So yesterday was my birthday. I turned 23! How crazy.
Anyway, I didn’t want to do anything elaborate for my birthday so I decided on a simple family dinner at my house. I also invited a few of my really good friends to, but only 2 could make it (which was fine because these two are who I would consider my best friends).
Anyway, the dinner was going great and we were all laughing and chatting and having fun. My best friend is currently completing her masters degree at university and was telling my family about what she does. She was telling me that she loves the fact i have a child because she gets to see a baby all the time, but also gets to give her back after she’s had enough of playing with her. She then was like ‘it’s like I get all the fun without the responsibility!’.
Well, at that point I laughed, because it was true. I do go around there and she plays with Scarlett, but once she’s sick of playing with Scarlett, Scarlett always comes back with me and they get a full nights rest.
A second later, her boyfriend turned around and said ‘isn’t that the setup Chantelle has anyway? All the fun without the responsibility’ then he asked my mum if she agreed. My mum was shocked by the question so she never said anything- just laughed.
And that was when I think my heart broke a little.
I went through a range of emotions very quickly. At first, I was mad that he had said such a thing, then I was embarrassed because my whole family had just heard him put me down. Then I was really sad. Is that what he thinks of me? Is that what everyone thinks of me?
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. It has really touched a nerve and rocked my whole foundation.
What he has essentially said is that I’ve had a child and don’t bother to look after it. That I dump her with my mum and expect her to care for her constantly.
I think we all know how sensitive I am as a person. It has never taken much to upset me and since I got pregnant (even after I had Scarlett) I have been doubly as sensitive and emotional. I’m very switched on to people’s emotions and I often let it affect me.
But this comment has especially stung.
I couldn’t figure it out at first. Why had this comment hurt so much? Why am I still thinking about it a day later?
Honestly, I can’t really explain it properly, but I think i have an idea why.
See, I’m really paranoid about being a bad parent. I think it is because both of my biological parents were terrible parents. My biological dad decided to leave when I was quite young. I don’t remember much of him, but I remember that he never wanted to play with me, that he always used to walk in and turn off my TV station and switch it to horse racing, that he never gave me presents, and that he always used to refuse to watch my dance concerts because ‘I was a child and can’t dance’.
My biological mother battled with mental illness and drug/alcohol addiction growing up and never really wanted to see me. On the weekends that she had me all I did was watch TV. She never wanted to do anything except catch up with her boyfriends.
I’ve never really spoken about this before, but I was deathly afraid of the dark when I was younger. My biological mum let me watch the original exorcist when I was 4 1/2 years old. When I wanted to stop watching it because it got too scary, she told me I had picked the movie and needed to finish it. From that day on, I couldn’t sleep alone. That continued to the point that I was 12 years old.
It didn’t bother my mum (auntie) because she didn’t mind me sleeping with her, but my biological mum never wanted to me sleep with her because the weekends were her ‘boyfriend’ time. I remember that it would become dark and I would feel such anxiety about it being bedtime in a few hours. Those weekends I hardly slept at all. I would stay awake infront of the TV until 5:30am, sometimes later, just so that I was falling asleep with light. My mum never let me keep the lights on and the TV was very small and very dim, so it was still very dark.
I used to cry and cry and cry and my mum would wake up to go to the toilet and tell me to shut up. On the odd occasions she wouldn’t have her current boyfriend over and would let me sleep with her.
I remember there were several times where she told me that her boyfriend wasn’t coming around so I could sleep with her, only to be woken up and kicked out of bed at 2am because he decided to show up.
Sometimes I wasn’t even in bed yet and he showed up. I remember wishing that doorbell never rang because then I would actually get a good nights sleep.
This is turning into a different story, but my point is, my parents weren’t good parents.
It is for this reason that I knew what type of parent I wanted to be. I wanted to be the loving, doting, affectionate parent who was present and put their child first.
I have been so paranoid about being a good parent that I’m terrified of being a bad one. If both of my biological parents were bad parents, how could I not be a bad parent? Is it genetic?
Anyway, the comment that my friend made about me really made me upset because even though I’ve been trying so hard to be everything for Scarlett, it just hasn’t worked. People obviously view me as a bad parent, despite all my efforts.
See, the thing is, I think the biggest issue here is that I often question if I’m a good parent. Some days are worse than others, but Im always making pros and cons lists in my head regarding my parenting. Like ‘pro- you got Scarlett to stop climbing the steps, con- you had to beg and plead and get frustrated a full 30 minutes before you blocked it off and decided to just let her throw a hissy fit because you couldn’t care anymore’.
