Throughout my life and even more prevalent in my parenting journey I have carried a bag of emotions. It began with sadness because I felt I could be better, like I should be better for my children and for myself. Along the way I picked up guilt, a big pile of it. For all the things I couldn't give my child, for every production I miss, for the time I wasn't there and for the time I needed a moment to myself - and took it. Jealousy was another that somehow I managed to load into my bag of emotions. I was jealous that some mums just made it look so easy, that they handled parenting as if they were made to do it and then there was me, crying in the shower because I was torn between sitting with my baby asleep on my chest or being clean - I now would rather smell than miss that fleeting moment, but at the time I was a very different person. Loneliness is something that has been a shadow in my parenting, always there, you can see it but never quite touch it. 8 years worth of times where being alone in the dark, alone in the coffee shop or even alone at the doctors with a crying baby or toddler felt like I was the only person in the world at that moment. The only person who couldn't soothe their baby, the only person who has a toddler who would look them in the eye before defying every rule I had ever placed.
In my bag I dragged around Guilt, Loneliness, Jealousy and Sadness. I should be clear here and say yes, they are mixed with joy, love, elation, exhaustion and so much more but they weigh the most. The emotional equivalent of a ten tonne weight, time 4.
Parenthood isn't the hardest thing on earth, it is wonderful and brings with it a lot of joy. However it is the emotional torture we put ourselves through continually that beings to weigh us down, or gives us the feeling of being mentally and physically tired. As a parent saying no is second nature, we feel we know what is best for our child, we know what they need and how to provide for them, but it's when it comes to things we think they should have and they don't have that we start to unravel. When I was at university I missed some plays, I missed some teething, I missed some steps. Those steps will forever haunt me, I can never get those back. I watched her sisters take every step, twice as close in a bid to claw back what I felt I had missed. I realised that really I felt like if I managed to see everything else I wouldn't feel like I had let her down, she assures me as she cannot remember her first step that is perfectly alright that I wasn't there. During meetings and trainings over the last few years I have missed words, I have missed falls and I have missed cake crumbling on the table and laughing. I come home to smiles, they talk and tell me what they have done. I soak in each word, I drift away in each syllable that trips from their lisping cherub mouthes.
During my meetings I sit and slowly count down the moments until I can return home, not unlike many working parents. Once I walk through the door, once I change from smart clothes to my leggings and baggy t-shirts. Once I have my slippers and a mum-bun hair style. Once I have been delivered all the stories, the joy and they tell me of each minute I missed I realise that the guilt I feel for leaving them is singularly mine. The jealousy that pangs in my chest is how someone feels about me and my incredibly flexible working times. The loneliness is fleeting and will eventually pass. I know that I should, and I will need to forgive myself for the mistakes I have made, for the mistakes I will still make, I need to forgive myself for the times I cannot physically be there, I need to forgive myself for the times that I am late, for the times I say 'no' to the must have item and the time I say 'no' for their safety.
The hardest thing is to accept your mistakes, to really understand your 'failings' or why you view them as such, accept you are not perfect and let that go, for if we are ever going to survive the years left in front of us as parents, grandparents and maybe great-grandparents we need to forgive ourselves for the things we cannot change and relish in the times that we are there, the times we do make the plays and the cake crumbling on the table is ours to enjoy. So I implore you dear parent reading this, forgive yourself for the wrong you think you have done, forgive yourself - because your children will forgive you, even if you don't, and there is much to be learned in that.