Last week I was moaning to a friend. Less of a moan really, more a venting of frustrations. It was a particularly low day for me and I was feeling pretty worn out. My beautiful little Button-Pusher was on amazing form, and really baffling me with her ability to make me laugh out loud one minute, and want to tear my hair out the next. This particular friend is amazing to talk to: she’s a font of self help wisdoms and always seems to know just what to say. That day, she hit the nail on the head: “ordinarily these things wouldn’t bother you, but because your bucket is empty you just don’t have the resources to handle it right now”. Her words really stopped me in my tracks (not literally: I was driving and didn’t want to cause a pile up on the A205). My bucket is empty. My bucket is empty. Actually now that I think about it, my bucket might have a hole in it!
I didn’t have to ask her what she meant, I knew exactly: my bucket, me, my emotional well being, was low on happiness, energy, confidence, anything of a positive nature really. Without a full bucket, small insignificant things are magnified and seem like huge problems, impossible to deal with and forever bashing you over the head. “But when did it empty out?” I’m not sure how long I’ve felt like a stressed out, not quite good enough mum, but I do know I didn’t always feel this way. The first year or so of being a mum was blissful. Well, obviously there were some sleepless nights, the usual difficulties with breast feeding, and that time she rolled off the bed (who knew she’d learnt to roll over?!) and I worried for days that she’d be damaged for life. But aside from the usual mishaps and challenges, looking back with the benefit of hindsight, it really was blissful: long walks in the park; coffee and cake with the NCT gang; lunch with friends who made all the obligatory OOs and AHHs; shopping at Bluewater and Westfield while the little B-P slept peacefully in her pram or in the sling. And let’s not forget: napping in the middle of the day, as all the books said, when baby naps, mama should too
So, as my wonderfully wise friend pointed out, “the first year or so, a lot of it is about you!” The bucket gets topped up on a regular basis. At the time of course I didn’t think about it: I just knew that this beautiful bouncing little baby had turned my world upside down, in many weird and wonderful ways. Looking back, I think my bucket remained at a fairly decent level. Slowly however, over time, as little B-P learnt to walk, play and communicate, her wants and needs grew and developed, and slowly, what we did with our time together, changed. Music classes, and soft play, baby ballet and swimming lessons. Lunch with friends, even those with babies of the same age, became less about my nutritional needs and social well being, and more about trying to keep B-P in a high chair, fed and entertained, and not wandering around the café tripping up the waitress. As naps dropped from 3 a day to none, she no longer wanted to sit in a pram while I meandered around the shops.
She now of course wants to run around the park, no longer confined to a bum shuffle, but able to run and climb, and chat to passing dogs and feed the ducks. We used to go to the cinema to watch the latest films, special screenings for mums and babies under the age of one. Now we go to the toddler screenings and watch films about boats and tractors. Of course that’s what we do now. That’s what she needs now, that’s how she learns and grows and I adore watching her thrive. And I imagine that there are some, many even, who may say, “well that’s enough Mrs Baffled, that should be enough to keep you smiling and happy, what more can you ask for?” Well, call me selfish, call me needy even, but I’ve realised that my bucket is empty and I need to fill it. Her smiles, and her gorgeous laughter, her amazing hugs and her rapidly expanding vocabulary (“Train mummy train! A miniature locomotive!” I can thank Peppa Pig for that one!), all of those things help to keep the bucket replenished on a daily basis. But I think I need to do some things just for me. Take some ‘me time’ and not lose sight of what used to keep my bucket full. Writing this blog, sharing this post, is helping. It’s not getting the dishes done but it’s helping. It feels good to replenish my bucket a little.