Sunday 25 February 2018

My baby is two months old, but already I hate being a mother

Dear Mary

I had a baby two months ago. I'd never do anything to harm him or myself, and I do love him, but I hate being a mum. I stay at home with him after ten
 years as a secondary school teacher, a job I loved. When he screams, I wish I was coping with surly teenagers because at least that's something I understand and am good at.

I'm tired of getting up all night, of never having time to myself, of the house never being clean.

My husband is helpful but doesn't understand how I feel like a failure. I get lots of support from my own mother and also from my mother-in-law, whose pushiness doesn't help things. I get out for walks and go to the shops, and I take the baby to all of these things. But overall, I'm not thrilled that my whole future is full of nothing but him.

I don't think I'm depressed, as I can look at all this without passion. How do I learn to like my new role and "career"?

Mary replies: Your letter is refreshingly honest and it probably reflects the sentiments of a large number of first-time mothers. You have had a 
 huge life-changing event and this will take some time to get used to. 
Up until now, you had a clearly defined role as a teacher, with set hours, duties, and holidays. This has changed utterly and you probably feel very much out of control as you have no set duties apart from trying to do as good a job as you can in being a mother and wife.

It would help if you were to look on this time as a period of transition and one in which you will get to know your son. It is not a life sentence - although from now on you will always worry about your child even when he reaches adulthood.

He will not be a baby forever, nor will he cry forever, and every week you will be able to see something new in his development. And while your world is currently totally taken up with caring for him as he is totally dependent on you, I cannot agree that your future is nothing but him. You may well decide to return to the workforce in years to come - some people are just not happy with being stay-at-home mothers, while there are others who thrive on it.

So it is up to you to decide into which category you fit. But give it time because you are very early into this new phase of your life. Rather than dread what is ahead, why not decide to make the most of this time. Every week you will see fascinating changes, even though he is still so young, so try to get in the frame of mind that you are going to enjoy this time and leave major decisions until later. I'm sure you were not the great teacher that you feel you became after your first two months teaching, so don't be too hard on yourself. The phrase 'good enough mother' is one that you should bear in mind.

There is of course post-natal depression to be considered and your own GP will have seen many cases of this over the years. Why not have a word with him or her and see if they feel that this may be a contributory factor rather than decide for yourself.

Don't forget your husband in all of this, 
and above all try to have some time alone when you can get out even for a walk or a drink together.

His world has changed also, although not as radically as yours has, and even though you are now a family of three the two of you are still the most important part of that unit.

Sorry about the mother-in-law but she may be a great asset for babysitting! Above all keep in touch with your girlfriends - then there is no babysitting problem as your husband can look after the baby. A couple of hours of adult female company can work wonders and things will not look so bleak when you get up the following morning and start into the baby routine.

Sunday Independent

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