I got parenting wrong?! | Rebecca Jane column
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Have them early in life, you ‘waste’ your best years.
Have them later in life, you’re exhausted and old.
Have them early in life, financially, the quality of life for the child isn’t as good.
Have them later in life, you’re more stable and secure.
Either way, it’s all a load of rubbish.
Parental guilt is a real thing and has many strands. We hear about ‘mother’s guilt’ all the time, but the timing of children is one layer of guilt that doesn’t get as much air time.
I have a wonderful friend, I’ve had her for over 25 years, Victoria. She did this parenting thing ‘right’. She had endless fun in her 20’s, went to university at 18 and gained her career early on. Relationships, well, there were a couple, but she actively chose not to have children until she met the perfect person. The relationship had to be stable and in existence for many years, thankfully she found that 7 years ago with Anthony. Victoria and Anthony had a very beautiful little Hugo in December last year, in her late(ish) 30’s.
Since then, she has absolutely ‘nailed’ motherhood! She radiates happiness, joy and it feels like her life is entirely complete. Out of all our friends, Victoria was always the one designed for children. I used to be fearful she may not be able to have children, because if there was one person that should be a mother, it was her.
Hugo, well, he’s amazing. A dream child, he never stops laughing, smiling, hardly cries and he is just content. Vic was right about Anthony too, he was the perfect person to become the father of her children. He seems to have found his element in life too and turned into one of the most natural fathers I’ve seen.
Victoria did it ‘right’. Or at least that’s what I feel, and I’m so pleased she did. On paper, I did it ‘wrong’. Which I am at peace with, but during a conversation with her, she disagreed with me and since that day I’ve reflected a lot.
I had my first daughter at 21, that was a shock to the system! Having my daughter at that age was planned. I thought I was ready, it didn’t occur to me that I was losing a very large amount of my youth.
Going for a 20-minute Asda trip alone when she was two weeks old was like a holiday in the Caribbean! No one prepared me for the fact I had to take this little human dolly, EVERYWHERE! Toilet, shower, to answer the door… EVERYWHERE!
My life felt like it was over. Whilst my friends were of to Ibiza, I was trying to get 10 minutes sleep - wherever I could! I spent 5 years handling post natal depression, becoming addicted to anti-depressants and spent over 3 years being suicidal. Paris was wonderful, don’t get me wrong - but my hormones didn’t work like most people and I firmly lost myself and my mind.
I was only 2 years into recovery when I found out the dynamite that is Peach was en route too! And well, true to form. The kid made an entrance. I was terrified of PND turning up again, I need not have worried, it really didn’t. PTSD turned up instead when I almost died during her birth.
PND was cruel, it robbed me of the mother I wanted to be to Paris. PTSD was awful, the physical recovery was even worse, but I did get to bond with my baby – and that’s a gift we take for granted.
So yes… I did the ‘having children thing young’ …I didn’t get to travel the world, go backpacking (although, could you imagine?!?) I didn’t do uni at 18, didn’t get to spend the years of 18-25 being drunk somewhere… I was a mother instead. If I’m brutally honest, the years of 21 until 31 are a blur of trauma and survival. Do I think having children young impacted that? Yes. I didn’t realise, but I wasn’t ready.
I didn’t see it at the time, but for me, having my daughters young was the best thing I ever did. I didn’t see anything to be honest back then – just that I had to make these miniature humans survive!
My life only seemed to start in my early 30s, when the kids were getting older.
I went to uni and studied law at 29.
I certainly had and continue to have spells of ‘wild fun times’.
I have travelled the world, but the best bit is… I now get to do it with two of my best friends too.
I’m 37… I don’t have sleepless nights (Peach will sleep until 12 noon if I let her!!). I now have time for my career and hobbies. My life is actually harder without my girls. The best bit about my life today is that I have two incredible humans I get to share all memories and experiences with and frankly, in my opinion… for me, after my conversation with Victoria, I realised I did it ‘the right way round’ too.
I write this, rather brutally honest article because I spent 16 years thinking I had children ‘the wrong way round’. It took my very good friend to make me stop and think, if you’re anything like me… living with a constant low level guilt of believing ‘you’ve done it the wrong way round’, I hope this article makes you stop and think too.
There is no right or wrong way to parent. Parenting is hard, we’re all ‘nailing it’, in our own very individual ways.