Motherhood - tiring toddler days
Raising a kiddo is a lot of things, a lot of mostly really good things, but one thing that's guaranteed is how tiring it is to care for your tiny human being. They need so much from you, even on a good day, that sometimes finding the energy to do all the things you have to and want to do can be hard. I feel like I manage it pretty well on the whole, juggling being a full time parent and my work as a photographer. It's not always easy, but we've found systems and strategies that work for us. She's always been in a good routine nap-wise, plays happily by herself a lot and enables me to feel like most days there is enough time for her, enough time to work and enough time to simply enjoy being with each other.
Of course, it doesn't always work that way. Some days and weeks are really hard, and you feel like you can't do anything right. You're behind on work, washing, cooking, cleaning and everything feels overwhelming and like you can't cope. We've been in a really tiring phase lately, which thankfully as I write this we have now moved past. That's the thing with kiddos, and everyone says it. 'It's just a phase". You know that nothing is permanent, not the good stuff or the bad. It's all fleeting, but each phase can feel so intense that even though you know it won't last you can't quite see your way out of it. Until one day, things suddenly feel easy again.
Rory used to sleep twelve hours a night a wake around 6.30am, but in the last few months she's been waking earlier at around 5.30am. Sometimes 4.30-5am, and not going back to sleep until her morning nap around 9am. I can't complain...she's been sleeping through the night since she was ten months old (give or take a few bouts of teething or a cold that makes her more wakeful) so I know how lucky we are to be getting at least between 6-8 hours of sleep a night. I've experienced the extreme sleep deprivation that comes with having a newborn, as Rory woke almost every two hours through the night until she was around eight months old. That was hard. At least back then she was fairly inactive during the day, so even if I'd had a rough night it was fairly easy to keep up with her until nap time or bedtime. Toddler tiredness is a different kind of tiredness to having a baby and getting broken sleep during the night. It's the compound effect of the early starts, the donkey-work of heavy lifting them and their stuff, but also the mood swings and the demands they make on your attention in a different way to when they are a baby. The whining, the yelling, the frustrations of a having so many feelings that they're not sure what to do with.
On top of the early starts, she's been teething quite badly. Especially in the last few weeks. Four molars all coming through at the same time, poor thing. Typically when she's got teeth coming through she gets a little snotty and can't breathe too well, she doesn't want to eat a lot because of the pain and she doesn't nap or sleep as well at night for the same reason. So what you have on your hands is a tired, hungry, snotty and grumpy kiddo. Because they're grumpy and in pain, you get the brunt of their bad mood. Rory barely wants to be put down when she's teething, often cries all day or yells at me in frustration. It's like nothing makes her happy, and teething remedies only last so long. And when she doesn't sleep or nap too well, there goes my time for work and rest. It's a hard cycle for all of us, and it feels never ending!
Honestly, these are the days and weeks when I really struggle with the tiredness. I stop taking care of myself, I feel down a lot and my work and relationships suffer. I'm running on minimal energy and enthusiasm, and parenting just feels like too much. Gav works a lot, sometimes six days a week and we don't have any family nearby or other childcare to give us a break. So when times get tough, there's nothing to do but keep on going as best we can until the teething or sickness or whatever passes this time around. I know we're lucky because for us we have it pretty easy with Rory most of the time, and I can't imagine how hard it must be to take care of a toddler who is sick a lot or perhaps dealing with some long-term illness or disabilty. The toll that must take on the parents will be huge, and if any of them are reading this they probably think I have zero to complain about, And they'd be right!
But of course, that's not to say it's not still valid to feel like some days are hard. Because they are. As much as you love your kid, and as amazing company as your kid can be, sometimes their demands on you are just too much. When they're not happy, but you're still having to cook for them, clean them, dress them and tidy up after them...well, parenting is a thankless job in those times. You realise how much the smiles and cuddles and silly things they do make up for all the hard bits of parenting, and overwhelmingly so. I'm so glad we're through these last few weeks of teething troubles. We've had some of the best days yet together, me and my Rory, full of laughter and cuddles and enjoying each other's company. I miss her when she's gone to bed, and I want to go downstairs and climb into her cot and snuggle my face up against hers so I can hear her breathe. I want to bottle this cute and funny and kind and energetic little human and keep her this way forever.
There's always tough times with your kiddo, but one thing you can guarantee is that no phase lasts too long. You gotta roll with the punches somewhat, and try not to forget for too long to be grateful for all that you have. Get outdoors, be chill about naps, don't worry too much about your emails and just hug it all out until your days seem easier again. It's hard, but man oh man they are so dang cute.