Poor Stevie

365

The smallest, loveliest person in our family turned one on Sunday. Here is a photo of her murdering some chocolate cake and destroying a smocked dress, probably handmade by elves.

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Her birthday made me think about the year that has passed (duh). Having a baby has changed me and my life in so many unexpected ways. Of course there’s all the stuff you know is coming – sleep deprivation, a messy house, no alone time, weird body happenings, inhaling of fine and varied cheeses – but 367 days ago, I was a very different person, with a very different attitude.

So herewith, a list of unexpected life changes after having a baby

A list of unexpected life changes after having a baby

Fight or flight. About five months into motherhood, I suddenly got a drastic urge to change everything about our lives. While J-man was overseas eating curly fries and stroking his beard, or whatever it is he does on business trips, I was meticulously planning a move to the village of Millthorpe, in central west NSW. I imagined an idyllic life, living within half an hour of my parents, buying our own house, going for walks in the tree-lined, empty streets as a family of three, cuddling up during the crazy cold winters and listening to the silence at night. As J-man pointed out, we have no jobs, no friends, nowhere to live and no prospects there. We also have excellent jobs, old and new wonderful friends and a sweet(ish) rental deal here in Sydney.

There are a few reasons I think this happened. After climbing out of what I consider to be a pretty god-awful-seventh-circle-of-hell-flaccid-Hungry-Jacks-burger bout of post-natal depression, the only way I could see the light was by changing absolutely everything. When I talked to a close friend (who happens to be studying psychology) about it, he said it’s a common response – it’s fight or flight. And I wanted a one way, first class flight, now please. Having a baby also made me appreciate my own mother a lot more than I already did, which was … a lot. I felt a gravitational, almost biological pull towards her, to share this experience with her, to have her love and support and give her bucketloads of mine in return. I am pretty pissed at modern society for making child-rearing a solo pursuit, as though mothers are quite happy to be trapped in their homes, far from their families.

Fight or flight version 2.0. Related: I feel pretty strongly that people of my age and stage are being slowly pushed out of Sydney. We cannot afford to raise a child here. I want her to know what it’s like to live in a house that we own – to never be given three months notice to move, or have to ask permission for the leaking toilet to be fixed, to only get cheap rent if we agree to live next to a construction zone. Also, I never want her to have to meet a real estate agent. No one should have to endure that. I also want her to be able to roam, enjoy green spaces, ride her bike on an actual road, to not understand the term “flight path”, and not worry about the name of her school.

Girl power. I was definitely a feminist before I had a baby. But now I am a FEMINIST, especially as the mother to a daughter. I have had a good experience returning to work, with a lot of supportive people at my workplace giving me breathing room and options and flexibility and advice. I am thankful for that. But that, unfortunately, is not a common experience. Childcare is so expensive and restrictive, most people’s working hours do not allow for family life, women are not returned to the roles they left, questions are constantly raised about mothers’ value and productivity in the workforce, smart and creative women are unwillingly turned into housewives, motherhood itself is not considered work. And that’s only issues that affect first-world working mothers and their families. So I can only sum up by saying: ARRRRRRGRH!

Perspective.¬†Picture this: You have just spent a week at your parents’ place, where your baby unlearned how to sleep. You return to your home and spend an entire night on the couch with a screaming baby. The baby refuses to be fed. The next morning you get up early to take the baby to a doctor’s appointment, where the doctor tells you the baby’s cry indicates the baby is hungry. Why haven’t you fed her? The doctor asks. The doctor tells you there is nothing else wrong with your baby. You leave the doctor’s office and your husband goes to work. You go home alone. The baby continues to scream all day, refusing to be soothed. THAT is a bad day. So now, several months on, traffic jams, cold coffee, deadlines, phone bills, grocery shopping, social slights, the common cold, washing up, and swimsuit shopping are a fuckin’ picnic, my friends.¬†

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