I have been a parent now for just over 10 years now so, as I’m sure you can imagine I am a mother fudging expert on parenting, I should have a honouree degree on baking babies and knowing all there is to know about, not just my child but all the children of the world… hahahaha yeah except I’m not and I don’t, in fact, little secret for you here, I don’t have a Scoobies as to what the actual hell I’m doing, a good 78% of the time, because it’s really weird and I’m not sure I got this memo before I was a parent but children are real humans and what they needed last week no longer applies because they change and develop (I know, I couldn’t believe it either!). It’s a minefield where they keep moving the mines, but you know in like a fun way.
The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that I have a good 22% of knowledge though, at least on my kid (another weird thing is not all kids are the same – its exhausting, I know) so I am uniquely qualified to share this knowledge of what I have learnt so far on my experience of mumming.
Eighty-One Hours aka Bye, Bye Sleep
My son was a week late, (which actually considering his personality fits him to a tee) I remember being massive and bloated, my feet hurt, my ankles hurt, everything bloody hurt come to think of it and I had become the cliché of just wanting ‘this thing out of me’. Not content with making me wait an extra seven days before he made his fashionably late entrance into the world, he then decided to take eighty-bloody-one hours to vacate himself from my vagina.
Now the nurses liked to tell me that some of those beginning hours when my cervix was doing a stretching act of Cirque Du Soleil magnitude, didn’t count because I was only at three centimetres and its not *technically labour until you hit four. TRUST ME IT FUCKING COUNTS.
Anyway, yes, eighty-one hours of ‘It totally counts Linda!!’ labour and in that time, I had 11 minutes sleep, my mum clocked it. Turns out though, that was some good training because for the first 6-8 weeks of my precious angel’s life, he would not keep his sweet mouth, the fuck shut. Sleep deprivation does weird things to a person, couple that with having to look after a little alien you suddenly realise you have no clue how to keep alive, early parenting is A LOT.
Side note- if you have what is known as a ‘good baby’ that sleeps through the night on a perfectly maintained routine:
1. How wonderful
2. No you don’t.
Baby Blues and Post Natal Depression
I have a history of mental health ‘issues’ so I was more at risk of said ‘Baby Blues and Post Natal Depression’ and boy did I get it, but it can effect anyone, in fact baby blues effects most new mothers as your hormones are everywhere, your body is changing and you haven’t seen sleep in what feels life before you were born. It’s obviously shit and not helped by people telling you to, ‘Enjoy this time with your baby, as it is precious and they grow so fast’ It does get better though, with a little time and support. What I would like to say on this is, its real, its ok, its normal, you are not a bad mum and talk to someone and ask for help – remember it takes a village.
Here’s a link to the NCT’s article on this subject, if you want to read more on it: https://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/baby-blues
Breastfeeding is a bit weird, right?
Now I can already hear people saying, ‘It’s beautiful’, ‘It’s the most natural thing on earth’ In theory, sure and I’m certainly not disputing your opinion or experience here, actually by the time it was right for me to stop – I didn’t want to, I’d grown to love it. That wasn’t my experience at first though, far from it actually! I mean my nipples had never been used as a food source before and it felt weird and wrong, it was uncomfortable and well (in case I haven’t covered this) weird! Pumping was on another level too, sitting there, in a room by yourself while an obnoxiously loud machine milks you, is not a high point and public feeding was always tricky for me because it made me feel uncomfortable to whip my nip out but I am stubborn to a fault, so I did it anyway (because babies are not patient), all the time acting confident and besides if anyone is side-eyeing you they can absolutely ‘Do one’. But, yeah. Never felt comfortable for me.
There is so much pressure on new mums to breastfeed, its rammed down your throat by everyone, Dr’s, nurses, midwifes, family, friends even posters that show an idyllic baby suckling on its mother with the slogan ‘Breast is Best’ slapped across it, I mean the midwife comes around to stare at your tits to make sure you are doing it right, for god’s sake. Yes, there are many benefits of breastfeeding and yes, I am pleased that I chose to do it for as long as I did BUT it was my choice, as it should be. You should do what you feel is right for you and your baby and support others to do the same.
