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parenting through changes | coping and not coping

I’ll tell you something I think is true: I’m not a good parent.

I’m a trier. But only when I stop and think about it. Day to day, minute to minute, I’m not a good parent. In the last few weeks, the only thing that would have really helped me is a remote control – the ability to stop the situation, pause, think, work out a strategy, and then press play again and implement it.

Parenting is a job, certainly, but it’s not like being at work. At work, when I’m coaching people through difficult situations, my first suggestion is always to encourage folk to control the situation. If you don’t know what to do, or don’t know the answer, say ‘can I get back to you in ten minutes with that?’.

You can’t do that with a three year old. You can’t reason with them, or email a response, or refer them to an example of how this has been done better before. You’re in it. And at the moment, we are constantly in it.

Do you ever feel like somebody took away your child and replaced them overnight?

Tibbs has switched. A combination of giving up her dummy at Christmas, and the arrival of a brother, has brought about intense behaviour changes. She’s so tired by the afternoon because she doesn’t nap. She’s incensed with me by 6.30am because I can’t give her undivided attention, that it manifests itself in everything being wrong. The wrong cereal, the wrong room to eat it in, the wrong episode of Sophia. My charming, kind and keen daughter now begins the day with NO and I DON’T WANT.

God, it’s so bloody upsetting. If you’ve gone through this, you know. It’s like that sickly feeling you get when you know a partner wants to end it with you, because their behaviour changes, and they seem to be trying to make you dislike them in preparation for the ‘it’s not you it’s me’ chat.

Except, she loves me. She loves me so much and she misses me. She wants more of me. So she finds it hard. And so do I.

We had a perfect three hours on Saturday, we went to see Moana together. She clutched my hand as we walked through Cabot, skipping. She didn’t weep and stamp at the sweets she couldn’t have. She sat on my knee and let me squish popcorn into her little warm fist. I cuddled her like my life depended on it.

But, as the credits came up, she stiffened and began her mantra, ‘I’m hungry’. By the time we left to meet her dad and the baby, she was crying and roaring ‘I’m hungry’. The next 20 minutes became an embarrassing scramble to find her food that she would consent to eating. It felt like the last three hours had evaporated. Her father couldn’t understand it, why was I so flat and upset. What had gone wrong?

What keeps going wrong is that I feel like I’m failing. I feel like I can’t fix this. I can’t pause my thoughts and her wild anger and naughty behaviour and make it better. I’m frustrated that I even need to be thinking like this. If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know that this situation was what I most feared.

Now, every morning when I wake up to the vibrating snorts of my son, my first thought is ‘please, please don’t wake Tibbs up’, so that I have a chance to care for him before she wakes up and sees me with him, or his cries wake her up too early, and our day starts with her sad confusion again.

I want to give her everything, I always have. I’m too frequently losing my rag with her. I’m saying words like STOP and DON’T and NOT NOW and NO all the time. Just like she is.

I can apply one work principle to this situation though, and I will, and I hope this will make me feel like a better parent. Pick your battles. This week, I’m going to try and focus on helping her feel like she’s making choices. I’m going to let the little things go. I’m going to count to 10. I’m going to let her handle her brother more. I’m going to hug her more.

I will be better. I can make this better.

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21 Comments

  1. katie katie

    big hugs to you…i’m right there with you. My 2.5yr old boy found the arrival of his now 5 month old sister hard. it was fine for the first six weeks. then it got TOUGH! i battened down the hatches, focussed on him and saw few other people. It got better. Most days we do ok now. look after yourself in those precious few hours you to yourself x

    • Battening down the hatches is PRECISELY what I’m doing today!

  2. Jemma Ashley Jemma Ashley

    What a lovely blog – I could have written this many time over in the past year as my brilliant first born adjusted to the arrival of his little brother.
    I learnt to take one day at a time, don’t dwell on yesterday’s mistakes and don’t pressure yourself into tomorrow’s perfection! You are exactly what your little girl needs and we are all human / she needs to see that, and that you make mistakes – but more importantly, that mistakes can be forgiven and fixed 🙂

    I have no secret answer, my eldest is now 4 and his little brother 1.5years, we have good days and bad days but utimately we love and care for each other 🙂

    Good luck and stay on this track, the fact that you’re even worrying about this shows that you are indeed a ‘good parent’.

    From
    A Mana in arms 🙂

    • Thank you so much for commenting. I think sometimes, because I view this as my job (parenting), I get frustrated even more that I can’t learn and grow as easily as I do in my job!