My number one problem is the amount of time she spends with my mum and this is the biggest thing that makes me question my parenting.
See, the thing is, my mum is a day carer so she looks after kids all day. Her earliest child gets dropped off at 6:30am and her last one leaves at 5:30pm every day. This works out perfect for me as Scarlett can be in care while I’m working or studying. Or even on the odd occasions when I go out to the movies with my friends, my mum will happily take her for a few hours while I catch up with friends.
Until recently, I thought I was doing a good job at juggling everything. I’ve been working 3-5 days per week then I study at least 2 other days. 2 days a week is the minimum required work days for my course, so I can’t do any less than this. I would actually like to work more than what I do because I really need the money, but they just don’t have the shifts available all the time and I don’t want to get a second job.
The point is, Scarlett is with my mum some days from the time she wakes up to the time she goes to sleep.
Is that right at this age? To not see her parent every day? I mean, I see her, she just doesn’t see me.
I know I have to stop being hard on myself, but that’s easier said than done too. It makes it hard because I keep being told to go with my gut instinct when it comes to parenting. But my gut is pulled in all different directions. One minute it tells me that I am doing all of this hard work for her and she will learn that parents need a good work ethic to support their family, but at the same time it’s telling me I don’t spend enough time with her or do enough with her or give her enough or whatever.
And its the same with me thinking I’m a bad mum. One minute I feel like I’m rocking this parenting gig and that I’ve fully got the hang of it, then someone makes a comment like that and every bit of confidence I’ve gained just plummets and shatters.
Of course I laugh it off like it didn’t affect me, but I can name all 4 times someone has made reference to my ‘less than perfect’ parenting skills and I’m sure I’ll be able to do it for years to come. That’s how much comments like that affect me.
Like, call me fat and call me ugly, I couldn’t give a shit. Yes I’m fat and there are some gorgeous girls out there, so those comments don’t get to me. But when someone calls me a bad parent, it hits a nerve.
Maybe I feel worse with comments like that because I question my parenting skills on a daily basis anyway. Plus, Scarlett only has one parent, so it just sticks in my mind that she only has one opportunity for a good childhood and if I am a bad parent, she doesn’t have another one to pick up the pieces, so she won’t get that.
The fact of the matter is, whilst I am 100% happy with the decision I made to become a single parent to Scarlett, especially since it has created this wonderful little life, I would have loved for it to be different. Of course I would have. I grew up dreaming of the family unit. The mum, the dad, the perfect little family with 2 kids and some pets in a house with a white picket fence. I wanted that so bad. Hell, I still do.
But I had/have a time limit and it was either have Scarlett now and maybe get the white picket fence, or don’t have a baby and risk never having any of it. I know that I would never have been happy just having a partner. I wanted children and that was what made the family unit special for me, the kids, not the husband.
It would have been really nice though. I would love to parent with someone and have that team unit. Sometimes even just the little things would be nice, like being able to discuss names with a partner or get excited over the fact that Scarlett polished off her broccoli within a few seconds.
Just to share those moments, you know?
But then people always want what they don’t have and that’s natural. I would always pick Scarlett over anything in the world, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
I think that even though I thought I knew what I was signing up for, you never really know until you’ve gone through it.
Like I said before, it’s the little things that would have been nice to share with someone. You all probably remember what My mum was like when I was trying to get pregnant, very distant and cold. While I had friends to talk to, I couldn’t really burden anyone with everything I was feeling.
After the miscarriage, it would have been really nice to have someone who was equally as disappointed about it as I was and cried with me instead of me doing it on my own. I felt so goddamn alone after that miscarriage. I came home crying and my mum never said anything. I sat down at the table and told her what happened and she said ‘that’s not good’ then asked to speak about it later because she had to call the office to find out details about a meeting.
Even once I got pregnant and they weren’t sure if I was going to miscarry again. It would have been nice to have some support there too. 9 weeks is a long time to be in a constant state of worry and it just would have been nice to share the burden. Literally, even if it was just to get advice from the other person or a bit of consoling. I remember there was one point there when I was 8 weeks pregnant and I was still bleeding everyday, then I went to the toilet and (okay, this is going to be super gross!) passed a massive, huge clot. Like, it was so big it ‘plopped’ into the toilet. I was convinced that was my baby floating in the toilet. Then the blood was literally running out. It was like I was peeing blood. That’s how aggressively it was pouring out. And while I was sitting there crying and calling out for my mum (who didn’t hear me because she was on the phone to her mum), it would have been nice to have someone who could have at least told me that it would be okay either way. She eventually just told me that it probably wasn’t good that that I would have to deal with it.
