Fourteen years ago, when I was eighteen, I left home to go to university and never really went back.
For the last ten years my husband and I have lived at the opposite end of the country to our families, first in Durham and now in Liverpool. It wasn’t something that bothered me too much to be honest – we all had our own lives and still saw each other fairly regularly. But then I had my daughter and I realised how far away everyone really was, particularly my parents. There was no popping round for a cup of tea or a nearby babysitter to help when I was desperate for a shower. Visits were planned weeks, months in advance and were hard work, involving a lot of sheet washing and cooking. It felt impractical to ask for help, especially in the newborn stage. That first year was hard. Really hard.
But with Bubba T2 it will be different because, two weeks ago, my parents upped sticks from the south east and landed less than a mile from our door. They are literally round the corner and I couldn’t be happier. Not only does it mean we don’t have the logistical nightmare of what exactly we do with our daughter while I’m in labour – and help when bub arrives – but I’ll also be able to spend time with my parents. Something I haven’t been able to do properly for over a decade.
Not that asking for help will necessarily come naturally.
I’ve always prided myself on my self-sufficiency and independence. I’m also unbelievably stubborn – a trait my daughter has inherited by the bucket load (so those teenage years will be fun) – which doesn’t always make it easy to admit I’m struggling. Last time round I was so determined to take motherhood in my stride that I couldn’t even accept help when it was offered, let alone ask for it when I needed something, however small.
But one of the many things motherhood has taught me is that it is help with the small things that makes a big difference; that can turn a bad day into a good one. So whilst I know the ‘I’m fine’ regime will be difficult for me to break, having my parents five minutes away – as opposed to five hours – will make it a lot easier to ask for help when it’s needed, even if it’s just to give me a hug and wipe sick out of my hair.