Raising a Baby
We’ve all seen the articles about how much money it takes to raise a child from newborn to a young adult, but how much faith can we really put into the figures? There are just too many choices to make along the way that will affect the final figure. For example, education can either be through the public system or you can go private, well there’s a $150,000 difference just there. Will your child attend every ballet, singing, piano, rugby, tennis lesson there is? Or will they be content to play in the backyard, go to the park and hang out with friends? Will they need braces? Will you holiday at the local caravan park or travel to Club Med so they can go to kids club? The alternatives are too great to quantify. Also, there’s no point suggesting that raising your children is going to cost you $450,000 or more if you’re never going to be able to spend that sort of money, that will only lead to us all feeling depressed and turn us off having any more children.
As a group of women, we’re all very resourceful and will successfully raise our children with what ever resources we have available. The reality is, kids don’t need to attend kindy gym, music and jazz classes from the time they can sit up, most of us never did and we’ve turned out just fine. What we did have was the basics for survival in the world that we live in, shelter, food, water, good health, an education, a good set of values and most importantly to feel safe, loved and wanted. Like most children and teenagers we tend to take it all for granted, it isn’t until you become a Mother that you realise just how selfless and self sacrificing that your parents had been. So, to achieve the outcome of a well balanced, kind, considerate and happy young adult there are sacrifices that we have to make along the way and I suppose you could call these the real “costs” of raising your child.
Here are just a few of the “Costs and Sacrifices” that I came up with:
- The loss of your previous self identity.
- The loss of your sleep.
- A changing relationship with your partner.
- The loss of your ability to work in your chosen profession with ease.
- Being on call 24/7(and I mean on call, “Mum, Mum, Mum”).
- Never going to the toilet or having a shower on your own.
- Stretchmarks and a different shaped body.
- Not buying yourself new clothes because your kids need something more than you do.
- And most importantly missing out on the last piece of chocolate cake just so your kids can have it.
I don’t for one moment suggest that Mums are resentful of these “costs” but the reality is these are the sorts of sacrifices we make when we enter the role of parenthood, and it’s nice to know that we’re all in the same boat.
We all had one, at least I think I did, it’s almost too hard to remember life before children. They are so totally consuming that it is very easy to forget that you were somebody else in another place and time. When you have a baby, your identity changes whether you like it or not. All of a sudden you are no longer just you, or a partner, you are now officially a mum and that role isn’t just while they are a baby, it’s forever. It can take a while to adjust to this new identity and over the years it will change as your children grow older.
Occasionally there are glimpses of the old you, usually when you are having some childfree time, if you’re lucky enough to have support around you that allows that time. Or perhaps you’ve waited until the children are at pre-school or kindy before finding some time for you the individual. You may be a working mum and find that is your time for your self and a great way to revisit your old life. Many mothers groups and friends establish a roster to help each other find the time to spend alone or with their partner. Going to the gym and using the crèche is another favourite for many mothers, this provides them the time to regain their previous physical condition and allows them time away from their children while knowing they are close by and safe.
Loss of Sleep
Sleep deprivation starts in the very beginning, during pregnancy. You can’t get comfortable, you suffer from reflux, and you ask, is that the 15th Braxton Hicks contraction or is it the real thing? Very quickly you realise that wasn’t real sleep deprivation, that was just a taster for when baby actually arrives and you begin to survive on 4 hours sleep per night that is taken in 40 minute intervals. Fortunately this time passes reasonably quickly (a couple of years) though you’re left with a sleep deficit that you can never recover.
Time passes quietly until all too soon you have a teenager and the sleep deprivation starts again. It’s now 1.15am and your nose is pressed up to the window waiting to catch a glimpse of your “baby” arriving home before you can even contemplate laying your head to rest. Finally, they walk up the driveway and you dive for the covers so they don’t catch the mad woman at the window and feel as if you don’t trust them. Nonchalantly you ask the next morning “Did you have a good night? You were quiet coming in, I didn’t hear you, what time was it?” while wondering when you will ever again get a solids night’s sleep.
A Changing Relationship With your Partner
Your relationship with your partner is definitely something that changes after you become a mother. Once there were two and now there are three or four or five…! Having an extra person involved in your relationship can be pretty taxing. Many new dads find the adjustment very difficult as they are unsure about what is expected of them and they may feel neglected after the baby is born. Let’s face it they’ve gone from being your number one priority to a very distant second behind your new baby.
Talking to “Dad” about the sort of help you would like from him could help to alleviate any miscommunication. There’s nothing worse than hoping that they will read your mind when the reality is they probably won’t and then being disappointed and angry with each other. Be clear in your instructions (even writing them down can help). Don’t forget that they are new at this game as well and may need to make a few mistakes of their own to learn. Another tip to remember is that there can be a Mums way and a Dads way, your baby will learn that you are both individuals with different strengths and qualities.