  3. Mum Mum

    Thank you for writing down how it is sometimes!

    • you’re welcome, thanks for reading!

  4. Amy Amy

    It might not feel like it but you are doing an amazing job. Xx things will even out. Thank you for sharing such an honest post

    • Thank you for always being such a good support, too! x

  5. Oh Eleanor, it made me so sad to read this ☹️ We still only have one little monkey aged two but I can see some of Tibbs’ behaviours in Maude since we got rid of the dummy a couple of weeks ago. She’s needed me (and my boobs!) so much more since and some days it’s just all too much and I make mistakes too and feel like a rubbish parent. I think the key is one day at a time and try not to dwell on things too much. These things are the biggest things to happen to them in their short lives and they’re bound to cause some resistance, we just have to bear with them, they’ll get there. Sending lots of love and hugs ❤️
    Michaela from Mamanatal x

    • Don’t be sad! It is really, really hard at the moment, but I know, thanks to gut feel and lots of kind people’s advice, that it will change for the better soon. xx

  6. Louisa Chudley Louisa Chudley

    Aaah Eleanor I’ve only just had chance to read your post after seeing your IG post about it this morning. I so feel for you, it’s probably a combination of so many things, her brother’s arrival & with it the less attention than she received before, being 3 ( I found 3 quite difficult with my daughter), approaching the age where they suddenly become ready for school, and just wanting to assert her authority wherever she can. She will know how much you love her & that is exactly why you are getting this behaviour. I know it feels so hard right now but it will pass. And you have to keep reminding yourself that you are still an amazing parent. Lots of love, Lou xxx

    • I hope so, I’m really trying hard to make sure she knows how much I love her! Thanks for commenting,Lou x

      • Louisa Chudley Louisa Chudley

        I hope you are feeling better today about things Eleanor? Xxx

  7. Oh Eleanor, I just want to give you a massive hug. I’ve been there! I remember when Effie turned a few weeks old we hit a real challenging phase with Freya. I’m not sure if it was the change of starting school or becoming a big sister, being tired from her new routine or what, but it was HARD for a few weeks there. I felt like I was constantly failing as a mum or losing my temper or berating myself or her, largely through frustration and overwhelming sleep deprivation. It DOES get easier though. And I found one on one time with her really helped both of us – even if she would cry or get cross when that time came to an end. Live each moment and be kind to yourself too. You’re not a bad parent. The very fact you care about this and have the perspective to look at it from her point of view shows you’re a flipping brilliant mum. xxx

    • We’ve got plans to do more ‘divide and conquer’ style stuff at the weekends which I hope will redress the balance. And please, come and give me a hug anytime!

  8. Oh it’s so hard sometimes! What you are feeling is so normal, I really remember realising that I would no longer be able to cuddle Wilf at night because the baby would only sleep on me and I missed him to much, I missed him coming up and cuddling me at 4am and the change is hard on you all. I shout may more than I used to, I think love and guilt are emotions that are so closely entwined, I feel them both a million times a day. We’re all doing our best xx

    • Sometimes I think it’s why we were given two arms, to give two cuddles at once, and then I remember that that leaves out my husband! We are all doing our best, aren’t we?

  9. Oh lovely, I felt like I could have written this today, but all for different reasons. I felt utterly deflated as a parent yesterday, for similar reasons, mainly cause I feel like I am not giving my all to any of it. But we can only try our best. And it’s a huge huge life upheaval for your little girl, but take it from someone a couple of years further down the line than you- it will get better. It will change. And then there will be another phase to go through. We can only do the best we can. x

  10. Eleanor I totally get where you are coming from with this and I think it’s a learning curve for everyone involved. I am still trying to find a balance with my two boys, they are both in such different stages of their life and my first is very demanding and has struggled with his brother & I know that feeling in the morning, I still pray my eldest doesn’t wake up his brother “just because” and then the whole day starts with a bump. I think though we all do our best and that is what really counts

    Laura x

  11. I recognise this so much Eleanor. I can’t count the amount of times I have felt out of my depth when parenting, or felt I wasn’t any good at it. But I find comfort in the fact that everything comes in stages, and though it’s the shittest at the moment, the next bit probably won’t be so x

  12. Oh Eleanor, I remember that time so well! I felt like I was failing everyone. I think one of the indicators of a good parent is one who is trying, aware of the things they want to improve, and is conscious. This post shows you are all these things and more. It will get better, I promise! Lots of love x

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