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Until last week there has been something I haven't really talked about. Not even to myself. As if willing the very thoughts and emotions away. Not wanting to face up to them. Scared that if I did, I would hate myself.

You see this last month has been hard. As in the hardest month in my entire time as a Mama. 

I didn't find the baby stage by any means easy, but I felt it came natural to me. I knew to trust my instincts, because when I did I reaped the benefits. It wasn't all laughs and giggles but it was a beautiful time. Full of wonder and discovering one another. A bond formed so strong my confidence soared and my pride swelled at being Caleb's Mama. 

As we entered the toddler stage, I was so excited, waiting in anticipation for the many exciting milestones.

The toddling, by far one of my favourite moments. That euphoric joy you share when they take that first step, first walk, first run.

The talking. Hearing the sweet sound of their voice saying Mama and Dada.

The awareness. They are suddenly aware of the world around them and the impact they can have in it.

Entering toddlerhood just felt like the next stage, and although bittersweet I was loving it.

Then just before Christmas things got a little harder around here. With Caleb's new found independence and awareness, came a stubbornness. Why should he listen to Mama? Why did he need to stop when she said so? Why should he nap? Why did he need to follow where she led? The word, 'NO' had to be the most spoken word in our house.

From all three of us.

When I look back now I think this was where the first cracks in my confidence as a Mama started to appear. My instincts told me to hold strong. But the stronger I held, so did Caleb. A battle of wills was happening on a daily basis. Soon our entire routine involved tears, tantrums, and screams. A simple nappy change, was a near impossible task. As was getting dressed. As was bathing, and the list goes on and on.

My instincts told me to be patient, to see things from his point of view. I was never unreasonable in my requests, nor did I ever say NO without good reason. My main aim being to keep him safe and happy. But none of this seemed to cure the tantrums, and so the faith in my instincts began to falter.

I found myself taking deep breathes before every task. My crime now being I was expecting the tears and tantrums, rather than giving him the benefit of the doubt. My resolve became very, 'well he's going to cry anyway'. 

We were getting ourselves in a parenting rut, not to mention we were all surviving on very little sleep.

Then the bug from hell hit us a couple of weeks ago. A kick whilst we were most definitely down. We survived the best we could with a boy who was pretty much inconsolable the entire time. 

Then as the bug lifted I was so excited to get us out of the house. We'd been cooked up for so long that the walls felt like they were closing in on us. What ensued was Caleb having meltdowns and tantrums galore in public. Now normally this wouldn't phase me. He's a toddler, of course he's going to have tantrums, and of course sometimes it's going to be in the most public of places. But I was running on empty, and my new found freedom destroyed by this mini monster. A mini monster that I had created. Everything came to a head after a particularly horrible time at a playgroup.

I felt at a complete loss, not knowing what to do anymore, were my choices of parenting damaging Caleb? Was this why he was acting out?

Or could he sense what I was thinking? A thought that had been creeping in for weeks, a thought that horrified me and made me feel sick. That thought being...

That I didn't very much like my son.

There it is. I said it. An ugly truth that I'd been so desperate to keep hidden. Pretending it was all fine, pretending it was just a phase, and I don't mean pretending to others, I mean pretending to myself. My instincts told me it was a phase, but what the hell did my instincts know anymore?? Deep down I was starting to think it was just who Caleb was, and right there was where the very root of my dislike had started to grow.

There were tears. Not from Caleb, but from me. Admitting how I felt first to my amazing mother, and then to my dear friend, Lana. They both listened with zero judgement. They spoke the same words my instincts were trying desperately to shout out to me.

That this is just a phase.

That I'm doing a good job.

That it's not possible to think your kids the best thing since sliced bread, every minute of every day.

That I'm not a horrible person for having these feelings.

I can't describe the weight that was lifted. It was like I could breathe again. As I spoke about my dislike for his behaviour I realised just that. It was the behaviour I disliked, not my son. 

Just saying it like that, made it no big deal at all. Who is going to like the behaviour of a screaming toddler?? 

I'd got myself all worked up, thinking I was the worst Mama ever, when really it was me finding this particular stage hard and unenjoyable.

Since last Wednesday I have felt like myself again, and not surprisingly, so has Caleb. With the bug gone, full nights sleep are happening, as are long naps. I knew lack of sleep was the root to the majority of our problems, that fact just got lost in the chaos. Caleb is back to his happy self for the first time in what feels like forever. He's listening to me more, but so am I to him.

He's stubborn and he's strong, but instead of trying to change that, I'm going with it. I'm approaching simple tasks like getting dressed and nappy changes with giving him more control, letting him help, and I'm happy to report it's working. I feel daft for not thinking of this approach sooner. He's at his happiest if he feels like he's in control. Aren't we all?! ;)

So I've learnt a lot in the last week.

The biggest lesson being that as a parent you will always be learning. Each stage brings with it new challenges. Challenges that will knock your confidence, that will make you question yourself, and at times make you even feel out your depth. 

Stay strong. Listen to your instincts. Listen to your child.

And remember. You're doing a good job.

This may be the best job in the world, but it also the hardest.

