This Diary of Motherhood is a series of weekly letters to my first baby, my little son who I call Baby Bird. I know not everyone wants to read about the highs and lows of motherhood so you can read non-baby related posts about travel, writing, freelancing or Amsterdam instead. Alternatively read one of my short stories or check out some book reviews and recommendations.
Dear Baby Bird
Another busy week for you and me. The fact that I like busy weeks full of seeing people and doing things and wondering where the time goes is a healthy reminder of how far we've all come. We have done more in the last few weeks - going to Italy, having a visit from your grandparents (my parents) and meeting up with friends or going on playdates almost every day - than we did in the first few months of your life. Of course, this is normal. Of course I feel much more able to do things now. Of course you are more able to do things compared with before. Of course, of course, of course. But that doesn't mean I don't feel a a little bit chuffed and a lot of relief that this is the way it is.
Your grandparents actually came to see you last week, but I forgot to mention it in that diary entry because I was doing what I do best and having a little pity party. Well, this week has been different - mostly because I've been too busy to stop and indulge the negative thoughts - and today, we have been have actually enjoyed a different kind of party.
The visit from my parents was brief but in some ways this worked really well. We focused on spending as much time together as we could, and we didn't make any grand plans or attempt any big outings. They were so impressed with how mobile, busy and full of energy you were amd they said nice and encouraging things to me about how much more relaxed I seemed (compared with my visit in March), and we all enjoyed being a family together, something I truly do miss about living close to them.
And today, the party has been Father's Day and we celebrated your father.
At some drinks with friends (and their babies) on Friday evening, we all joked about what each of us were doing for Father's Day, because again like Mother's Day, in this first year of your life it's not for you to worry about showing your dad your appreciation, it's up to the other parent, i.e. me. The dads were joking about comparing gifts and treats and ways that they were given a special day. I'll be honest and say that I felt a slightly uncomfortable pressure at this point because since we became parents, I have felt that I have carried more of the burden of parenting than your dad. This was expected and couldn't be helped. His work brings in a lot more money so he had to get back to work much quicker and my boobs were the ones feeding you for months. I was also the one who carried you for 40 weeks and five days so when you were born you were already part of me; it was my body you craved to be back inside or lying up against.
While I expected all this and didn't do anything to prevent this from happening - indeed, I am still breastfeeding you - I have had many, many, many moments when I have begrudged it and in the days and weeks approaching Father's Day I couldn't stop these thoughts from resurfacing. This timing was very off, to say the least.
Because your father doesn't really deserve this. He is and has always been present. He may not have been able to share the burden as equally as we both wanted in those early months, but he was always there and if I asked him to do something, more often than not he did it. I know that sounds a bit vague and a bit ungenerous, but I think we'd both say it's true and fair. I didn't know what I was doing in those early days, and it was happening to my body. It was physically impossible for him to take on half of the feeding duties and almost as unfeasible for him to understand how that would make me feel or what he could do to mitigate that. But now, he and I are beginning to carve out some sense of shared ownership of certain duties, without me feeling like I have to dictate them or him feeling like he has to fight my iron-clad control over your care. In other words, we're figuring out how to get some balance back.
But there is one thing you father has done much, much better than me and it is this that I honoured and celebrated him for today.
He has kept fun in our lives.
While I was very aware of losing my sense of identity after you were born, it's only now that I also see how my sense of fun disappeared for quite some time. In some ways this was much more damaging. But your dad was there every day doing what he could to make us both laugh. He has been tickling you, playing with you, talking in silly voices to you since day one, while I have only sporadically done so. At the time I was silently begging him to swap his "joking around" for nappy changes, a few middle of the night feeds and a couple of hours uninterrupted sleep, but now I see how incredibly important it was that one of us hadn't lost their sense of fun and sense of humour.
I was particularly reminded of this at lunch on Father's Day when we met up with an old friend of mine and his fiancee and their 22 month old daughter. Almost exactly one year older than you, this little girl was so very different from you in almost every way. Independent and thoughtful she was repeating words I said in almost exactly the same way I said them. She was a real person with her own mind and her own control over her body and her wants and needs. It was mind boggling to think that in a year, this is what you may be like.
After the lunch, your father turned to me and said how nice it had been. "It was so good to meet parents like us," he said and I thought he was talking about how they had struggled with poor sleep for much of the first year of their daughter's life and how they'd said having a baby had totally changed their lifestyle, and hardest of all, had really put some of their friendships to the test. These are all things we've definitely become very aware of in this last year and regularly talk about.
But actually I think he meant this in a much more general sense. I think he meant that we are like them in that we can laugh and roll our eyes at the hard parts. That we can now make jokes about things that used to make us want to scream or cry or both. That we are choosing to focus on the positives as much as we can. That we are having fun as parents. That fun is in many ways the key to parenting, not just for the kids but for the grown-ups too.
I don't know if your dad knew this all along, maybe he did, or maybe we just got lucky that it felt instinctive to him to keep fun at the top of his agenda when it got buried under a million other things in mine. So today I celebrate and thank your father for that. And I thank him for helping me get fun back up to the top of my list of priorities too.
Your fun-loving, daddy-loving, our-little-family-loving, crazy-in-love, mother x
Frances M. Thompson
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