Hindsights Handy Hints…

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The other night I got thinking about what I’d learnt in the last year. Don’t worry, I’m not going to list all the things; I got married and became a Mother, two of the biggest experiences I’ve ever been through! It seemed impossible to even come up with a top ten…but that’s what I’ve attempted! So here it is, my top ten tips list of the wonderful world of becoming a parent!

  1. Before you even read anything else I’ve said, please remember to ignore it! Every child is different, every parent is different and every single experience is different. The biggest tool you have is your instincts and getting to know your child. You will have other people telling you what THEY think about parenting but that ONLY applies to THEIR individual experiences. People who give advice are well meaning, but they don’t know you and they don’t know your child like you do. Your confidence WILL be knocked because you’ll constantly be questioning yourself, but that’s only a sign that you’re a good parent, not necessarily that you’re doing anything wrong. So your child is being brought up differently to your sisters child, great! You’re not supposed to be attempting to bring up clones. Always also bear in mind that people from different generations to you have information that is already out of date. I’m not knocking Grandma’s homemade soup that makes everyone feel better, but if a stubborn relative insists you have to do things in a way that were last endorsed in 1960, don’t let them make you feel guilty for doing things according to 2015! You know deep down what’s best for your baby and have the most up to date professionals to guide you. Essentially what I’m saying is that in the 1920’s, smoking was thought to be good for breathing problems (seriously..!) so if you’re Great Grandmother thinks it’s modern mumbo jumbo that you should keep your precious newborn away from smokers, by all means check with your health visitor (and perhaps report her if she says smoking by your baby is ok…!) and remember that you know best.
  2. Enjoy it, but don’t feel pressured to enjoy every second. Parenting is really hard, we all know that before we know it, our beautiful babies will be grown up and we’ll crave those early days back. HOWEVER, that’s from the beautiful view of hindsight! Becoming a parent is hard and sometimes; when you’re not sure what you’re doing and you can’t seem to stop your baby crying, it’s not fun, and the often quoted instruction to ‘enjoy every second’ puts an added pressure onto you that you’re being a bad parent for not loving it. Those moments that no-one takes photos of and puts on Facebook? It’s because we don’t want to remember those moments! They’re difficult, everyone goes through them ,whatever life they lead. So when you just want your child to quieten down because you’ve had no sleep for four days and can’t ease their cold, don’t punish yourself and think you’re horrible. You’re human, you’re a parent, it’s all going to be ok.
  3. Lose yourself but come back. The first six weeks are ridiculous, and I mean ridiculous, you don’t know what you’re doing, you get given a screaming banshee to take home with you with no clear instruction manual. Days aren’t broken up by nights because you don’t know when day and night are. You reply to messages a few hours later than normal and then realise it’s actually days or weeks later than you thought. Your newborn will finally get to sleep and you’ll find yourself staring at them in wonder or disbelief depending on how you’re feeling. Let that happen, just accept that you have absolutely no control and do what you can to get through that time. Don’t feel pressured to put on makeup, dress up nice for visitors or ensure the house is sorted, allow yourself to get through as unscathed as possible.Then after the first few months, when you get a slightly easier day, straighten your hair, or paint your nails or dress up nice, treat yourself and remember that you’re a woman. After the birth your self esteem will probably take a hit, no surprise, you’ve had a ten month takeover and your body has been thrown back at you. But you probably have your tiger stripes to show what a superwoman you’ve been and so give yourself a break but then remember to bring yourself round and remind yourself how great it is to feel womanly. If you can, set some time to reconnect with your partner, parenting is a tough job and one you’re doing together, you’ll be amazed at how much stronger you’ll be as a team if you give yourselves a break at the beginning and then remember the connection that meant you decided to start a family together in the first place.
  4. Listen to other parents. This isn’t me contradicting my very first point of trusting your own instincts, but look around at all your fellow Mums, they’re not the competition, they are your comrades. You are a generation of men or women all doing it together in this point in time. Follow your instincts but also remember that you’re not an encyclopedia, (especially not with pregnancy hormones) and the greatest discovery’s happen by mistake. So if you listen to your fellow parent friends you may just discover a little trick you’ll later depend on. A tactic that saves you another sleepless night. Of course listening to all parents has a similar effect but your fellow ‘right now’ parents are in the trenches with you with all the up to date medicine, up to date gadgets and ’today’ experiences. I’m not one to go to Mother/baby classes, it’s not really my thing but I do have some very good friends with kids Scarlett’s age and some of the things they’ve mentioned in passing has become a staple part of my parenting technique!