12 comments

  1. I can relate.
    max has hit 'terrible twos' and kicked right off in the restaurant on Sunday because we wouldn't give him daddy's beer!!!!!!!!!!
    I had to take him outside to calm down and hear the restaurant tutting at me as I went (I'm sure that's in my head)

    Stay strong, he's going to be wonderful young man Caleb

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    1. Thank you, Rachael. Everyone's response and support has been amazing, and although I don't wish anyone to be sharing similar stresses as me, it's so comforting to know I'm not alone.
      The tantrum stage is crazy hard, but that's exactly what it is, a stage.
      Oh and kicking off because he couldn't have Daddy's beer. Classic toddler antics right there ;) x

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  2. This really hits home for me right now. Joey (2.5 yrs) has been a dream up until a few weeks ago. I'm a little shell shocked and unprepared to deal with a difficult child having not having to deal with anything other than the odd protest at bath time. He's been through a lot of changes recently- new sister, potty training, starting pre-school so it's all understandable, but this doesn't make it any easier to deal with. He hits, he kicks, he throws toys, he screams. And I have to admit at these times, I don't like him. We cool off and make up, and I have my gorgeous boy back again, but I know it is only a matter of time until we reenact the whole process again. I can only hope this phase passes quickly. It has already changed my mind about having a third child as I can't bear the thought of dealing with three children having a bad day at the same time!

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    1. Oh Colette, I just want to give you the biggest hug. It's horrible when you're in the thick of it. It sounds like a lot of change is going on in your household, which is all part and parcel of them growing up. But your right, even though you know what is causing the tantrums doesn't make it any easier to deal with. I hope you have help surrounding you, ain't no shame in asking friends and family for help, and always feel free to drop me an email if you need a rant. Believe me when I say, I know how you feel x

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  3. This is beautiful. Thank you for pouring your heart out, I think a lot of people can benefit from reading this, be it caregivers, mamas, papas, grandparents and siblings. Love to you and your family, and I'm glad that you were able to find some perspective!

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    1. Thank you so much, Roseann. I am such a typical Gemini, I bottle stuff up and then when I'm ready to speak, it pours out and you can't shut me up. I've had such a positive response to this post, and if it makes someone else feel like they are not alone in this, then that's good enough for me. x

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  4. This is an amazingly honest post, and I think it's so wonderful that you put it up here. I'm not a mother, but my sister is a new mother and experiencing all of the ups and downs that come with that brand new experiences. Many of my friends have toddlers at the moment and I can't tell you how many times I've seen status updates of blatant desperation crop up on Facebook from moms feeling trapped at home for this or that reason. But I think it's also so great that you're able to talk it out... it's so easy, with anything, to get wrapped up in it and start feeling guilty for having totally natural responses to things! I'm glad to hear that things have begun to even out, at least you're finding your footing, and it will help Caleb find his footing too :)

    Cheers,
    Kate x

    Artsy Abroad // http://artsyabroad.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you so much, Kate. Everyone's support has built my faltering mama confidence right back up.
      Being able to write it all down as well really helps. It's like looking at a bunch of facts spread out on a table, accepting them, and then moving on. Those feeling now feel completely out my system. Thank god!
      I hope your sister is doing okay, it's the most incredible journey becoming and being a parent but it's also one of the hardest. Having support around you in key. I hope your're not missing them all too much. I always love having a peak at what you're up to, sorry if I don't get the chance to comment, toddlerhood has certainly culled my blog time. I feel lucky if I get to read a post never mind a chance to comment these days ;) x

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  5. I think all parents have points where they are just so stressed by their children's behaviour that they wonder if they did everything wrong. We dislike the behaviour and feel wecan't do it any more, and if we're going the wrong way then what should be do anyway. And then it passes, and our children do something magical and our faith in ourselves returns. None of us actually want robots, but watching them start to make their own decisions and form their own personalities can be very hard at times - it doesn't get any easier...wait until he's a teenager!

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    1. Oh these words are so true. Thank you.
      What do you mean it doesn't get any easier???!!! ;p
      Definitely going to invest in some decent wrinkle cream ;)

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  6. Awww Claire I just read this; your writing is so honest and I imagine every mother can identify with this.

    I think we all get so caught up with an idealistic, dream like, view of parenthood that the reality can sometimes feel like a bit of a kick in the teeth. But you know what, they are becoming little people and we are people and people fall out, right? We are the ones that they get to test out all their first emotions on, including the rubbish ones and we are allowed to dislike it because from our reactions they will eventually learn what is socially acceptable and what isn't.

    It's tough when you get a testing toddler, I often feel like I must just be a crap mum with poor parenting skills but you know what... the spirited toddlers are the ones who show many of the characteristics we approve of in adults... confidence, high self-esteem, curiosity, boundary pushing, experimentation! All these things, in a toddler, are often mistaken for naughtyness.

    The big point is that not liking is incredibly different to not loving... and I bet I can guarantee that on the mad, crazy nights when your little man just won't go to bed and your nerves are shot to pieces, the minute he is tucked up in bed, fast asleep you will sneak up and watch him with complete pride.

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  7. Hi, Claire. This is your instagram buddy Angie (@angie_mahlke) just now stumbling across your blog. Not sure how I missed it for so long. I'm glad I found it, especially this post in particular. There are so many times in my short parenting life (4 1/2 years, to be exact) that I have felt exactly like this. Sometimes I'd rather be anywhere other than with my kids, even if that involves physical pain on my part. Being a mom has changed me in so many ways, most of them so very, very good and positive with unicorns and butterflies and daisies and all that crap. But sometimes all I can see is how much it has changed me on the opposite spectrum, the non-unicorn, butterflies, daisies crap. It's hard! So hard! I barely recognize myself sometimes. A simple trip to the grocery store is a highlight of my Monday. Story time at the library is a lifeline to the outside world. Late nights by myself and my quiet (OMG finally quiet) house is my saving grace. I wouldn't change anything about my life as a mom. It's the most cherished part of me. But it's still hard. So so so so so hard! Thanks for your honesty and insight. You will encounter many such phases in your son's life, but at least you now know that you need to distance yourself from the blame game. I'm still trying to learn that lesson. It's one that proves to be ongoing with each new phase and developmental milestone, and--honestly--their (and my!) daily moods. Cheers! We're in this together!

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