the media, annoying strangers in Coles – and it’s very possible to drown under the weight of all of those expectations about what you should be or could be doing. I remember blowing up at a stranger in a carpark who made a snide comment to her husband about the fact that my baby wasn’t wearing a hat for the ten metre walk between the shops and my car. Or the time I was in a parents’ room where two mothers were breast-feeding and I was feeding my son a bottle. A third woman came in and told the breast-feeders that they were doing an amazing job and she then looked me up and down like I was subhuman. I didn’t blow up at her but I stored that away in my mental filing cabinet of “Reasons I am Crap” that my mind likes to flick through when I’m feeling particularly low about myself.
New mothers, who are just trying to figure out what they hell they’re doing and who the hell they are now, have their backs broken under the intense pressure of this ever-present guilt and fear that they’re somehow not enough. The reason that I think people say it gets easier is because, eventually, you stop crying in the shower and start laughing at your reflection in the mirror as you realise you’ve been walking around all morning with a ladybug sticker above your eyebrow. You stop writing down the times that you’re feeding your child and start sitting with them on the couch eating popcorn for lunch instead. You stop feverishly checking the baby-monitor and start leaving the door open a crack instead in case they yell out requests for milk or to tell you that there are scary eyes on the roof (try sleeping after that one).
It gets easier … But it’s not because someone flicks a magic switch and your baby becomes easier to deal with.
It’s because you get to see yourself grow from the person you were to the incredible mother and woman who you’re capable of becoming. It gets easier because you ease up on yourself and you learn to breathe again. It gets easier because it’s hard to keep a straight face when childcare tells you that whenever your son exits a room he turns back and yells in a very camp voice, “Bye bitches!”.