Sleeping on the floor in the shower was not a good look. This month 2 years ago my life changed. One of the greatest gifts I have ever received, my daughter, was born. From the outside, everything looked perfect. We had a second child, my wife had the daughter she always wanted, Bhagat had a sibling and I would get to experience the joy of having a daughter. But from the moment she was born everything changed.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. She is an amazing child and we are fortunate to have two wonderful children but when she was born I didn’t feel like that.
I didn’t feel like that because my life changed DRASTICALLY. When it was just my son, I had a life, I could still go to the gym, work in the evenings, sleep and had some contact with other dads/guys but from the moment she was born, my son was moved into his own room with me. That was great in theory as my wife would nurse our baby daughter and my son (at that point 1-year-old) would night wean and sleep with me. Unfortunately, he was a terrible sleeper, struggled with weaning and was not used to sleeping with me. He missed his mum; he would get upset without reason, ask for his mum constantly and started suffering from eczema for the first time in his life (we have no family history of it) in his life. I believe it was triggered by stress.
He would be up constantly through the night, I would just pray that he would go to sleep and feel increasingly anxious and frustrated with each waking. I kept thinking “how am I going to get up for work in the morning”? I resented my wife for giving her full attention to my daughter and leaving me to deal with my son. What frustrated me more was that she had high standards that I couldn’t meet she didn’t want me to give him calpol (when he was ill), piriton for his skin, or let him watch too much TV. Even though I know she was right, it made it harder.
I’d barely make it to work and was like a lost headless chicken.
Sometimes during my break, I would go to the doctor’s shower room in the hospital, lock the door, lie down on the cold concert floor, set my alarm for 10 mins and try and nap.
I didn’t exercise, didn’t work on my goals, I didn’t bathe (as much as I should have), my clothes were not ironed and I was a general mess. I was just trying to get through each day and at points I’d wake up in a dread thinking, “not again”?!
What is worse is that I put a strain on our marriage. I was burnt out and not living the life I wanted to, which meant I was miserable. Being miserable meant it was a drain to be around me and my wife kept asking me “what’s wrong with you”? She didn’t understand how I couldn’t just get on with it and why I was so easily affected by the change.
Fast forward six months and everything started to change. As the kids got older, they started sleeping better. Sleep was probably the biggest factor in making me feel better. I was also fortunate enough to be supported by my wife to be able to give up my job at the hospital. Naturally having less to do meant that I had more time to sleep, look after my mental and physical health and have energy left be fully present for my time with the kids.
I feel completely different now. I am much happier, healthier and life is more balanced but those first six months were HARD.
I know people have it a lot harder than me; single parents with 2+ young kids etc and I don’t know how they do it. I know some people also find it a breeze and have kids who sleep through or whose life isn’t impacted by having kids. I also know, after speaking to a lot of new mums at my clinics, that most parents find it really really hard.
I tell them, “no one and nothing can prepare you for the first six months but if you can get through that period, you will be fine”.
I’m writing this, not because I am a great parent, or because I want to put down the absolute joy it is to have kids. I am writing it because no one told me how hard it was going to be and how much it could affect me. If I knew maybe I would have done something different. If I had to do it all over ..
- I’d hire more help like a cleaner and cook
- I’d schedule time each week so I can do something for myself i.e go to the gym or for a walk
- I’d find someone who could relate to me so I could hear the words, “don’t worry that’s normal, it happens to all of us and it’s going to be fine”.