25 January 2018

The Parenting advice I wish I read

Becoming a new parent was the first chapter of never ending contradictions: The happiest, most exciting yet most over-wrought and petrifying time of my life. I knew nothing of the world I was entering. I resembled a small child at Christmas, awake at night with the excitement, yet blissfully unaware of how the underworld of Santa operated. I felt like the snowman when the sun came out, I wish I had of thought about this better.

A week or so before I fell pregnant I lost my shoe on the train track during the morning commute. (Sadly, no alcohol to blame on that one). Not long before that, I sat in tramp’s piss at 8am on the way to Liverpool street station and only a week before that I found myself shouting for a sandwich picker across Liverpool street concourse because a force unbeknown to me came and grabbed my annual season ticket pass from my hand and threw it under a train. (Nope, again shamefully not hungover or intoxicated for either of the latter two incidents, these things just happen sometimes). How on Mothering Sunday’s was I supposed to look after a tiny baby! Help! So, I searched for answers, which seemed to be found in an abundance in new parenting books of advice. Rules and routines which the authors guaranteed would bestow calm and control in my family home, plus the solution to world peace.

They offered step by step advice which by adhering to meant everything will go to plan. Right? Turns out no. Turns out the books sent me into anxiety overload and a state of utter confusion, especially when the ‘right’ thing to do in each book is different from the last. Turns out kids aren’t robots and have their own ways to let you know they’re not going to play ball.

For me, they said: ‘Try and think of the hardest thing possible. Do that hardest thing possible and do it when you’re losing your shit at 4am because there’s an all-night rave in the nursery next door’. They added ‘Think of something that goes against all your gut instincts. Have you thought of it? Ok great. Basically, do that’. ‘Don’t possibly consider cuddling your baby when they cry, are you out of your mind Paula? Do not bring them into your own bed so that you both get some sleep! Don’t even consider it Sandra you know the drill, if you do that the baby will forever sleep on your bosom until they are 19. And for Christ sake Audrey put that 4-week-old baby down, kiss them goodnight and leave them for 36 minutes’.

They prompted to pick up and put down. So, I picked up and put down 167 (I kid you not) times in one sitting. I could have picked up 166 times less and just had a cuddle for 39 minutes. It said ‘Eat. Activity. Sleep. You time’. I tried to live by those 4 letters. Oh Jesus, he’s fallen asleep after he’s milk, we’ve only gone and missed the ‘A’. Obviously, I will wake him to shake a rattle in his poor startled little face in order to fulfil the ‘A’ before another 40 minutes of rocking (sorry patting) to get him back to sleeping happily where he was an hour before I woke him to get him back to sleep again. I know, I really don’t know what I was thinking. But I wasn’t thinking, that’s the point. Someone else was thinking, and I was just grasping: at words, at straws at the reams of different advice. Advice now I know I didn’t need.

Instead I wish I could have read something that said this shit is hard. We're not joking its really f**king hard. YOU GREW AN ACTUAL HUMAN of course it’s hard. You then gave birth to said human out of an area that frankly can never be prepared for the contract that it unwillingly entered. You couldn’t even make this shit up if you tried. After being awake for 48 hours, you were given paracetamol and sent on your merry way like the little pig to his straw house with a neon sign flashing ‘come gobble me up I live here’. You may not be wind and wolf proof prepared but don’t worry none of us are.

I wish they had said: Think of looking after this bundle of love like you’re looking after a tiny version of yourself. Not an alien, not a robot. Sometimes you’re hungry, even half an hour after you ate your body weight in Kung Po chicken at the all you can eat buffet. Sometimes you feel sorry for yourself, even when the Doc refuses you the hard stuff as it’s only a virus, but you continue to feel sorry for yourself. Sometimes you cannot for the life of you work out what you want as a grown woman, you laugh so hard you cry then you really cry from crying so much through laughing. Sometimes life is confusing. You may not ever know the reason for the tears tonight (the baby’s tears by the way, not your own or your husbands). It might not be new teeth, it might not be a cold, maybe they just wanted a cuddle. That’s ok give them a cuddle.

I wish they had of said it’s not a competition. There is enough sleep for everyone to go around. You might find it hard when the mum by the baby scales declares she’s ‘loving every second, like, isn’t life fantastic’ when you feel like you’ve just done ten rounds in the washing machine on an intensive, remove the meconium stains spin. The new mum, Vivian has also booked a yoga course next week as her baby Ruben is sleeping 24 hours a night and little Ruben is an angel, she’s very lucky and very patronising. 1. Don’t be sick or punch her in the face (only in your mind, you can in your mind). Ruben might be an angel for sure but next week Ruben might be the devil on crack. 2. She could well be lying and probably is lying or 3. She might not be lying. Maybe today is a good week when last week sucked arse.

I wish it had of said it might take a while, but you’ll find your yellow brick road. Hang in there and do what you want Dorothy! You believed in the tin man, and Glinda and I believe in you. Don’t listen to anyone else and trust your instinct. You know your child better than Doreen at number 86, and that’s great that Ethan potty trained at 4 months if you’re not even contemplating the world of shitting on the floor for at least another 2 years! They are tiny for such a short time so don’t worry about the small shit. I’m sure there aren’t many 18-year olds roaming the street in pull ups rocking an illuminous dummy, eating mushed food or turning into pumpkins if they’re not asleep by the time Iggle Piggle has climbed back on his boat.

I wish it had of said everything is a phase, you might feel like you’re stranded for weeks Robinson, but you’ll get back to the motherland. Honestly, it’s a phase. Your child doesn’t have a weird disorder and they will eventually stop shouting ‘You’re a bum bum’ to anyone in eye sight.

Lastly, I wish they had of said, take all or none of the advice you read or are given. If you’re really struggling ask your Mum, Step Mum, Sister, Nan, best pal, Aunt - someone you love and trust. Find some mums who will tell you they also wanted to jump out the window last night because 2 hours of sleep isn’t enough to get them through porridge let alone the next 12 hours babysitting three baby bears. But before you ask them questions and advice, remember you already know the answer.

Written by Vee @maxedoutmumma



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