Updated: Oct 22, 2022
I find the experience of having children utterly time distorting and disorienting. Twenty-six hours of painful, induced-labour, with two failed epidurals, is logically, a staggering amount of time to be trying to push a human out using muscles I had failed to train over the preceding nine months. Yet I seem to have endured it, and gone back for seconds. The combination of a heat wave, a hospital ban on fans and a hot maternity ward, mid-pandemic, has etched a second, lengthy, painful, induced-labour and failed epidural a little more vividly in my mind. The time this all stretched over seems more like the length of a mediocre Marvel movie than 20-odd hours it took waiting for an exit path the diameter of a cantaloupe melon to emerge. Maternity leave passed in a heartbeat. At the time, each day seemed like a mundane Groundhog Day of breast-feeding, nappy changing and Netflix. On my first mat leave, I watched the entirety of Game of Thrones, seemingly played out in real time.
Fast forward to life with a two year old and a four year old and time continues to contract and expand in exactly the opposite way to what I would expect. Weeks fly by, milestones roll past, weekends stretch out to a length I would have loved when I was in my early twenties and counting down to Friday evening after-work drinks. The slow pace of Sundays is replaced by a day that is 50% longer (now starting around 5am) and 80% less relaxed (though 100% more fulfilling). A long weekend requires the sort of mental preparation normally reserved for stressful periods at work (now comparatively less demanding than entertaining and snack-supplying small children for an extra day).
And yet, “cherish every moment, they grow up so quickly”, as I am constantly reminded by people who, either don’t have kids, or are far enough from the terrible twos (a misnomer that should be labelled the terrible 1.5-4s) to have forgotten. Much like “living your life to the fullest” or “making every day count”, these meaningless platitudes just make parents feel guilty and ashamed if they are counting down the time until the kids are in bed or back at nursery. No one needs reminding to cherish every moment. Of course my heart bursts when my son sleeps on my chest or my daughter crawls into my lap, but I don’t actually cherish the tantrums, the night terrors and the relentless getting-of-stuff. Sometimes I do wish they would grow up quicker, just so I might reason with them or more easily communicate. I suspect this has no effect on the actual pace at which they will develop and the speed at which time will pass. Nor, will I look back and think, well they are teenagers now, but at least I relished that time my son screamed for 30 straight minutes because I broke the banana as I removed it from its skin.
a side note
These posts serve partly as therapy for me, and partly in hopes that the words will resonate with you and help build a community of parents and friends that can support each other. Take a look around the website, and join if you want to see more.