Easy parenting? I don’t know about you, but there is no such thing really, is there? Hands up all of those who disagree. Sorry now, the well-known A-Lister down the back, but you have lots of nannies and home help so I’m afraid you don’t count. Don’t take it personally, but the rest of us mere mortals need to accept help on an ad hoc basis. With or without that annoying spare tyre we just can’t seem to lose, despite the number of workout DVD’s we invest in. Put quite simply, parenting is one of, if not the hardest job we will ever do. Nobody warns you. (Ok, ok, I just didn’t listen). If today, I saw an ad for it in the paper; I would distance myself as far as possible from it. I am reminded of a time BC (Before Childers) when I worked outside the home. In every new job I started, I was routinely given a contract from my new employer. Each contract outlined in detail the job description, the hours of work and that all important salary. Your Honour, I object! I do not recall receiving the aforementioned contract when I signed up for motherhood. I did not know the job title would be as broad as Chef, Accountant, Personal Assistant to a number of small people, Nurse on occasion, Bank Manager, Referee, Cleaner or Chauffer. I was not made aware that the hours of work extended to 24/7 all year round and yes, I suspected that there would be minimum pay, but in my defence, your Honour, I didn’t grasp the ramifications of that because I had no idea what was ahead of me. Does anyone? There isn’t a jury in the land that would convict me for complaining about it. If a case such as this were to appear before an Equality Tribunal it would surely be thrown out. Dismissed for its slavery like work ethic, its sexist connotations because only women can give birth and strong discriminatory leanings because women receive paid maternity leave and men don’t. It has to be said, the media comes under a lot of criticism for how it places already stressed parents under even more pressure to have it all and do it all. Us women, nay mothers, can be our own worst enemy. Nobody can have it all and do it all well. Not even the celebrities. A glittering career, a beautiful home and the perfect body comes at a cost. Something has to give somewhere down the line. Parenthood, despite what popular magazines and culture will dictate, is not a competition. That’s right; you’re supposed to enjoy this journey. Hard I know when it’s 3am and you’re up, yet again, with a poorly, teething baby. Harder still when you yourself do not feel 100% but have no choice other than to keep going. For some people, plopping their charges in front of a DVD for thirty minutes while they get on with preparing the main meal of the day is what works best for them. We all need to find what works for us. Whether we’re stay at home parents or working outside the home, we all lead busy lives. We’re all on the same team and our common link is our kids and wanting what’s best for them. Parenting may not be easy but I believe it is possible to make it just a little bit easier. The first step to take in that direction is to let up on the expectation. Lower all of your expectations. Bring them right down. Don’t expect too much of yourself in the early daze. You’re going to be tired. Unbelievably tired. Do as much as you are able to and no more. Don’t expect your house to be in its usual spick and span condition. Remember, you have children now and it’s ok for it to be just good enough. But do expect people, friends and family, to help out. In these challenging times, it is not well meant advice parents need, but hands on help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it if you need it. Don’t confine yourself to the house either. Even if it is just a walk to the shops for a litre of milk, a break from the confines of the four walls will do everyone good. And on the way there, you will always see someone with a line of kids in tow, looking fantastic and totally unfazed by the modern pressures of parenthood. Think of the swan gliding serenely on the river; not a care in the world and not a feather out of place. But look closely under the surface of the water and watch the frantic paddle paddle movement of her feet. We all have a little bit of that going on inside us. Some of us are better at hiding it than others. And last but not least, don’t expect your body to return to its pre-baby shape too soon. Chances are it never will and it’s ok for that to be just good enough too. Remember, in your little baby’s eyes, you are perfect. Close your eyes now and I’ll play with you a game I play with the boys sometimes. You’re in the cinema. Picture the big screen in front of you. Now, the big movie starts. Up there, in all your glory is you. Plus every other mother you know and a few extras besides. Keep watching. Everyone is forming a circle and the first person in the circle, that would be you, pats the mother in front on the back. Like a domino effect, everyone follows suit until all the mothers are patting each other on the back. Well? Don’t we deserve it?