On Sometimes Not Liking Your Children (But Obviously Still Loving The Crap Out Of Them)

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After the week I’ve had (and it’s only Wednesday! Give me strength) I have to put this out there: sometimes when we’re having a really tough week, though I love them ‘to the moon and back’, I struggle to like my children.

I love them more than any amount I can put into words and this is a feeling that only mothers know: I would go to the ends of the earth to ensure their happiness, I’d walk over hot coals to make sure they were safe, I would (and do) sit in a hot stinking soft play for hours to keep them happy. But there is the odd occasion I struggle with how I feel at the consequences of their actions and behaviour.

Let me explain. I am experiencing the effects of three nights of sub-four hour sleeps. The first night Hux wouldn’t settle and wanted to be in bed with his mummy, which sounds lovely (and it really is gorgeous to cuddle up to that little munchbag) but when it’s 3am and you haven’t been to sleep yet thanks to the feet tap dancing up and down your back you start to yearn for your own space again.

Elfie has woken up three mornings in a row at 5.45am. FIVE FORTY FIVE. The first thing she does is pad into my room to wake me up and I immediately tell her it’s far too early to get up and that she needs to go back to her own bed. She usually reacts to this news with a high pitched whine and stomp back to her bedroom which then of course wakes her brother up. Who promptly removes his pyjamas and nappy, natch.

This morning I thought I’d invite her into my bed to see if she’d go back to sleep after a cuddle. She thanked me by wee’ing on my clean sheets (“oh, don’t worry mummy, it was just an accident”). All this after a night of unrest thanks to a bad dream about soft play: “I’m sad because they won’t let me in the door *sob sob*”. I therefore spent the early portion of the morning muttering under my breath as I shoved sheets in the washing machine.

Of course, the result of these massively early mornings are that, come 3pm, Elfie’s absolutely knackered. Hux still has a nap (long may this continue) but she doesn’t anymore so she’s taken to falling asleep on the floor doing a jigsaw, or on the sofa. I wake her up as soon as possible because I don’t want her getting into a routine of napping and then she is a horror for the rest of the afternoon. Her tantrums are few and far between but she likes to whine, and whine she does. And if she’s not whining she’s bursting into unreasonable tears because Hux looked at her or because I won’t let her have a snack 10 minutes before dinner time. The negotiations at this time are intricate and plentiful.

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While all this is happening I’m struggling on myself; if there’s one thing I’m bad at it’s coping on a small amount of sleep. Maybe for one day, yes, but not for three days on the trot. My cold and sore throat just won’t shift, I assume because I’m unable to get any sort of decent rest in, my skin is in a bad shape and I am craving carbs. Not sleeping as much as your body needs really buggers you up and I am feeling it keenly right now.

I’ve never had this much work on – and don’t get me wrong I’m loving it – but I wish I felt a bit more switched on to cope with it all. I swear my brain is working about 40% below capacity and eating cupcakes is not helping. Tiredness makes everything that bit harder; the house is messier, the washing basket is full, there’s no patience with slow movers in the supermarket and my patience is ridiculously tested. I find the arguments like “mummy, Hux isn’t doing the space rocket pancake race properly with my dollies” really hard to referee which leads to yet more wailing (from the kids AND me, turns out) and when an unnamed three year old coloured in my carpet yesterday (“oh don’t worry mummy, it was only an accident”) I had to take myself to the naughty step for a five minute time out. With wine.

These times, they are so testing. I usually have such a high tolerance for strops, arguments, work woes and sniffles but the added tiredness means I’m so much closer to cracking point. And yes, because this is a direct result of my children and their behaviour, I find myself not liking them very much at the moment.

If it makes you feel any better, this feeling leads to me not liking myself that much very much either! I don’t want to blame anything on my children, to bring every single bad feeling in my life back to the fact I’m a single mum now, but god I miss having someone to hand the children over to at 6pm so I can go and sit in a hot bath and stew until sanity returns and I am a happy mummy once more. Self-pity doesn’t help anyone, but at times like this I allow myself to feel that yeah, life is unfair right now. I didn’t ask to do this on my own and would never have chosen to, and having to be everything to everyone is bloody hard. Impossible, at times.

But this morning one of my friends remarked what a happy and well-behaved little boy Hux was. “That’s all you, you know” she said, and you know what? I burst with pride when I heard this because it’s true. When Elfie singlehandedly wrote her own name on Monday? I almost spontaneously combusted. The hours of drawing dots for her to practice her writing were all so worth it.

