It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, as Charles Dickens once famously wrote. In reference to parenthood. Probably.
Like all jobs, parenting comes with its peaks and troughs. In fact, it’s unfair to call it a job. It’s a lifestyle. A commitment. An all consuming endeavour from which you can never clock off.
There are days when it is the best thing in the world. When your children are so utterly glorious, you have to physically restrain yourself from trying to have a little nibble of them. When your heart feels as though it may literally burst forth from your chest with love and pride. When you can’t possibly imagine a life without them in it.
And then there are the other days. The days when you curse the very sperm that swam into your fallopian tube and took away your freedom forever. When you cry at the cashier in Morrisons because you can’t get the carrier bag to open and you’re already 17 minutes past feed time and the baby is letting everyone know about it. When an unzipped coat or a lost shoe can induce a scream from you, even more ferocious than the kind that emanates from your husband when he stubs his toe. When the thought of spending just one more hour in the company of your offspring is so cripplingly claustrophobic that you feel you may just drop dead there and then.
And the worst thing about these days? The thing that causes you sleepless nights (aside from a threenager with a penchant for chit-chats in the early hours). The thing that exhausts you even more than listening to your four year old read their school book for the 836352884th time. The thing that puts you in an even bigger funk than when Shonda thought killing Derek Shepherd off was a good idea; is the guilt. The guilt that engulfs you like a fog because you shouted at your children all day. Because you couldn’t wait for bedtime. Because you couldn’t even summon the energy to brush their teeth or read a story. Because you thought to yourself, more than once that day, “I can’t do it”.
But you can do it. And you will. And you do. Because you’re a parent and even when you simply don’t know how you’re going to carry on, you just do. It’s part of the job, the lifestyle, the commitment. It’s what you signed up for. Sure, you’re overworked and underpaid. You don’t have any annual leave entitlement. Heck, you’re not even allowed a toilet break. But when you get your bonus, it all becomes worth it. When you get the kind of day that makes your stomach squeeze with the incomparable adoration that seems to burst from you towards these little humans that are all yours and who, crucially, adore you right back; well, there’s just no beating that. So even on those terrible days. Even when it truly is the worst of times. It’s the best of times.