  5. Don’t be worried about making mistakes. You’re going to, you’re going to make loads, seriously loads. Not necessarily major ones; inconsequential ones. You’ll use the wrong size nappy, you’ll forget to take a bib out with you, you’ll wake them up by dropping something after spending half an hour getting them to sleep. What you can’t do is let these mistakes chip away at your confidence, parenting is about finding your groove, learning how to be the parent you are going to be. You wouldn’t start being a lawyer with no training and then be surprised if you lost a few cases or didn’t know the lingo to use in court? It’s no different with parenting. Except with law there are textbooks to teach you what to do; with parenting you can read every book ever written on babies and you’ll still not know how to parent your child. because none of the books are written about YOUR child, or YOU! So you can be as prepared as much as humanly possible but blaming yourself for making mistakes is only going to make the learning curve harder and more punishing than it already is.
  6. Look the other way. Parenting is all encompassing, it’s all you can concentrate on at the beginning because you find yourself out of your depth. And so when you feel that eternal love for your child and get that feeling that there is nothing in the world you wouldn’t do for them, remember that your parents felt that about you when you were born. Appreciate all the things you never realised they did for you. A Grandparents revenge is being able to interfere and give advice you don’t necessarily want to take. They’re gifted with a baby that’s just as precious to them as you were but the emotional roller coaster doesn’t include the journey they remember so well, the sleepless nights, the choices they made. Most Grandparents will tell you they’re pleased to have all the fun with none of the rest of the responsibility, but if you imagine how much you love your child, imagine what it would be like to not having the final say in their upbringing, and give your parents a break. 
  7. Be you. You know when you go on a first date and you want them to like you? You dress up to look at your best, you talk to them about your most attractive hobbies, you show them the absolute best of you. It’s only once you’re in the relationship that you let out the little bits of crazy! You can’t keep up the facade and they see your negative points, and if you’ve chosen well, they love you all the more for it. It’s sort of the same when you become a parent; you want to be the best parent you can be, you vow to read a bedtime story with them every night, you promise yourself you’ll never say no to playing with them and you’ll always prioritise them. But then, you’ll have work to finish off so a few bedtime story sessions will be missed and you won’t have the energy to go and play with Sir Frog for the 20th time. That’s ok, you don’t need to be the speed dating version of a parent. What your child needs from you is who you are. The most honest version of yourself will be the best version for your child, for better or for worse. Did you struggle with reading at school? Don’t pretend to be amazing at it, share it with your child, show them that they don’t need to be perfect and help them with their own weaknesses. Have a passion for cooking? Involve your child, your passion and enjoyment will shine through and it will encourage them to develop their passions, even if they’re not the same as yours. Your weaknesses make up who you are just as much as your strengths and right from the beginning, make sure your child knows that it’s ok to have weaknesses. Have a daughter that has a temper? Help her control it and point out that it shows she has passion, and enable her to channel that passion in positive ways. This is all obviously easier said than done. For example, I have quite low self esteem and a temper and I don’t want Scarlett to have the same problems, but it’s embarrassing to face up to your own faults. But if I pretend it’s not the case, how can I tell Scarlett that she can beat her temper or help her have a healthier view of herself? If we all went to speed dating with a more realistic show of ourselves, we’d probably save ourselves a lot of time in our early twenties, so do your child a favour and let them see you, all of wonderful you.
  8. Note down your child’s achievements, right now we cannot imagine not being able to remember when they took those first movements, shone their first smile, gave out their first giggle but give it a few years and it’ll take a while to think. If asked when they’re an adult, it’d be impressive if you can reach that information from memory alone. These precious moments now will be gone in a flash and being able to look back and have those memories will be priceless.
  9. Breathe, relax. You’re doing the best you can, almost all parents are. This goes for all kinds, financially – unless you’re in the real minority, none of us can really afford children, and there’s no ‘right’ time to have a baby. Worrying won’t mean any bags of money will be delivered to your door, stress won’t help the situation. In all things, unless your problem is that you don’t have enough things to worry about, worrying won’t improve the situation. At the beginning of last year we moved into our family home and worried that we didn’t have enough money, at the time I told my husband with a smile that ‘this time next year’, we’d be in a better position so we had to stay positive and relax. Throughout the year we both built our careers and pushed forward and worked hard to make sure we had the best phone deals and utility rates and all those little things they recommend doing. The result of this is that we are significantly better off this year than we were last year and our plan is to be in an even better position next year. This isn’t to say that a smile and positive outlook meant it was all easy and guaranteed, it was a lot of hard work; but looking back, stressing about it wouldn’t have made any difference to the outcome. Quite the contrary, any worry would have made the year even more difficult. Did I know for absolute sure in January 2014 we were going to be better off in 2015? Not at all, but by grabbing my husbands hand tight and telling him it was all going to be ok, we were in with a much better chance. 
  10. Live, love and don’t be sorry. This was the advice written by an amazing girl from my school year who passed away a couple of years ago whilst she was doing her best to fight what eventually took her from her friends and family. She wasn’t a parent but it’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever heard and ever likely to hear. So please, friends; live, love and don’t be sorry.     
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