Having done this motherhood business once before, when I was twenty-two, a small (detached) part of me wondered how much harder having a baby would be when I was older. Would I lose the weight more slowly, would I be more patient, would the demands of the sleepless nights be easier to deal with? Now that my latest baby is a toddler, it seemed like a good time to reflect on what being a mum second time around has cost me.
1) My sanity – You may think I am joking but I do think the extreme exhaustion caused by a baby who still does not sleep at all well has left me a little bit crazy. This might be a cost that passes with time and sleep (although a friend told me last week that she knew someone whose son did not sleep through the night until he was ELEVEN). I am convinced that the hormones of motherhood change our personalities, in any case; I distinctly remember when my daughter was around two, waking up one morning and suddenly feeling like myself again. This time around, I felt more like myself once the hunger for writing had returned but I’m still not back to who I was pre-pregnancy. I am still very emotional too; Homes Under The Hammer can make me cry…
2) My figure – OK, this is a bit self-indulgent as within six months of giving birth, I weighed less than I had pre-pregnancy. But although I lost the weight, I also lost my boobs. Eight months of heavy-duty breastfeeding took a toll and they are like soldiers who have done a particularly war-torn tour of duty – shadows of their former selves. Alas, I think this damage is permanent but I’m proud of the fact that I successfully breastfed for that long.
3) My financial independence – Babies are a lot more expensive than I remember. For several years with my daughter, I was a single parent and I don’t remember feeling the pinch quite so much as I do now. Obviously, there are other global factors to consider now and Part of the problem is that I only work part time now, but I am irritated to discover that I am financially dependent on my husband, for the first time ever. It would be a major issue if we ever split up, and I know that doesn’t sound very romantic – surely, that would be the least of my concerns – but as someone who has always been independent, it rankles a bit. My aim is to get back to being the major earner again as soon as possible.
4) My career – This one is definitely overly melodramatic: it hasn’t cost me my career at all. But I have lost time and momentum; last year, I had one book out, this year, I have one book out. I found it harder to concentrate on writing while pregnant, I was tired and unfocused. Then, once the baby arrived, I had other priorities and now I am paying the price for that. It is (thankfully) a temporary blip – I will have two books out next year, maybe more, but finding the time to write is tricky and I am much less prolific than I was.
5) My social life – Again, this is a temporary thing and it is already getting better. Now that the baby is older, I feel I can spend time away from him in the evenings. What I don’t do is go out with my husband anymore – one of us always stays at home to babysit. This is because he doesn’t sleep well enough for me to be confident that he won’t wake a few times in an evening so I would prefer that either his dad or I am there if he does.
6) Any kind of hairstyle – I lost a lot of hair when he was born and it’s still growing back, so I have tufts which stick out at right angles from my fringe no matter what I do. It’s growing back grey, too, so I look like an old tufty badger. It’s nothing that a good hairdresser and some hair dye won’t fix but I haven’t had the time to find either.
7) My line free face – I don’t know if it’s tiredness or encroaching time but I see more wrinkles and I look about a hundred. I hope it’s just tiredness. I don’t like looking older than the Queen.
8) My patience – I might be more empathetic but I am definitely less patient, especially with fools, who I never had much time for before. Alas, I think this might be a permanent change. George Osborne, I am looking at you.
The list could go on and on. Of course, I have gained a lot more than I’ve lost. One little smile from my little boy during a sleepless night and all my irritation and exhaustion becomes bearable once more. Watching him master a new skill fills me with immeasurable happiness. And I have a ready made audience for my picture books. That list could go on and on too, so I’m not in any way bleating about the things I have lost. I just think it’s worth noting them, especially since it also makes me realise what I’ve gained. So maybe I didn’t lose them at all – maybe I traded them for something more valuable. I kind of like that way of looking at it, don’t you?