This morning, while browsing through a parenting social media site, I came across a post that really struck a chord. A series of shorts portraying a woman struggling through long nights with her baby, later a toddler and growing child, followed by a montage of significant milestones in her daughter’s life – sleepovers, boyfriends, holidays with friends, university, moving out and eventually starting her own family. The post aimed to remind mothers in particular that while the sleepless nights of crying, feeding, worry and insomnia may feel all encompassing and never ending, it’s important to cherish every minute as the short years pass by far too quickly.
I’ve noticed a lot of these posts recently, probably because as my children grow the messages they are sharing are resonating more and more. While I’m still living through the long nights (I found the long nights, short years video at 4am while breastfeeding my youngest after all), I can see only too clearly how the years are slipping by. With my eldest daughter turning four next week and my youngest just two, life has been a bit of a blur the past few years. If you’d asked me five years ago where I would be today, I would never have expected to tell you that I’d be married with two children! Although I was in a very long term relationship, it wasn’t something we felt ready for in the slightest!
But as I looked at my girls this evening, I could perceive a slight shift in our life once again. Even though it was followed by the usual cajoling up to bed, persuading into pyjamas and agreeing to just one more story, there was a moment beforehand where they were standing independently in the living room, side by side, watching something on the television, glued together by an invisible bond while my husband and I watched on. Our girls are growing up!
And so it’s time to start adjusting our attitudes to keep up with the children once again. We juggle work and childcare equally between us so can come and go like ships in the night, sparing enough time to fill each other in on the children’s antics, behaviour, needs and requirements through the next “shift”. We don’t have the luxury of working less to spend more time with them so have to be creative in making sure they don’t miss out. We meet at playdates, school gates and, it has been known once or twice, petrol station forecourts to swap shift and get the children to where they need to be. Sometimes there’s a grandparent involved too in order to ensure that the wheels don’t fall off our finely tuned system of parenting.
So yes, I can see how those interminably long nights can lead to short years that simply fly away too fast. As we move into the next phase, we’ll have to find and experience the next set of solutions to accommodate the needs of our growing daughters. It’s a problem that fills me with fear and with dread, with excitement and with anticipation. We are our family, perhaps not the most conventional in some respects but not so different from many others out there.
Our days are full and our nights can be too. A friend of mine compares me often to the swans you see gliding along the surface while paddling furiously under the water where no one can see. For now I will continue to paddle and you will continue to see me glide – I hope!