Of course, that’s what a single parent does, deal with it, and I know that’s exactly what I signed on for, hell, I would happily sign on for it again, but you don’t know how challenging it is until you’re already going through it and the act is done. At least, I didn’t know how much it would affect me until I was going through it.
And these are the little things I’m discovering along the way. Obviously parenting is a learning experience and I think I have learned to appreciate the help of a partner. That’s all. I’m not complaining about my situation, I just sometimes wish it was different. I can’t change that, and if it meant never having Scarlett, I would never want to. I just feel really alone sometimes when something like this happens. I don’t have a partner or another person to encourage me and tell me that I’m doing a good job. Some days I feel like a rookie and that I’m not doing anything right. Other days are much better and I feel like I’m kicking ass.
But like I said, my gut pulls me in every direction, and with a comment like the one my friend made, it just derails me for a while. I’ll get over it, I always do. I know I’m trying my hardest and that’s all I can do.
On one hand I sit back and think about my life and try to justify why I am a good parent to myself. I am Scarlett’s only parent so I have to juggle work and study and a baby and a social life while also squeezing in ‘me time’, which is usually usually reading a bit of a book at night after she is asleep. But then I sit back and think that I’m not doing enough of everything.
I want to work more so I have more money so I can save more or buy more or pay a bill a little quicker, but that requires being away from Scarlett longer.
I want to study more to get my course out of the way, but then I’m away from Scarlett more.
I want to see friends and catch up with them, but sometimes when they invite me to places I can’t take Scarlett I am torn. I can’t make them change their plans for me, so a lot of the time I say no. It’s very rare I do go out without Scarlett, and usually if I do it’s to the movies and straight back home, but I feel terrible for going out and leaving her there.
I want to do nothing but be with Scarlett, but I can’t quit everything else I do.
I want to be the sole carer of Scarlett and not want or need help. But some nights Scarlett just doesn’t sleep. She refuses to do anything but cry and toss and turn and kick me in the face all night. Usually I have to work until 9:30 at night so if I don’t sleep, I’m a walking zombie. Which is why I love that my mum comes and grabs Scarlett of a morning for me. So that if I’ve had a bad night and hardly slept because of Scarlett, at least I can get 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep. She’s awake already and would be up anyway, so she’s not inconveniencing herself, but i still feel bad that it’s not me soldiering on like some other mums have to. Even the ones with partners! To be fair though, even some mums with partners seek help from parents/family members.
I don’t know, I’m just feeling really sensitive right now. I want to give Scarlett the world, but I just feel like I’m not doing a good job. It really distresses me because I don’t want to be a bad parent. Scarlett only gets one parent and if she is lumped with a bad one, her life will be terrible. I hate it because I’m trying my hardest. I don’t think there is any extra effort I could put into it, but it seems my best isn’t good enough.
And it makes me sad because I would love a second baby, but if I’m a bad parent to one child, what will I be with two?
Maybe I’m not wanting a partner but more so a support system. My mum is a great help but she just brushes off comments like that.
She tells me that my friends don’t see the daily doubting we go through. They aren’t there at night when I’m awoken sometimes up to 30 times by a crying baby. They aren’t the ones who sometimes don’t sleep at all then go work an 11 hour shift to make money to pay for food and rent and bills.
They don’t have kids so they don’t get it, but it’s so hard. It’s so hard to be trying your hardest at everything and just not getting results. Well, not even results, more so just an acknowledgement that I’m doing a good job would be nice. I’m not trying to appear perfect and I don’t want people to perceive me as that, I just don’t want to have a negative connotation to my parenting skills.
I know I’m only one person and I can only spread myself so thin, but I’m really upset over the fact that I can’t do it all. I can’t play the role of both parents as well as being the worlds best mum. I don’t want to be the worlds best mum, I just want people to think I’m a good mum.
I keep Scarlett clean, I bathe her, I feed her, I provide for her, she has clothes, toys, access to medical services, extracurricular activities. She is bathed in love and affection and is happy.
I don’t know. I thought I was doing a good job, but to have one of my best friends say that on my birthday has absolutely devastated me.