The Most Overwhelming Part of Being a Parent

On my computer I have a special document. A place I keep ideas, random jots, bullet points… the basis of blog posts and life-changing statements (at least they feel like that at 1am), of which approximately only 30% morph into anything of substance.

This document, and the similar one I keep on my phone, is full of all kinds of ideas destined for greatness (ahem). On there we have sentances such as ‘The Only 3 Fake Tans You’ll Ever Need’, ‘What I Learned About Marriage by Getting Divorced’ and ‘IKEA’.

Opening up my ideas app on my iphone recently I found the genius of simply three words, written on October 23rd at 10.03pm… ‘Brexit? Third Runway? Trump?’ If anyone could summarise what this means I would be most grateful: I literally have no clue.

As I cracked open my document of inspiration yesterday evening there was one thing that stood out to me. One thing I thought it was probably worth writing about. And that was: The most overwhelming part of being a parent.

Again, I have less of a clue about what was going through my mind when I jotted that down. I could have at least given myself a helping hand, maybe also noted the bit that I thought was overwhelming about parenting? Referenced a website I might have seen that inspired me? A conversation, Instagram photo, Tweet?

Nah. Instead I have no clue and am left to blunder ahead into the darkness of this blog post that has no immediate meaning or point.

An approximation of Baby-Led Weaning with Elfie

I think the feeling of being overwhelmed is something that’s so important to talk about as a parent. I didn’t know many (actually, any) other parents when I had Elfie, and I remember feeling so desperate to connect with women in a situation similar to mine. However, this meant I always felt I was on my best behaviour when I met with fellow mums: no dirty jokes, no inappropriate comments… things my best friends will tell you are the very basis of our (brilliant) friendships. And as a young mother myself – a youthful 24 – I was so set on making friends and impressing other women with my knowledge of ‘baby things’ that I probably went overboard on the enthusiasm front. I babbled like the sleep-deprived maniac I was, all about Annabel Karmel to Gina Ford, baby-led vs traditional weaning, the best organic baby clothes shops, the worst places to breastfeed… the kind of stuff I soon learned did not form the basis of friendships that for me would last.

In hindsight, it would have been really nice to be able to chat honestly with someone about the baby I’d just had. Someone who had a sofa I could drink wine on, who I could look at knowingly and say: “this isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, is it?”

Because the thing is, every single last part of parenting is overwhelming, it really is. These babies, these teeny tiny beings who probably aren’t even more that 2 feet high, they crash into your life and they cause havoc. The piles of nappies you generate, the colours of poo they generate, the sleep you miss out on (two years of never sleeping more than 2 hours in a row? Mental), the routines they require, the noise they create. It’s relentless.

I remember my pinnacle of feeling overwhelmed came when Hux was about a year old. I’d been a single parent for six months and felt I’d got into a groove with a toddler and a baby, but then Hux started moving on from baby-led weaning (i.e. chuck some steamed veg in the baby’s direction and hope some it reaches his stomach) to actual proper meals. It was a terrifying realisation that, for the next 18 years (more like 22) I would be wholly responsible for these two little people. And the thing that weighed heaviest on me was that it was my job and my job alone to feed them three times daily.


Hux in pink :) :) :) 

That was the scariest thing: THE MEALS. You see, when you have kids, life seems to revolve around how much they’re sleeping and how much they’re eating. For me, at that time when an entire night’s sleep was a longed for memory, I felt the sheer pressure of having to cook three meals a day was immense.

Because if you’re not organized yet still want your children to eat 3 square home-cooked meals a day, the effort of this can take up the entirety of your waking hours. Once breakfast is cleared away it’s time to think about lunch. Once the mid-day meal is scoffed you need to start prepping dinner. Insert more effort if you’re cooking with only seasonal/organic produce (YUP). There were some days I felt terrified to leave the house because OMG when would the meal prep get done?!

OK, my weeping over the pressure to cook these meals might have also had something to do with the sleep thing (no more than 2 hours in a row for 2 years, anyone?): in a past life I’d juggled Marketing budgets of more than the value of my first house with no issues. But it was a representation of just how overwhelming this whole motherhood deal is. You’re responsible for taking care of actual human beings, and if you screw that up it’s two teeny tiny little lives that are ruined. PRESSURE OR WHAT?!

