Parenting is hard work. We all know that, or quickly find it out.
And when you find it really tough going you may start to wonder if you might be doing it wrong. What if you simply don’t have the talent or the skills that make raising a child a rewarding and successful experience?
But what if it’s not you that is the problem? Maybe you are doing everything just right, and actually your child really is very difficult?
When you are a first-time parent to just one child, it doesn’t matter how much you read about what is expected, or observe in other people’s children. You don’t have any point of comparison for what it is like being YOUR child’s parent.
So when people say to me, “Gosh, your daughter is hard work,” I don’t take offence.
It comes as a great reassurance.
This isn’t an aspersion on her behaviour, which by all means is not perfect, but a comment on her exhaustive energy.
From the second she switches on early in the morning to the moment she finally powers down in her cot at night, she does not allow pause for thought.
From the constant chatter, to the continual rushing around, punctuated by trying demands for attention and taunting acts of defiance, my daughter is always on the go.
She is very good at playing by herself, but this will only last so long.
Naps are short, rare and have to be enforced through the sheer boredom of being wheeled around in the pushchair. Often this is while she fights her tiredness with every fibre of her being, dragging herself upright with the stomach muscles of a marine and screaming with the hysteria of a Kardashian who has just had a row with one of her sisters. The process can be so time-consuming and exhausting it is hardly worth the 30 minutes of nap time at the end of it.
Add to that the toil of thinking up things to do and places to go to keep her entertained, then carrying them out, and the long and busy days can become a struggle.
Sometimes the labour of games, activities, songs and stories are not always an enjoyable experience.
She might be feeling really happy, but my mood by contrast is grouchy, cantankerous and short-tempered.
That can be hard to bear as a parent. You feel like you have an obligation to enjoy all the time you spend with your little one. People keep telling you how precious it is.
I am under no illusion that my child is the only one like this, and I am fully aware there are parents who have it much harder. But it is painful to find yourself thinking of your own offspring as an effort, a strain, a burden.
So when someone says to me, “Wow! She is full on!” or “That kid is intense!” or “Does that child never stop?!” All I can feel is relief.
I may feel terrible for thinking, “If only you would shut up and give us all a break for just five minutes!”
But at least I am not alone.