Finding the time for each other is very important but much easier said than done. Many mums are too tired or may lack any desire to engage in any sort of sexual activity in the first year and this can be difficult for your partner to accept. Something as simple as going for a walk together; stopping for a cup of tea on the weekend or lighting a candle for the dinner table with a glass of wine can make all the difference. As the years pass and the children gain more independence and you have more time together, it’s important to have maintained the connection that brought you together in the first place. Keep in perspective that the reason that you had children was because of the love you shared in your relationship, with a little work you can end up with a stronger bond.
Work (That’s the Paid kind)
Having children can have an impact on your ability to maintain your previous role in the workforce. Although there have been some changes in recent years to accommodate mothers’ needs in their working lives we still have a long way to go. Most women who return to the workforce would prefer to have a role that was both personally and professionally fulfilling while providing the flexibility that we need to also fulfil our “job” as a mum. Many women sacrifice their original chosen career path to take on a role that already provides this flexibility rather than fight for the change in their previous role. Of course you have to have child care in place for you to even consider any of the options. Whatever you choose to do, finding the right balance between family life and work is difficult but can be worthwhile.
Work (This is the unpaid kind)
If you hear a comment from anyone that suggests that your role as a “Stay at Home Mum” is easy, or that you have a life of leisure, take a big breath and turn away, they’ve obviously never been a mum and we all know the truth. Being a mum is definitely one of the toughest jobs around, it’s emotionally draining and physically arduous, but it is also one of the most rewarding and gratifying jobs of your life. Sure we all have days where we feel that we’re not valued enough, but those early smiles from your baby, little notes from your 5 year old that say “I love you mum” and a small hug from our teenagers surely make it all worthwhile.
Being needed all the time is one of the hardest things to adjust to as a new mum and to constantly respond to your baby is a huge sacrifice and yet one we make without thinking. It is our “job”! There are times when you may feel that it’s all too much; rest assured that you’re normal and we all feel like shouting “leave me alone” every once in a while. There is a story of a mother who returned to the workforce and on her first day she went to the bathroom, sat on the toilet and cried. A women in the next cubicle asked was she OK to which she replied “I’m fine, I just didn’t realise how much I had missed going to the toilet without any one else being with me.”
Is it possible to place a dollar value on this unpaid work role that encompasses all of the following elements?
- Primary Child carer 24 hours a day 7 days a week
- First Aid attendant and nurse for sick family
- Early learning educator and homework tutor
- Home Manager and Economist
- Odd jobs and handy woman
- Child Psychologist
- Police, Judge and Jury
- Art and craft teacher
Just how much would it cost to employ all these different people to fulfil these roles in your family? To put a dollar value on your role as a mum is impossible because you offer so much more than someone that performs just these tasks, the word “mum” means so much more, it means love, caring and commitment among other things and a mother is priceless.
Your Body Changes
We all knew that our body shape would change while we were pregnant, but discovering that you have a new body after your baby’s birth can be hard to deal with. For some women no matter how hard they exercise or limit their intake of “bad” foods, they will forever have a little pot belly, which may or may not be covered in stretch marks. Do you throw away the midriff tops and low cut hipster pants that were your favourites before having a baby or do you hang onto them just in case you find the miracle cure?
Many women find that the ligaments that were allowed to relax during pregnancy to accommodate their growing baby never return to their pre-pregnancy form leaving you with an increased size rib cage, larger shoe size and wider hips.
It’s very important to realise that this feeling of dissatisfaction is common and try not stress too much about your new body shape. It is important, however, to ensure that you are fit and healthy otherwise you’ll have no chance of keeping up with your active toddler. Speak to your doctor before you begin your exercise programme and also about your diet so you can establish what is right for you.
As a mum we seem to have an inbuilt sacrifice system when it comes to our children. The sacrifices we make everyday may only be small but they show that level of love and commitment that you were probably never aware that you had before you had your baby. It’s unlikely that you’ll treat yourself to new clothes, a facial or a massage before your children have all of their new bits and pieces. How many times have you walked out the door with a bag full of lunch, drinks and snacks for your baby and nothing for yourself? You probably content yourself with the crusts and other leftovers.
Why do we always put our children ahead of ourselves? Because you are a mother.
Are the Sacrifices Too Great?
The simple answer is a resounding “NO”. Yes, being a mum is hard work and we do have to make enormous adjustments to our lives but you would be hard pressed to find a mum that would say that they would rather have their old life without their children. I know that I wouldn’t.
Sometimes it helps to talk about it. If you’d like, go to our Huggies Forum and chat on line to other mums about all the ups and downs of parenthood. We are all in it together.