It’s been a while since I sat down to share my thoughts, which is not a good thing. The main reason being – I’m not sure how to describe this – but I woke up to find my baby had grown into a toddler. Overnight? Yes, overnight. If you’ve read my earlier blogs you may remember I spoke about something called joeng. The amazing feeling I experienced when Siena was born.  Looking back it was somewhat a honeymoon period. Sharing birthing stories with other mums I have met, I have heard it described as ‘landing on another planet’. Others have said they needed to take a few moments to themselves to try and cope with the shock of having a baby to care for. Although I listened on, intrigued to here these accounts, I could not empathise. I was simply in love and overjoyed with a happiness I had never experienced before.

And then Siena turned one, The End.

It’s not quite like that, but literally, as Siena turned one my little baby girl was replaced by a toddler. A walking, talking, teething, tantruming toddler. She gained independence, wouldn’t let me feed her and decided that napping was for babies. This naturally comes with a side effect of grumpiness and the occasional drop-to-sleep in her high chair, which I must confess I found quite sweet and entertaining as I had never seen this happen before!

At this point motherhood changed dramatically for me and it was also unfortunate that it coincided with an increased workload within my husband’s business. As a consequence I have found the last few months very tough going. Siena is full of energy from the minute she wakes and I spend 12 hours of every day trying to make sure she is learning, entertained, has her own play time, mixes with other children, has a varied and healthy diet, milk and of course an average of 6-7 nappy changes per day. So what’s wrong with this I hear you ask? Well I admit that I find this routine exhausting. I had no idea motherhood was so demanding. Reading articles, and listening to other mums I now know that when we are honest, so many mothers also have times that are very trying, but I found this hard to accept. My career was demanding, skilled, stressful, multitasking, had responsibility and long hours, and I just couldn’t understand why I was finding one little toddler so exhausting? I think motherhood demands all of the above on another level. I have also found that driving and parking have become very difficult when you have a toddler screaming or whining for an hour in the car. I guess it’s a bit like trying to do my old job (accountancy) with someone permanently and loudly shouting random numbers at me, or trying to do the housework with your hands tied. Having little to no help from family has been hard too. I think grabbing even just an hour here and there while Nan holds the baby really can go a long way to maintaining your sanity and having only had two evenings out with my husband, I was missing extra help. I also find comments like ‘imagine having twins’ and ‘Well I managed OK’ most unhelpful. Although my cousin has five children including twins (which runs in the family – eek) I do seriously wonder how mums of big families cope!

I guess what I am trying to say, and still justify in my own head, is that motherhood is far more difficult than I could have imagined or prepared for. At times I felt quite suffocated and trapped and I wondered if my brain would ever recover. Those baby brain waves turned my thinking capacity down to zero and added to the sheer physical exhaustion, I needed a break.

So the New Year started with taking Siena to nursery for one morning a week. It’s a small, family run nursery, recommended to me by a very close friend, which helped make the decision easier. Siena has a great time, she socialises, and she learns how to spend time away from me and after her first visit started to say ‘please’ with no prompting from me! It’s absolutely the right decision for Siena and I know she is ready at 16 months. Once she reaches two, pre-school will start and those sessions will naturally increase, but she would have already learned that it’s OK to spend time apart from me and how to socialise with other children. This experience is far more difficult for the parent. I can’t believe that I was so wrapped up in feelings of guilt and repeatedly questioning whether I had done the right thing, that I almost held her back. I felt guilty that Siena starting nursery would give me the break that I really needed and that I would enjoy the time on my own.

Well I can safely say that mothers are very good at generating feelings of guilt, over analysing and generally giving themselves a hard time. So whatever it is you are currently battling with, do make sure you give yourself a break. Remember that you can try too hard and that sometimes, doing the right thing (like leaving your child at a nursery) is not always the easy option. If taking the easy option was something I generally opted for then I wouldn’t have achieved half of what I have in my life so far. So, first time mums, remember that you are learning as you go and if your toddler laughs, eats well and is loved, then tell yourself this: ‘You’re doing  great’.

Nina Redden