It’s 4.37am. I mutter a string of expletives as I haul myself out of bed. I spend the next 45 minutes nipping in and out, trying to encourage Henry to have more shut-eye, before he decides he would rather be up for the day. He gives me that grin that says, quite frankly, Mum, it would be boring to go back to sleep. But instead of smiling, I find myself crying. Hot, fat tears rolling down my face, quickly, without warning. I’m cross. Darn cross at the sheer exhaustion of it all. Cross at the fact the day is beginning at sparrow fart yet again. Cross at the fact that I’m already thinking ahead to how wrecked I’ll feel later. Cross over the guilt I’m feeling for even feeling annoyed, when so many people would give anything to be in my shoes.
I want to tell you the tale of a first time mother. She had read many books in preparation, to help her become the mother she always hoped to be. A calm, centred mother who took the challenges of parenthood in her stride – who rolled with the sleepless nights, the changes to her body, the changes to her life – with complete ease.
It’s the weekend. The day begins at 4.38am with the gentle babbling of baby Henry from his cot at the bottom of our bed. We drift in and out of sleepiness until 5.56am when Molly’s face appears inches from mine. “Mornin’ Mummy,” she says climbing into the bed with her entourage of teddies. Bleary eyes are rubbed, a poo filled nappy changed and bottle dispensed, until half an hour later we’re up and raring to go. (Ok, ‘raring’ might be just a slight overstatement here.)
“Let’s play dollies!” Molly declares, waving her Frozen dolls in my face. “You be Elsa and I be Anna!”
“Ok, let’s pretend they’re going to the park,” I say, bending my knees on the sofa to create a slide for them to go down, in an effort to keep my part in the game horizontal for at least a few more minutes.
“No, let’s go on the bouncy castle!” she cries, making Elsa jump vigorously up and down on my belly. “It’s nice and bouncy, Mummy!”
“You need to calm down mummy. You need to calm down,” Molly tells me, patting my back as I stand bouncing Henry in one arm, while wiping my tears away with the other hand. It’s not the picture of perfect parenting: in fact, it’s a complete role reversal. Unruly post tantrum toddler comforts sobbing mum, whose patience (held together that day by a single very frayed thread) has finally given way. It’s the moment when there are no more buttons left to push. The moment you think: “To heck with motherly composure. My child has seriously p@£$ed me off. Now it’s my turn to have a meltdown!”