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Thursday, May 12, 2011

What Are you Suited To?

I watched this morning as a mother and her three young children climbed out of their car. The little girl was crying. The youngest of the two boys made a beeline for the road, stopped just in time by his mum. The other boy - the eldest of all three - stood distracted in the car and only exited after three pleas by his mother to do so.

Such is the life of a mother to young children.

Whilst there is a definite upside when kids are yet to start school (fewer scheduled activities, no rigid time frames to follow, amazingly gorgeous cuddles and cute-as-can-be slightly lisped observations about the world), young children - babies, toddlers and preschoolers - can be challenging. Beautiful, but challenging.

A friend of mine really struggled when her two sons were toddlers and preschoolers. Her patience was tested constantly. She once described her life back then as "chaotic", "unpredictable", "frustrating" and at times, "depressing". She dealt with sleep issues, learning issues (one son was born prematurely), discipline issues...pretty much what all of us go through. But for her, these issues left her feeling stressed and in need of some breathing space (hence her return to work when her first son was around six months old - she had always assumed she would be a stay-at-home-mum, but reality forced her to reconsider). In fact, she thought she was a bad mother back then. Surely, she thought, she could keep it together without yelling at her kids and feeling the way she did?

As her boys got older, she started to enjoy them more. Finally, she was able to ask them to complete a task and they could do it without throwing a tantrum, or getting distracted. She was relieved not to do everything for them. They could help out around the house. They ate most food put in front of them. For my friend, life has only gotten easier with each new year as her sons have grown.

When her boys were still very young, she saw a GP who told her - after my friend had described to her how she felt about motherhood - that she was, "probably a mother suited to older children," and that she shouldn't worry. Years later, my friend would realise her GP was spot on. She has always assured me that it will get easier as my own boys grow. "A lot of people will tell you it only gets more difficult, but I certainly didn't find that at all." (Although, I'm sure teenagers might be another story.)

To be honest, I've mostly found that to be the case for me too. The challenges are still there, they're just different, and at least now when my 9yr old is upset, he can verbalise it (most of the time anyway!).  I guess I'm not a 'mother of babies'. I didn't enjoy breastfeeding, for example. There were times I did - like when my sons would feed, their hand placed on top of my breast, their eyes gazing curiously up at mine. That - I loved. But for the most part, I couldn't wait for the breastfeeding to end. I gave it up willingly. I gave up nappies without a hint of sadness too. When we sold our cot - I didn't think twice about it. Admittedly, selling our pram was another thing. I felt a hint of sadness when a new couple arrived to collect it. I loved that pram, and I have so many fond memories of pushing my children around in it. However, I soon got over that. Not having a pram in the hallway all the time, taking up space, was rather a relief.

The 4yr old has always been challenging. More so than his brothers were, and although I am still feeling some anxiety and heart-pulling at the thought of my last son starting school - and the toddler and preschooler days finally coming to an end - for the most part, I think I'm like my friend. Ready for my sons to become more independent and grow.

I just hope I can be the best mother for them.

How about you? Do you think you're more relaxed as a mother to babies and young children, or school aged kids? 

Image: We Heart It


Alyce @ Blossom Heart said...

Great points! There's a part of me that loves them when they're little, especially second time round. But I'm one who definitely finds it easier when they're more independent - when Jonathan started walking, it was great!

Oh, and I hear ya on the pram! We swapped to a twin pram when Isabelle came along, and I'm still mourning my old pram! :(

Corinne – Daze of My Life said...

This is so strange as I was just talking about this the other day. Being pregnant again and being stressed about it has made me realise that it's not the three kid thing that worries me, it's the baby thing. I have enjoyed my kids so much more since they passed the baby stage.
I'm definitely not the 'mother of babies', I'm not one who melts at nappy commercials or baby lotion ads. I don't enjoy the baby time. I love it when they start stomping around and talking and becoming little people.

Great post!

Traci aka Moodi_Mumma said...

Thank you for sharing this, I enjoyed it!
I think I was a lot like that with my twins but have grown a little myself since then and am enjoying my youngest more than I did with the twins. I hope I continue to grow and be the best Mumma for my 3 as I am sure you are too :o)

Miss Pink said...

My kids still being reasonably young at almost 5 and just turned 2, i don't think i know what it's like to be the mother to an "older child" just yet. However i do feel a strong pull to the younger ages. I love the baby and toddler stages. I am equally enjoying the age Bluey is at, but i find myself easily frustrated in situations because "they should know better".
But i have noted this before, that there are stages with children that some people just do better with, it's more their niche', my best friend is great with older children, one's who can entertain themselves and verbalise their needs clearly, but younger children who are more dependant, and not quite as verbal she is a mess and very stressed.

I think teenagehood doesn't count. We're all scared of that! Lol.

Jacki said...

Ahhh! I'm so glad you wrote this post! I've been saying to my husband for months that I know I'll be a better mother when our kids are just a little bit older. I used to teach primary school and I love having conversations with kids, joking around and playing games. I admit that I'm finding the terrible-twos to be quite challenging and although I don't want to wish it away, I'm kind of looking forward to being able to have an actual conversation with my kids!

Aspiring Millionaire said...

Whilst my kids are only 2 and 3 atm I have had older kids (nieces) live with us for 6 months and I know I am more suited to school age kids rather than babies/preschool.

