I clearly remember the rose-tinted spectacles of optimism I wore when pregnant with my eldest boy.
Of course, I knew parenting would be nothing like the white-picket fence images of the TV commercials – where the mum is radiant in her pure white dress, smiling down at her cherubic infant who gurgles adorably as she changes his nappy (which no doubt smells of raindrops and roses).
But ignorance is bliss, and I still managed to kid myself that becoming a parent would somehow turn me into Mary Poppins, so filled with joy by the arrival of my little miracle that I’d laugh away his tears, wipe up his mess cheerfully, and brush off the sleep deprivation with a strong coffee and a smile.
But that’s because we rarely capture images of what parenting really looks like.
It’s like the social media snapshots of our lives. We show the happy, smiling, sunshine moments. The fun, the parties, the “you gotta laugh” incidents. Our pictures feature the tidy corners of our living rooms, the front sections of the carefully-iced birthday cakes (which don’t reveal the back has collapsed into mush)
So what does parenting really look like?
And when I say sleepy that’s really too cute a word to describe the sheer, sell-your-own kidney for an uninterrupted night, form of torture that a baby inflicts upon your life. Believe me people, it’s not ‘tired but happy’. I have wept over my baby’s cot, begging him to go back to sleep….
Isn’t it just adorable when kids get their first taste of real food? Especially when they shove it up their nose, rub it in their hair, and throw it down your cleavage *tries desperately not to retch*
Chicken pox. The appearance of those little dots which not only tells you your child is going to look like a pus-filled monster out of a horror movie for at least a week, but he’ll keep you awake with his screaming and roaring for at least 7 nights until you feel as sweaty and disgusting as he looks.
Boring. And frustrating. A smelly uphill battle to get your cherub to stay put and do his business in the proper place. It can take months. Months of washing urine and faeces from clothing, carpets, bedding and pretty much every surface you’ve got.
It doesn’t just happen during the Terrible Twos. Nope. As they grow older the crying just gets louder, the door slams are more dramatic and the whining is so high-pitched you begin to think only dogs could possibly hear them. Yes, they could be hungry, over-tired, a little too stimulated…. or maybe they’re just bad-tempered little brats!
And then there are the moments where we don’t happen to have any photographic evidence (a bit difficult to pick up a camera when you’re in shock)
When your baby has colic and reflux, and manages to throw up his milk on every second feed in an Exorcist-like fashion, spraying you with thick goo that drips from your hair like white ectoplasm. The only upside of this situation was that I learned to spot a potential eruption and tip Brodie over my shoulder so the yucky stuff landed behind me like I was a seagull who’d just taken a big wet, white crap.
(Why I never thought to get a photo of this is beyond me!)
When your husband takes baby and toddler out for a day at the zoo on his own. While walking around the animal enclosures he realises toddler needs a nappy change, so finds a quiet spot on the grass (since there are no toilets nearby) to perform a quick clean-up. He whips off what he assumes is a wet nappy – only for a big, heavy, still-steaming turd to roll into the palm of his hand.
(Oh yeah, hubby still has nightmares about that one!)
So the next time a parent presents an image of a crisp, white linen tablecloth and perfectly-turned-out children, just bear in mind this is a snapshot of their life – and about as realistic as a Tyrannosaurus Rex strolling down the local high street.
That fixed smile the mum is wearing on her face is to cover up the silent prayer she’s saying, in the hope the kids can keep up the pretence until you’ve gone home.
Check this out for even more hilarious – but frighteningly true – examples of What Parenting Really Looks Like