Are the kids safe? Are they warm? Are they comfortable? Parents spend countless waking hours worrying about their children’s physical and emotional wellbeing. But are we forgetting something?
Just Another Mother blogger, Rowena Newman, wonders whether it’s not the kids who pose the bigger threat to our health and safety…
My most important job is to keep my children safe. Full stop. The first time that I stared into the face of my first-born child the earth-shattering importance of that responsibility overwhelmed me. Instead of that incredible joy and elation that I was expecting, I felt completely and utterly petrified.
Would I be able to keep him alive? And the very second that doubt appeared it immediately exploded into a million other splinters of anxiety that have addled my brain ever since. Was he eating enough? Was his room the right temperature? Was his car seat fixed correctly? Was he breathing enough? And then when my second child was born, the rain shower of anxiety became a torrential downpour.
And, just as my mother very knowingly assured me at the time, there is no ‘off-switch’. That petrified feeling persists, day and night, forever. Somehow, even when I am asleep, I can hear a little cough, a restless dream, the pressure of a little too much urine straining against a tiny bladder… and I can hear it through two closed doors and with a pillow over my head.
I’m sure that when my children are teenagers, their existential angst will rouse me from my slumber, even when they are sleeping at their Dad’s house a few suburbs away. Welcome to motherhood, where the responsibility weighs heavily for the term of your natural life.
I have a very clear memory of a particular day when my children were toddlers. I was watching them merrily leaping around on the playground equipment in their usual fearless and death-defying way.
It was Mother’s Day and I was contemplating motherhood. It occurred to me that when you become a mum you lose control over your own emotional state, because your heart is no longer within you, it is OUT THERE, leaping around on the playground in those two little hairy mountain goats. And with that most terrifying realisation I resolved to call my own mother more often, and to make a point of telling her that everything is good with me and I am happy.
But strap yourself in and put your crash helmets on because I want to flip this safety notion on its head. We are always busily watching out for our kids and keeping them safe – but have you ever thought about the risks your children pose to you?
There is a quote I think of from time to time (I’m not sure who said it, but I will happily claim it): “if you love your children, look after their mother”. So, with that in mind, remember the rules of ‘safety first’ and please beware the top five hazardsthat children pose to the mental health of their mums (based on in-depth longitudinal research of Australian mums on a sample of n=1).
Lego is a minefield A friend of mine recently said that nothing tells you you’re alive like accidentally walking barefoot across a Lego construction site. Especially on a winter’s night. Actually I think it could be a great corporate group bonding activity… because, let’s face it, compared with Lego, fire-pits are a walk in the park.
Vomit is catching Another friend of mine said that you know you’re a parent when you manage to catch your child’s vomit in your cupped hands and you feel HAPPY about it. Some people aren’t good with vomit. I am one of them. The problem is that the thought of vomit makes me want to vomit. So you can imagine that waking up in the night to deal with a child who has woken up vomiting can get ugly.
Recorders are instruments of torture My personal theory is that primary school teachers inflict recorders onto parents as a means of payback for the pain our children inflict upon them. And, let’s face it, there is no better instrument of torture. They are LOUD and almost always tuneless.
They are virtually indestructible and as a result we have three of them in our house; grandma’s, mine and now my son’s. They are transportable and can be easily concealed down a trouser leg only to be used to scare the living daylights out of you when you’re least expecting it.
Anything is a missile Be aware that between the ages of 1 and 5 anything that isn’t bolted down has the potential to fall into this category. Car keys. Buzz Lightyear. Barbie Dolls. Drink bottles. During this period, safety glasses and crash helmets should be worn by all mums at all times.
Socks will send you crazy Apparently not every child has ‘the sock problem’ but, call me lucky, both mine do. If you don’t understand what I mean then count yourself lucky. For those poor parents afflicted by the sock problem I offer you my deepest empathy. Perhaps we can band together to petition Target to establish ‘sock bars’ so we can get our kids to try the socks before we buy?
But there are fleeting moments of serenity; moments when everything is safe and in its rightful place. Moments where mums feel temporarily protected from the dangers of this world. For me, this moment occurs just before I set off in the car. It is the moment when the car is still parked and both children are safely and completely restrained in car seats. Ah. It lasts all of 4.5 seconds until an unexpected recorder squawk brings you back to reality.
Rowena- Just Another Mother