Don’t get me wrong - I have absolutely no regrets about becoming a mother. My brood regularly drive me to distraction but my kids are the greatest accomplishment of my life and the joy they bring is worth more than the lifetime of lie-ins and disposable income that I gave up for them.
But I do have regrets. Not about the sacrifices I’ve made to have a family, but about some of the choices I made as a mum. We all do, secretly. Little things you wish you'd done differently, or things you know you'd change if you could go back and do it all again. Here are mine... I'd love to hear yours.
1. I wish I hadn’t wished away the baby stage
When you’re pacing the floor in the dead of night with a screaming baby, we all long for that stage to pass. I remember laughing in the face of people who tried to tell me that I’d miss those moments one day, but it turns out it’s true; when your ‘babies’ duck for cover when you kiss them you really do miss the easy intimacy of night feeds and babyhood.
Yes, they seemed interminable at the time and you may have been so desperate for sleep that you would have gone to highly illegal lengths to get some, but remember that satisfaction down deep in your soul that came from rocking your baby to sleep in your arms, feeling the delicious weight of sleep-heavy limbs nestling into your body? I miss that. And if I’d know that would happen, I think I might have freeze-framed a few of those moments instead of always hurrying away to attend to all the things that seemed so important. I'd have filed it away as a memory to treasure when I’m old and grey and wondering which part of the world my kids are off adventuring in and why they never seem to phone home…
2. I wish ‘In a minute’ hadn’t been my most oft-repeated phrase
I’m still guilty of this one; it’s very much a live issue in my house. Between running a business and desperately trying to keep some semblance of order around our home - my laundry is so out of control that my kids bypass their wardrobe and go straight to the tumble drier to get dressed in the morning - I feel as if I answer my children’s every request for my attention with ‘just a minute’. And sometimes by the time that ‘minute’ is up they’ve given up waiting for me or just completely forgotten what they wanted in the first place.
Yes, they routinely pelt me with utterly inane and pointless questions like would I rather be in a fight with Cad Bane or Boba Fett but I still wish I’d made more effort to slow down and actually listen and respond more mindfully to my kids instead of always shush-ing them or - worse - being perpetually distracted by a small, glowing screen. Because in the blink of an eye these crazy kids of mine will have grown and flown, and I suspect when that day dawns I’ll give anything for the chance to be interrupted by an inane question from my kids just one more time. Totally Cad Bane, by the way.
3. I wish I’d shouted less
There, I said it. There’s no shame in admitting that I’m a bit of a yeller when it comes to my kids. It’s the thing I like least about myself as a mum but I am what I am, and I’m working on it. I know I’m not the only one, either. It’s just that ‘Please put your shoes on now, darling,’ is nowhere near as effective on my kids as ‘FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, I’VE ASKED YOU THREE TIMES ALREADY AND NOW I AM TELLING YOU: PUT YOUR DARNED SHOES ON OR YOU’LL NEVER SEE THE IPAD AGAIN.’
But still, I worry that they’ll look back on their childhoods and remember one long raised-voice rant. Or that all they hear when I speak is a noisy irritating sound along the lines of 'Ngnngnggnggn nggng nngggngngng.' Yes, they generally drive me to shouting like a Banshee but nonetheless I wish I’d mastered the art of a more Zen approach to motherhood and had learned how to persuade them to do what I ask without always resorting to raising my voice. Because, if I had, they might not be quite so as inclined to shout back now.
4. I wish I wasn’t so hard on myself
Ultimately, my last wish is the most important one. I wish I’d realised that motherhood would be tougher than I anticipated and that consequently I’d judge myself more harshly than I really deserved. On that basis, I wish I’d given myself an easier ride, forgiven myself more quickly when I made mistakes, and been less inclined to believe that I was a rubbish mum. Fortunately, there's still time to put this one into practice.