These two perfect little people are a reflection of a life of love and happiness that I give them and that makes me prouder than anything. There will be weeks when their behaviour and sleep habits drive me to distraction but we’ll get over them. We’ll emerge out the other end a stronger little threesome because of them and we’ll grow up to be so proud of each other. We might be tired, grumpy and have short tempers, but our house is full of love and that never changes, no matter how many sleepless nights we have.

Now, if I can just work out how to stop all the ‘accidents’…

33 Comments
  1. sleep deprivation is an absolute killer! I really empathise, I’m feeling completely swallowed up with the amount of work I have plus trying to wrangle being a mum too and sometimes I just feel so crap. I can’t imagine doing it without having someone to complain to at the end of the day :( I think you are doing such an amazing job Alice xx

  2. Can we have a glass of wine and a good old chinwag please? :) Your blog post sounds like my life over the last year – tired, tired, tired… loads of work to do, *interesting* stuff to do, but lack of focus and inability to concentrate for that long. I think the going to work bit is somehow easier than the staying at home and looking after kids bit. Sympathies!

  3. I totally hear ya! I really really don’t cope we’ll on little sleep and a few weeks ago I cracked. I was in tears all the time and felt like I was constantly shouting at Ava who had taken to being an absolute bugger! In the end I took off to my mums for a couple of nights and it was bliss. I came back feeling like “me” again it was great. Although I’m with Ava on my own a lot I can’t imagine what it must be like to raise 2! Is there anyone who could have them both so you can have some down time? Xx

  4. There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture you know, it’s horrendous isn’t it? I hope things start to improve on the sleep and workload front soon enough! xx

  5. As bad as it sounds i am glad I am not the only one suffering these early morning wake up calls. Elizabeth has been dreadful for the past week and I swear if I see my clock say 6am again in the next week I may snap! However I have a plan, I am teaching her how to use her dvd player in her room. This way if she gets up too early she can put a dvd on.

    Also dont forget the clocks spring forward on sunday so 5:45 will soon be 6:45, which i suppose is a little better right?

    I do have a blackout blind on my shopping list though, one of those sticky ones like the ones lightout blinds sell. I had one a few years ago and they worked wonders. Definitely the right time of year to invest in one again.

    Hugs and keep up the good work

  6. What we have to remember is that sleep deprivation is used as a form of TORTURE. I’d happily tell you all my life’s secrets (not that they’re that interesting) in return for more sleep. To have your “torturer” throwing a tantrum in the afternoon cos they’re tired…. well, I’d say you’re entitled to dislike that child. You’d have to be a saint not to xxxxx

  7. Sleep deprivation is a killer. Handing the kids over – you were lucky! What is worse is when there is someone who SHOULD be giving you a break but they are like “I’ve been at work all day” and think it’s their right to go for that long hot soak.

    You are doing an amazing job, and we’ve moved our youngest’s bed so it’s not as close to the window.

  8. Lack of sleep is a killer and I really hope that you can get some rest soon, especially if you are feeling poorly. I love that although you have definitely had the downs this week, you have also had some great moments of pride. You work so hard to keep your children happy and loved and it is great to be reminded that although the hard work definitely feels like agony at times, it is all worth it xx

  9. I almost cried with pride the other day when Matilda moved a toy from one hand to the other (it was probably an accident and the toy got in the way of her hands meeting but still) so seeing her write her own name will kill me. When I’m tired now I try and remind myself how much harder it will be when she can literally run rings round me. Even with a four month old I understand what you mean, I love her more than anything but I’m not her biggest fan when she’s screaming bloody murder at me just for trying to give her a bath.

  10. Hi Alice,
    Not trolling, but just curious – about what the situation is with you and your ex-husband? I am a long time reader, and got the impression initially, that you ended the relationship because you were unhappy, but the two of you were still close friends and co-parents. But in your more recent blog posts, where you talk about being a single mother you give the impression that your ex doesn’t help enough/that maybe things are no longer friendly between you?
    I ask, because I’ve been thinking about this from my brother’s perspective recently. His wife chose to end the relationship, and has spoken very vocally to their friends about how hard it is for her as a single mother, etc. I’m DEF not saying it isn’t hard (I myself know firsthand it is!) – but all of her complaining didn’t reflect the reality at all: my brother lives close by and works flexibly: he has said to her repeatedly that he will do as much of the parenting as she will let him (he would like to 50% or even more!) – but she refuses his help, and then complains to others about how difficult it is. This gives a really misleading impression that he isn’t willing to do his fair share – I think, if you have honestly chosen to take on the bulk of the parenting, you shouldn’t give off the impression that your ex isn’t pulling his weight. Would you like him to do more, but he won’t? If he would be willing to have them more but you don’t want this, it isn’t fair to complain.
    As I say, I’m really not trolling here! I’m a single mum myself (very different circumstances – their dad lives overseas and I chose to move back, so regular support isn’t an option) and really enjoy reading – I am just interested as to what the situation is with your ex, as you sometimes give a conflicting impression.