These days I’m a little more laid-back with our meals. Not being on a tightly squeezed budget has something to do with it – we order food from Gousto once a week which helps (they’re amazing, get £25 off your first box here), and are partial to the odd Deliveroo – and I’m not hell-bent on making sure all my bread/pasta/local-grown veg is organic. There’s the odd time I cobble together plain pasta with a sprinkle of cheese and some cucumber sticks for dinner too, and you know what? That’s OK. 

Shit happens in every single aspect of parenting, and that stress coupled up with sleep deprivation can result in feeling overwhelmed over the tiniest of things. LOADS of things, in fact. But the important thing to remember is that we’re all going through it. You might be babbling at strangers with knackered wide-eyes about bloody Annabel Karmel, debating attachment parenting vs cry-it-out with fervour, but it’s OK to chill out a bit and tell a dirty joke instead.

And if you need to learn some – I’m your girl ;)

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  1. Fran wrote:

    Totally agree with this. The relentlessness of feeding: cooking, feeding, cleaning up – and repeat, was one of my key motivations to go back to work. Sounds insane now but it really ground me down!

    Totally get you on the wanting to fit in thing too – I really did think once I had a baby I’d become “A Mum” and therefore ‘get’ all the mum chat. I was probably too invested in buggy comparisons, but definitely put too much of myself to one side when chatting to other mums, resulting in lots of unfulfilling baby-based chats when I really just wanted to moan about being bloody knackered/having no nice clothes to wear, drink another coffee/wine and not feel like I needed to make small talk!

    Posted 11.17.16 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      ARGH THE CLEANING. I’d forgotten about the cleaning.

      You’re so on-the-nose: I also though that becoming a mum automatically made you ‘a mum’, I thought babies were all women wanted to talk about when they had kids and was then surprised when I snoozed at mentions of other kids’ bowel movements. I’m not sure you could pay me to go back to those early days of feeling out of my depth…

      Posted 11.17.16 Reply
  2. Well I am CLEARLY overwhelmed, as I opened this to read, then totally forgot where I was. I saw that picture of Elfie as a baby and thought to myself ‘Oh my God, how much does that baby look like Elfie?! I have to tell Alice!’ God….

    Posted 11.17.16 Reply
  3. Liveseygirl wrote:

    Hi. Great post! The thing I find overwhelming is that you can’t leave them for a minute. Mine all have winter birthdays so they are nearly 7, 5 and 3. We are past the stage of can’t leave the room, but I mean that they always have to have adult supervision. Like ALWAYS. I know that sounds stupid, on a day to day basis I don’t think about it, but then it hits me: adult supervision ALWAYS ???????????? No popping over to the garage across the road for milk, no spontaneous night out, no going to one extra shop because school will be out any minute. The meal thing doesn’t bother me but the 24/7 thing…..

    Posted 11.17.16 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      Yes! Every time I leave the house after dark ALONE it feels like I’m going on holiday – I’m usually tied to kid-duty ;) FREEDOM!

      Posted 11.17.16 Reply
  4. Lia wrote:

    It doesn’t get any easier either (sorry) – it just changes. Although saying that, Dex is worldy wise to walk a mile up to school on his own now, even though at age 11 I’m still having twice daily battles about teeth brushing & reminding him where the laundry basket is!!

    Posted 11.18.16 Reply
  5. Babawaga wrote:

    I so get this, Alice. Food = overwhelmed mama. As I failed miserably at breast-feeding my two & was crushed by guilt over this (that’s an entirely different kettle of fish right there!) I was – still am to a certain extent – hell-bent on making sure weaning/meal-times went as smoothly and successfully as poss. Cue me being back at work with a long commute but sitting up to 1am cooking Annabel Karmel’s beef casserole. …dedication or sheer madness, right? I’m much more relaxed about things now that no. 2 is over a year and at nursery but still feel the odd twinge of anxiety at buying a Hipp toddler-meal.

    Posted 11.18.16 Reply
  6. Keri-Anne wrote:

    Gosh, i nodded all the way through this. I was that parent that was so desperate to makes friends too and that parent that never left the house because i wanted to do meals and make sure she was in the bath same time every day and that i did reading every night (even though she had no idea what i as saying) etc. The pressure we put on ourselves too! I would stay awake in the evenings making up batches of meals and desserts too but after i had Mia, i just relaxed a little more as i knew i would make myself ill trying to do it all perfectly

    Posted 11.20.16 Reply