Let me be upfront. I am in the Wilderness Years. That awkward period of time post-newborn but pre-school. It’s a time many parents think things should be easier. But more often than not you wake up, look around and think “How can this me my house/car/body/relationship/me?” The Wilderness Years are some of the toughest times in life. They’re also rarely talked about.
Many parents in the midst of the Wilderness Years feel they must be the only ones who are over-tired, over-emotional, over-everything. And while the bookshops are filled with tomes on how to raise babies, there are very few help books focused on how to survive the early years of parenting. That’s where Camille Blyth’s wonderfully witty, brutally honest and beautifully compassionate book The Wilderness Years: A parent’s survival guide comes in.
Camille had me at the first page. I was sitting in the car park outside my children’s childcare and had three minutes spare before pick up. So I decided to read. A rare treat. And those first three minutes had me hooked. Earlier in the day I had been wondering how life had come to this. Was I the only person who regularly left the house with Weetbix in their hair? Was it too much to ask to pee alone? Was I the only Mum in the world who felt like a failure because I couldn’t talk to my children calmly while cooking dinner with one hand and sewing up holes in a teddy with the other? How could I feel so loved and so alone at the same time?
Camille had the answer. I wasn’t alone. Almost every parent out there has felt this at some stage. Regardless of parenting-style, if you have children between the ages of 1 and 6, you are likely to have felt, “…exhausted, lost and vulnerable (often at the same time).”
The Wilderness Years is not really a self-help book. It is a book of understanding, and of reassurance. It’s like a very knowledgeable friend who knows when to pop around with a bottle of wine, an extra pair of hands to fold the washing and a big hug before leaving at 9pm so you can have an early night.
It explains how even the most dysfunctional of Family Beasts functions. It explains why you don’t need to be a hero. It explains warning signs to look out for and when to just let go. It explains why you are going to be OK.
The Wilderness Years’ appeal was in large part from Camille herself. Her voice is strong throughout the book and you get the feeling she’d be the Mum voted most likely to laugh at your deeply mortifying poo story, order you a double shot (of vodka or espresso) and tell you her own, deeply mortifying poo story. She has heart, compassion and a wicked sense of humour.
The Wilderness Years is easily digestible. I read it in five minute grabs, mostly in various car parks. It was easy to pick up, put down and quote to my friends as they banged their tired heads against their children’s doors.
After all, who in their right mind would apply for this job?
“Personal assistant required to unquestioningly perform all aspects of care for an unspecified number of very unreasonable people.
No formal qualifications required, however, you will need to be highly skilled in the following: macro financing, logistics, diplomatic negotiation in high=pressure, time-sensitive situations, and catastrophe response management….
Ability to function with very little sleep, insufficient nourishment and constant negative feedback will be considered an advantage.”
The Wilderness Years: A parent’s survival guide, Five out of five over-tired elephant stamps.
Jennifer Chandler is the owner of www.oohbabybaby.com.au, a store for funky kdis and their mums. And when she’s not playing dress ups, she’s a freelance writer and Mummy of two.