Reflections of a mum on hitting the 'sweet spot' of parenting

Is there such a thing as hitting the ‘sweet spot’ in parenting? EIMEAR HUTCHINSON reflects on this issue in her weekly column
Reflections of a mum on hitting the 'sweet spot' of parenting

“Now it is busy making lunches, doing homework, dinners, washing mountains of clothes and driving from one extracurricular activity to the next.” Picture: Stock

TIME is never really your own when you’re a parent, is it? I’ve only just come to realise that, despite being in this parenting game for over nine years now.

I somewhat foolishly harboured grand notions that my few hours of freedom in the morning while the smallest lady is now in playschool would amount to what one would constitute ‘free time’. Alas, in reality that is far from the case.

I don’t mind, my life is my children so my mornings are generally spent sorting out bits they need like finding goggles for swimming, matching red and white socks for camogie, prepping the dinner and getting my own work done.

There are a lot of stages in parentings, aren’t there?! Big ones, small ones, short-lived ones and ones you are glad to see the back of – I’m looking at you teething! Despite the chaotic nature of this current stage, I think so far this stage is my favourite. Like with every stage of parenting, it is busy but now it is a lovely sort of busy.

When the girls were younger, it was busy with things like weaning, cleaning, changing nappies, settling for naps, playing games, singing songs and bedtime routines. It was full on late into the night and all through the day. Now it is busy making lunches, doing homework, dinners, washing mountains of clothes and driving from one extracurricular activity to the next.

The difference now is that it’s not so isolating. Looking after a baby is predominantly done at home because it’s easier to deal with the unpredictability a baby constantly brings in the comfort of your own home. There aren’t many others that can keep you company at 2am, 4am, even 6am when you are awake with a small baby, and often times a baby is so all-consuming that the sheer notion of making yourself presentable to venture into the outside world is just too much.

I have come to discover though that raising children and (I presume!) teenagers is done in a much more sociable setting. You might be doing the school run but you’ll stop and have a chat with someone at the school gate, you might be dropping the children off at camogie but you’ll chat with another parent dropping at the same time. You interact with parents and other adults about play-dates, parties, matches, homework, trips to the park, lifts and on the sidelines, and that lends itself to a sense of belonging that is hugely refreshing after years in the trenches with small children.

I must say, the pandemic has probably set me up nicely for this stage in our lives (can I say that or is it too soon!?). I think if we hadn’t had any time over the last few years to stop and pause, I would be mentally drained at this stage. 

Instead, I find myself signing us all up to more and more classes to the point where there is barely an hour on any evening or weekend morning that we are free.

I am grabbing the here and now with vigour and delight in seeing a full calendar, as opposed to last year’s calendar, which was still on March by the end of the year. I am probably overcompensating because my mind is often drawn back to the days where the girls craved friends, sports and learning, but that’s OK, I’ll find a balance soon.

I guess we are also lucky in our household because the girls run from age nine down to three and now it is pure perfection. None of them think we are too embarrassing to be seen with in public, I can still wrangle a cuddle out of all of them, however brief, and the youngest doesn’t need nappies or a nap, so leaving the house for a day out or to go to the shops doesn’t require as much overthinking as it used.

We aren’t pulled in numerous directions for holidays or days out yet, with playgrounds, beaches or walks in the forest still enjoyable activities for all. They don’t have mobile phones so we haven’t lost their attention to not just the outside world but also the virtual world.

I do feel that while we may have hit the sweet spot in this stage of parenting, the girls I haven’t quite found the sweet spot in my own parenting abilities. I am constantly trying to make life more functional and organised; I am not by my nature very organised; I exist in a semi frenzied state trying to pack as much into each day lately, when I should probably chill a bit and we would get through the day at a much more manageable pace. I’m sure I’ll find my groove in time, or maybe I never will, but I’m not searching for it either, there’s a contentment in accepting you may never be the perfect parent but that you are trying your absolute best!

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