    1. I’ve thought a lot about how to reply to this message and I’m still not sure, so bear with me!

      I always thought I didn’t write about my ex on here out of respect for him but having thought lots about it today I think it’s probably because I don’t want to come across as bitter or angry ;) We broke up because we were unhappy – nobody had affairs or anything – and though we are still friendly I wouldn’t say we are friends. He chose to move away after we broke up to concentrate on work, a decision that I still find difficult to swallow. His prioritisation of work over family life when we were together was one of the reasons we decided to split up, and it upsets me that he is such a part-time dad.

      He sees them every other weekend and wednesday afternoons and, while I know this is more than other dads, I wish he was involved more in their day-to-day lives. It’s very rare he’ll ask to see them for extra time but he does have a habit of switching days round often because of work meetings ;) I’m really lucky to have supportive family nearby and my parents see the children more than their dad. I just think they are the two most marvellous people who ever lived and I can’t understand how someone doesn’t want to spend as much time with them as possible?

      I have to say that he does take his financial contribution seriously and in that respect the kids are well-provided for, but in all honesty I’d rather he pay us less and live closer to be more involved in their lives. Like I said, I feel like he’s a part-time dad rather than a co-parent.

      I think what breaks my heart is the time (and I’m sure it will happen) when they will grow up and ask why their dad moved away from them. It sounds like he has a great life in London now but I’m sure he will regret missing so many precious moments when it would have been just as easy for him to live down the road. I can’t imagine living so far away from my babies, I literally couldn’t comprehend being away from them so often and on the days they’re away I spend quite a long time moping around the house (once I’ve enjoyed the sleep).

      I really feel for your brother in this respect, I would take any help my ex offered and I do begrudge the fact that I do all the day-to-day when he gets to swan in every other week and play ‘fun dad’! I quite agree that it isn’t fair to complain if you’re putting yourself in the situation where you’re declining help yet then moaning about how hard it is? Sounds a bit bonkers.

      Anyway – thanks for the question, it was actually quite therapeutic to write down!

  11. This is brilliant…as a Nanny, I don’t have the sleep deprivation to contend with but on some days when my two foot side kick is being a two foot monster, I have flashes of ‘I don’t like you today’ and then quickly told myself how horrid that thought was, but I have wondered if parents felt the same. So this was very reassuring. Not liking them is natural and they probably feel the same when we’re telling them that they can’t ride their muddy scooter through the house or take bunny for a swim in the bath!
    Another great post, from one very entertaining blogger ;)
    Katie x
    http://www.missenchanting.co.uk/

  12. Totally understand the “not liking them at times” thing :-)! We are in the same boat with the early wakings at the moment – one of the two of them is ALWAYS up by 5 am (and sometimes 4.45 – that is NOT a good time for me to be up at!!). Maybe it is the time of year or something! I am very much hoping the clocks going forward will help just a little bit!

  13. I totally get this post Alice. We have been having a rough couple of weeks with Mads. One minute she is my beautiful little girl, kind, caring, funny and affectionate, but the next minute she can be infuriating, rude, naughty and make me so frustrated. I am tired, and have a lot going on and I think I am losing my patience with her more than I should, but I literally cannot wait for her to be in bed at the moment. But then as soon as she’s there I want to get her out and give her a hug.
    I have said to J on a few occasions that I just don’t like her a lot right now, and I always feel guilty. This parenting is a funny old mix of emotions because at the same time I adore her.

  14. I am the same Alice I absolutely cannot function nicely without sleep. I don’t know where I would snap first but it wouldn’t be pretty for anyone. And then I would beat myself up too. This reminds me while growing up if I pissed my momma off I used to suck up to her to test the waters out and say I love you Mommy and she would say I like you right now. lol It makes me still laugh to this day when my two are testing me beyond my limits I find myself thinking in my head I like you right now. Just like her. I am sure there will come a day I am just like my mother and it comes out. As so many other phrases she says Like because I am the boss and because I said so comes out of my mouth already.

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