Last night, I lost my cool. It wasn’t the first time of course.
It was 4am, and the little one refused to sleep after her night feed. She twisted around like an enthusiastic wrestler, grabbed everything in sight including my hair and top, and repeatedly flipped onto her tummy (and then complained at the top of her voice after that because she doesn’t know how to flip back). I lost count of the number of times I went to her crib to pick her up and put her down, or to flip her back like a prata man.
I was mad. I was frustrated. I was desolate.
I tossed bolsters around and fluffed the covers angrily. I stared into space. I held my head in my hands and wondered about my life. I told my beleaguered husband I have no idea what else to do.
After close to 2 hours battling her and trying to drown out her shrieks, I latched her again and she blissfully sank into sleep for the next 2.5 hours.
In the brightness of the morning and the cheeriness of her smiles, I was wracked with guilt. I’m a horrible mum, I told myself. Why can’t I just be better, be more patient, be more loving, I chided myself tearily.
As I was lamenting to my good friend Em about how difficult it was to be a good person, a good mum, and to be happy, she said something profound. “Happy is hard. I’m not happy too, even though I’m trying. I’ve concluded that it’s okay to not be happy. That’s life.”
It struck me. Why are we always putting pressure on ourselves to achieve picture perfect happiness? Part of the reason why I’ve been so hard on myself is because I find it so hard to be happy with my new life. Movies, TV, social media – they all tell us that motherhood is a dream, that it’s an honour, it’s a beautiful life filled with sentimental music, slow-motion dancing, sparkles and smiles.
Don’t get me wrong. My baby is an absolutely adorable cherub and her smiles are truly the best gift I’ve received. Needless to say, I love her with all my heart. But happiness is overrated. Real life is hard work. It’s stressful, and it’s full of emotional upheavals and questions and doubts. The good stuff you see? They last, oh, about 3 minutes before that wide-eyed innocent face descends into a scrunched up red-faced squall that lasts for an hour or more.
Perhaps it’s better for our sanity if we just accept that life is gritty and harsh. Shit happens. Angry/ugly cries are normal. Like what Em reminded me, life is about dealing with crap that comes our way, over and over again. And that perhaps what life is all about, is learning to be more resilient.
We shouldn’t be striving for that elusive happiness. We should be striving for gratitude. That things are alright. For me, I have an amazing husband, a very loving and supportive father and brother, really good friends, a home to live in, food to eat, and a happy and healthy baby.
I may have no time to nap/eat and a proper night life – or sleep for that matter – might be a thing of the past, but I have good things in my life. Will things turn out better in the end? They may not. But I’d be better equipped to handle it (here’s hoping).
And there are always the small split-second picture-perfect moments to enjoy. Enjoy them we must, because they don’t last forever.