My husband and I have discussed this. He is more a baby person I am more an older child person, so it works well for us!

Wish I knew that it was ok to prefer older children when I had my babies. I wouldn't have felt so guilty.

Lulu said...

I was a preschool teacher before I had my kids and I must say I always thought I would be a better mother than I am.

I will miss the toddler stage with my older son once he passes through it but at the moment he is a bit of a nightmare. I lose my patience 10 or more times a day and I hate myself for it.

My baby though, 4 months now, he is a dream. I dread when he turns into a toddler. After that point though, they will both be preschoolers and I am hoping much more my speed!

I do think people are either good with little kids or big kids- I feel I am probably better with little kids just maybe not quite as little as my two are now.

Maxabella said...

I feel the same way. I think younger children are physically more demanding, but it's emotionally more demanding when they get older. At least with the emotional stuff you can talk about it and you're more likely to be less exhausted and can think straight!

I do find that I'm enjoying, really enjoying, my children more and more the older they get.

Ask me again when they hit their teens!! You're so right! x

Anonymous said...

Great post Jodie! I loved my babies, I loved breastfeeding and I loved watching them learn and grow. But now that they are pretty independent I couldn't imagine having a baby again! I am definitely a mother of older children - now, if I wasn't before - and I'm really ok with that! I am dreading the teen years but I hope that I can take with it my years of experience to outsmart them at least 1 in 10 times, after all, I know the best ways to break into the house and the best places to hide the grog! xxx

Jodi Gibson said...

Thank you for writing this post. I have struggled with this issue since my first born. I have two older step daughters and I loved (still do!) being a 'mum' to them. I really thought I would love being a 'real mum'.
I was totally devastated when I didn't feel the joy of being a mother. Don't get me wrong I was/am totally in love and connected with my girls, but I don't enjoy being a mum to babies.
I constantly feel stressed and frazzled, just wanting a break. It is relentless.
There are also beautiful times when it brings tears to my eyes for good reasons.
Now my eldest is at school our relationship is so much better. I am so loving having real conversations with her and watching her enthusiasm in her learning. I love her to pieces, more and more each day (if that is possible). Miss 3 will be at school in another couple of years, and I am unsure how I 'feel' about that.
Sorry I am blogging on your blog.
But thank you, your post spoke volumes to me.

Louise Williams said...

WOW! I have nearly thought about it in this way or maybe I didn't really want to admit it?

We are on the brink of seeing the last night nappies, bottle & dummies, cot, stroller etc. Our second daughter has been such a dream that I want to freeze frame this stage (2.3 months). I am not going to start on ou 4.5 year old dramas...

My husband has commented both times that if you can skip the first two years, parenting would be easy and less messy.

Until you are a parent you will never truly understand how much love you will feel seeing something you created. However.... you will also never experience such anxiety, responsibility, panic and uncertainty!

We still have our challenges, don't get me wrong however on our 5th year of parenting, I do feel a little bit more control in our lives, yes, there's the answering back, the occasional tantrum but there is some level of reasoning to be had and of course a level of blackmail that works. 2 years plus...does have it's benefits however there are days when I hold a friend's newborn that makes me want to do it all again..or is that the wine talking...

cjtato said...

I am not suited to being a mother to babies either. Actually the only reason I have babies is because raising people is so addictive. I love watching my kids grow into people with opinions and thoughts and ideas. Fascinates to me to no end. I could have more kids if they started off this way. LOL

My husband and I both like from around 2-3 and up although ask me that in a few years when I have three teenage girls. :O

I have friends who are the opposite and love the baby stage. I have already started counting down the years until our youngest is at school (2014 is my year!) and, so far, I don't feel any sadness or longing for the baby years.

I knew I wasn't crazy when I was telling people I just wasn't that into babies!

BUT how fantastic that doctor said it. I think if someone had told me that earlier on, I wouldn't have felt like such a failure with number one!

Sam-O said...

Before children I used to think it would suit me to have them not as babies but 5 years old. It turns out I am great with the littlies, I just hope I am great with them right the way through.

I always wondered why my sister in law kept having babies (9! Ages 19 down to almost 5), but I get it. She is a baby and toddler style Mum. As they've grown she leaves them and travels interstate constantly leaving the 19 year old in charge, she really only is a baby Mummy and it seems she has no interest in them once they are out of nappies.

I hope I'm not like this, I know I will do everything I can to ensure I am the best parent I can be. I want to be a good Mummy as they grow, not just when they are little.

She is almost irrelevant to their family these days, I think that is really sad.

Carly said...

While I am not a mum, I work with children.

I am qualified to teach up to year two. Put me in a year 3 and above class and I lose it. Sure I can talk to them and I know what they need, but their behaviour drove me insane. I was constantly yelling. Lost the plot a few times in the classroom. I am not suited to teaching the older grades, I knew this before but as a casual you realistically can be put anywhere.

I now work with babies, yep, 0-2 year olds. And I love EVERY FREAKING MINUTE. My day goes incredibly quickly, but I love it. I love the cuddles, the milestones I see, the smiles. Everything.

Sure there are moments when I am pulling my hair out, or getting it pulled out by a child if we are discussing Friday ;) but I can't see myself anywhere but with those children. They are like my own children.

So I think that I am better suited to younger children, give me a child under 8 and I just 'get' them.