I wish I’d been taught one thing before anything else at school. I wish my mother had whispered it into my ear every night just after my lullabies. I wish I’d been told it by my friends, my teachers and my bosses.
Everything is a phase.
As it was it took becoming a parent to understand this nugget of advice. If you’re a parent I guarantee you will have heard it within the first 12 weeks of your child’s life – certainly by the end of the first year. For me it was the midwife who imparted the best knowledge I’ve ever learned. I think I was worrying about the volume of milk consumed compared to the week before, or the hours of sleep my baby appeared to have given up on.
“Everything is a phase,” she said. “The thing you’re worrying about today will stop, and next week, or next month you’ll have forgotten it was ever a problem.”
And she was right! My baby did gain weight, sleep through the night (eventually) and stop tearing up the pages in her books when she didn’t want to be left at bedtime. She also stopped refusing vegetables, holding my hand, and taking my advice. Because she grew up.
Because this is the thing – we are all growing, all of the time. And what feels like a problem (or even a joy) one week, month, or year will probably not be this time next year. Or if it is still, it will be different.
Think back to your teenage years. Were you the coolest in school, part of the popular gang? Or were you socially awkward and always feeling on the outside? The chances are, whatever you answered, it’s different now, and has probably fluctuated over the course of your life. That’s because everything is a phase. If I’d known that back then, when my nickname was Swotty Dotty and I couldn’t get a boyfriend, I think it might have helped. It wouldn’t have solved my problems, but it could have helped me hang in there until things changed.
And so it is with every stage of life. I have chronic pain. I’ve had it for 25 years, and in that time it’s come and gone, been worse at times than at others. Right now it’s really bad, probably because I’m perimenopausal and pain has a lot to do with hormones. I spend a lot of time looking at my mother’s arthritis and panicking that I’m headed for the same. And then I spend a lot of time reminding myself that things aren’t progressive – they seesaw, and there as many good times as bad.
Had I fully understood that pain ebbs and flows when I was 29 I might not have panicked as much as I did and spent all of my earnings on random therapies that promised the world and didn’t deliver. Everything is a phase. I didn’t know that.
Going back to my early days as a new mum, I wish my midwife had told me that her advice was meant for the entirety of my parenting journey. If I’d known that my 7 year old daughter (who was in the thick of a hormonal streak worthy of the worst kind of PMS) wasn’t going to become the teenager I was imagining in the moment I might have gone easier on her – and me.
As it was, I was hard on her, desperate to get her ‘under control’ before I lost her to adolescence, where I imagined binge drinking and teenage pregnancy would take her from me. The reality has been quite the opposite, and I know now that those phases – the bad and the good are not progressive. They come and go.
And so it is with life. Relationship difficulties, frustrations with work, cash flow, weight gain and emotions – absolutely everything we worry about is at points either more manageable, or less so. What I’ve learned to do (entirely through raising my kids, if I’m honest) is take everything a day or a week at a time. Because Scarlett O’Hara wasn’t wrong. Tomorrow is another day. It might be harder or easier, but it will always be different eventually.
This is a guest post from Actually Mummy.Helen Wills is a blogger, mental health podcaster and parent coach who writes about her journey as the parent of teenagers, and as a midlife working woman. You can find her at actuallymummy.co.uk, on the Teenage Kicks podcast, and on Instagram and Twitter @iamhelenwills.
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