Before baby Niamh arrived I was really apprehensive about becoming a mother of 2 & having a daughter. In hindsight now it all seems very silly, but during my pregnancy there were sleepless nights spent worrying about whether I would have enough love & patience for a second child and the impact that a sibling would have on Henry. I didn't want the special bond I had with Henry to be affected, and thankfully I can now say confidently that it hasn't. I adore having two children!
I know that it sounds terribly cheesy but my heart literally feels like it's going to explode sometimes because I'm so happy & have so much love for these little people that I created with my love. Most afternoons at about 3pm I sit on the sofa to feed Niamh & Henry will curl up next to me for a quiet cuddle. It is my favourite time of day because it's filled with a sense of calmness & regardless of what else has happened that day at that moment we all fit together perfectly & I know that this is how things are meant to be.
Don't get me wrong having 2 tiny people rely on you 100% of the time can be exhausting & there will always be moments where there is the temptation to hide from the crying baby & tantruming toddler for a moments peace! Also being a working mother of a baby & a toddler involves a whole lot of organisation & coffee consumption to actually manage to leave the house most days! I feel the pressure sometimes as I try to carry on keeping my business running & teaching on evenings and Saturdays on top of being a full time breastfeeding mother! There are days where I struggle to find the time to feed myself or drink enough to keep myself healthy as well as the children. I also feel guilty that I leave Niamh to go out to work when Henry was nearly 10 months old before he left my side. Even though I am never gone for more than 4 hours I know that there are days when she really doesn't cope well with my absence and the bottle of expressed milk I leave behind just doesn't cut it for her.
However the joy of parenting a second time around is having a bit more perspective I know that by continuing to work I am guaranteeing our livelihood and ensuring that both my children can be raised at home by their parents. Although it's hard to leave them, especially Niamh I know that me being gone for a few hours while she is at home with her Daddy is better for all of us than me having to pay to put her in nursery so I could work 9-5. Plus I love my job & I hope that my children seeing me work hard at something I enjoy will inspire them to do the same.
Parenting is also more enjoyable this time around as I don't get so stressed because I know that the crying will stop soon & the tantrum will come to an end.....and most importantly I realise that there is nothing necessarily wrong when they cry or have a massive hissy fit! Sometimes they just want to let me know that they feel grumpy and tired, the same way I do somedays when I have a massive moan at Ken when he gets home. It's amazing how parenting feels so much easier when you cut yourself a bit of slack! I go with the flow this time around & trust my mother instincts and it seems to be working. We're all pretty happy most of the time & Niamh is thriving.
During my pregnancy I also shed quite a few tears over the fact that I didn't think I would be a good enough role model for a little girl because I have always struggled to fit in to society's idea of girliness. You see I've never had a big group of girl friends, I'm not very girly, I don't like pink, I very often feel awkward & uneasy in big groups of females & princesses have never been my thing! I really worried that I wouldn't know what to do with a little girl and that she would be embarrassed of her mother who has always been more of a granny than a princess.
The moment I met my daughter these fears melted away and we're replaced by excitement. I felt so silly that I had let other people's gender stereotypes make me feel inadequate or pressured to meet somebody else's standard of girliness! I am strong and feminine in my own granny chic way!
I have always preferred knitting, baking & reading over playing with dolls or obsessing over boys. Since I was a little girl I would always choose to have a cup of tea rather than a fizzy drink and I always had a strong sense of what suited me even if it wasn't fashionable. I feel over dressed & silly when I wear high heels, but love red lipstick & dresses. It took me until my early 20s to embrace my hair which is big & unruely, having spent my teens wishing it was straight & scraping it back into a tight unflattering ponytail everyday.
I want to help my daughter embrace her beauty much earlier than I managed to (and post baby I still struggle with my body image at times) and learn to harness what makes her amazing. Now rather than being fearful I am excited to raise a strong independent daughter! I will teach her that being a girl doesn't have to mean being a pink princess or being society's idea of sexy, it means being comfortable in her own skin, finding what makes her feel beautiful, powerful and amazing and excentuating that because if she believes she is all of those things so will everybody else that matters!
Also I've realised that while there were things that I had had to reign in with Henry, such as my love of all things granny chic because Ken wouldn't have been too happy to come home to find Henry dressed in vintage Laura Ashley dresses or his bedroom covered in 1970s floral fabrics; I can now go wild with Niamh and unleash the full flower power!
When Henry was born we tried to keep his toys very simple and gender neutral, with lots of brightly coloured wooden toys. However as he has grown up Henry has shown a great love for all things transport based...if it involves trains, planes and automobiles he's happy! We didn't push these interests upon him he just fell in love with them all on his own. I intend to do the same with Niamh, start off gender neutral and let her pick her own interests.
However I have noticed that people keep saying it must be nice to have a girl as I now have a child who I can teach to knit, crochet and bake. This baffles me a bit as I already had a child who loves baking & playing with my yarn stash. Henry showed an interest in my hobbies early on which is only natural and I hope Niamh does too. I have always intended to teach all of my children to knit not just the girls. Why shouldn't boys enjoy these things too? In fact men make excellent knitters as so much of the craft is mathematical which very often seems to suit them & mean that men very often have a great aptitude for pattern design. I hope that they both enjoy making things as much as I do, but won't be offended if they don't.
Sorry that may have veered off into a bit of a gender rant, but since having a girl I find other people are expressing more gender stereotypes in their conversations with me and assuming my children will be treated differently because of their sex and it has really made me think about my own views on these matters....and I have discovered that I feel quite strongly that children should be allowed to develop their own identities rather than have us thrust our own expectations upon them from a young age.
So there you have it.....we have all survived the first 12 weeks as a family of 4 & it hasn't been as hard as we thought so far! Phew!
Now all I have to do is get through teething whilst somehow hopefully finding a bit of time to myself to get my own craft mojo back! I know I knit for my work, but I want to start making things just for fun again. I miss sitting with yarn in my hands and I have so many beautiful things that I want to make, but struggle to find the time without a baby or a toddler attached to me to start them. But I guess that will come again in time, the same way it did before.
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