I’d write this to you by name, if only I knew what you were called.
I see you on the streets, at school, in a cafe or the shops. You have That Look, the one I’ve sported for several of the last few years. Your hair could do with a brush, you’re still in your maternity clothes even though you really don’t need to be and there’s probably a bit of baby sick on your shoulder. Your face is a little too pink and a little too shiny, and your car keys (or the baby’s toy, or your purse, or whatever it is that you need right now) are always at the very bottom of your bag. You look ready to burst into tears as you hunt.
Perhaps this is your first baby, perhaps it’s your fourth. Perhaps you didn’t know it would be like this, or you forgot, or you convinced yourself it would be different this time. You might have longed for this baby for years. You might have gone for just the one more. Life might have caught you out just when you thought you were done.
Whatever, you’re feeling guilty. You know how lucky you are. You are grateful, really. It’s just that you feel overwhelmed with others’ needs and with the pressing knowledge that no matter how much you do, you’re drowning in stuff. You’re not quite sure where you’ve gone, and you’re worried someone will think badly of you if ask.
You would like an hour to yourself in a quiet, tidy house. You’d like to walk around the supermarket without saying a word to anyone. You’d give pretty much anything not to rush through your to-do list with the ever present fear that the baby’s about to wake up. You’d like “leisurely”, “relax” and “sleep” to come back into your day-to-day routine.
You don’t need me to tell you that it won’t last forever. You don’t need me to tell you that it gets easier. Does it really? Certainly it never goes back to how it was before, however that was. “Before”, whether before babies or just before this baby, seems like impossibly far ago; an unimaginably luxurious state of settledness and order. And no, it will never come back again.
But slowly, without you realising, you’ll have time again to brush your hair. You won’t be needed for every second of the day. You’ll have conversations and laughter and tantrums and tempers (on all sides) – quite often all in the space of an hour. You’ll still sometimes long for bedtime; you’ll still sometimes wish that you could deploy a mute button and have the chance to hear yourself think. It will be ok, though.