27/06/2018 14:31 BST | Updated 27/06/2018 14:31 BST

What's Natural About Parenting?

'Natural' isn't all white floaty dresses and harmony, it's much more bumpy and stained

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You hear the word natural a lot as soon as you become pregnant. And that word ‘natural’ hangs around for the next year or so. Did you conceive naturally? Was it a natural birth? Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world. You’ve taken to it like a natural.

But when you really think about it having a baby and the subsequent raising of that baby, isn’t always ‘natural’. I think the word natural feeds our guilt when things don’t quite go so naturally. Because naturally isn’t superior to any other way.

Before actually becoming pregnant I always envisaged pregnant me in long floaty white dresses, looking serene and ‘natural’. In reality pregnancy was pretty much spent with my head down the toilet, being hoisted out of bed by husband due to PGP, and the pregnancy ‘glow’ was purely sweat. And whilst I marvelled at the kicks and cried at the scans, and couldn’t wait to meet my baby, nothing about by body felt ‘natural’ during pregnancy.

Was it a natural birth?

I suppose. But having lots of people staring at my lady garden and making sounds not to dissimilar to a cow didn’t feel all that natural. It was me doing the mooing by the way, not the people staring at my lady garden.

Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world.

Is it? Is it really? Because getting my baps out in public was so far out of my comfort zone it really didn’t feel very natural. Saying “Do you mind if I feed him” then getting my boobs out in front of my brother-in-law felt a bit odd. And as for the enormous proportions they swelled to the day my milk came in, well they looked more Jordan than natural.

You’ve taken to it like a natural

What does that even mean?

And what happens when we can’t do things ‘naturally’. We beat ourselves up. We feel inferior. We feel the need to justify our choices. With my first son I had an epidural and felt like a failure. And when I stopped breastfeeding I felt the need to justify my choice, even though it was the right choice for us.

There are many wonderful natural moments of parenting. It’s natural to stare at them in complete awe, thinking “I made that”. I still do that now and mine are 8 and 4! It’s natural to feel the overwhelming desire to protect your child. It’s natural to feel like you could burst with pride with every achievement and milestone they make. It’s natural to love them more than you ever thought possible.

But do you know what? It’s also natural to need a break.

It’s natural to find it hard and sometimes lonely. And we shouldn’t need to suppress our natural urges, for fear of someone saying we are ungrateful for our children on that we should cherish every moment.

There are the natural parts of parenting that aren’t marketed as ‘natural’. But they are.

The natural urge to have eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, or to to superglue your baby’s socks on. It’s completely natural to want to pull in a stranger off the street to deal with the poonami. As is the natural urge to punch the lady giving you death stares because your toddler is having a meltdown in the supermarket.

And so is the natural urge not to flip the bird behind your kids back when they are arguing with you. Or the natural urge to bury your head in a pillow and scream when you hear the Paw Patrol theme tune. It’s completely natural and very understandable to want to weep when your toddler asks you “Why.” Again. And the natural urge to crack open the wine at 9:05 am after a stressful school run is felt by parents across the country every day.

Natural isn’t all white floaty dresses and harmony.

Natural is far more bumpy and stained!

And as for all those things that are supposed to be ‘natural’? They are about as natural as my hair colour.

This post was first published on Life, Love and Dirty Dishes. Follow on Facebook or Instagram for more tales from the front line of parenting.