Up to the age of 4, your child is actively trying to kill themselves.
I recently told a current-non-breeder friend (rather proudly) that I have successfully kept a small human alive, without fail, for almost eight years. They looked slightly uncomfortable and said something along the lines of ‘I’m not sure I’d put it that way’. I laughed because trust me, up until your child is four, it will have no regard for its life at all, in any capacity, ever, full-bloody-stop. It will basically be a bloody lemming, constantly looking for the next mortal threat and then charging at it with full glee.
It’s not a competition.
Oh, my good lord, if I had a penny for every time I heard, ‘Little Timmy’s just learnt to sing the national anthem in Latin while riding a unicycle with one leg and he’s only nine months’ I’d be moderately wealthy. Children will develop in their own time at their own pace, don’t compare yours with others, it will drive you mad. Also, you can’t speak or sing Latin as it is a dead language Linda, so little Timmy’s wasted everybody’s time.
All the fluids
If its in your child, expect it to be on you at some point. I have been peed on, got poo under my fingernails (always best if you realise this one straight away), puked on, bled on, spat on, had snot rubbed on me and cried on. Also, my new favourite thing is when I go to the loo, sit down and realise – I’m sitting in pee, it just brings a song to my heart (although not as much when I went for a wee and realised, I’m sitting in poo – that ones for the highlight reel!)
No Regard for Boundaries aka Genitals are Funny.
It is not an uncommon occurrence for my son to announce through the locked bathroom door, that he needs the toilet (even though I have just asked before I got in the bath and he insisted he was fine) and then defecating while making intense eye contact with me, as I’m clutching a towel to cover myself, while he launches into full conversation as his face goes beetroot.
Another new favourite of my son, is just whipping his penis out the top of his waistband and waiting to see if anyone notices before hysterically, nay, maniacally laughing. I have many examples of boundary issues with my spawn, including but not limited to:
Not knocking on my bedroom door before he bursts in
Standing over my sleeping body in the middle of the night, gently whispering mummy are you awake?
Always wanting to talk to me when I’m on the loo
Shouting ‘Penis’ any chance he gets, actually shouting about any private part.
Standing directly behind me, while I’m sat on the sofa – I can feel my hair being parted by his breath
Waiting until he sits on my lap to fart
Getting into my bed in the morning, from the bottom – the god damn bottom!!
Laughter is medicine.
There is no sound in this world that is more joyful to me than hearing my son laugh with his full heart – it is the most heart bursting-ly beautiful noise in the whole of existence and no matter what is going on in my life, it takes me from one to a hundred in a heartbeat. It is even better if I am the one that makes him laugh.
Prepare for heartbreak
Your kid is going to break your heart, it will happen, this is a fact. My son by the age of seven has had to deal with (in blinding succession) two grandparents and two pets dying. The pain of having to tell your child something, you know is going to shatter their world and then watching as the pieces fall is indescribable, you want to shield them from the truth, you want to take on all their pain, confusion and fear but you can’t and it is cripplingly hard.
On the positive side though, they will constantly make your heart burst when, they for example, from nowhere and for no reason tell you they love you more than anything, or give you the best cuddle in the world, or make you a love token in secret and present you with it while looking at you with more affection than you knew could exist in anyone, let alone someone so small.
Being scared shitless
When my son was just born, he lay in the hospital in his little crib next to me and the midwife came in and said, ‘You can dress him’ I literally had to be told to clothe my own child – that’s when I realised, I haven’t got a solitary clue on what the hell I’m doing and I’m not ready! I’m pleased to tell you I now make sure my son is clothed but the feeling is still there. Children are slippery little buggers and by the time you have figured out what is going on and what they like/need its to late, the problem is now obsolete and there’s a new set of circumstances you have no fucking clue what to do with. The only thing you can do is to try and make peace with your white-knuckle terror and do the best you can.
Not every moment is a teaching moment.
Biased as I am, I believe there has never been a kinder soul than the one that resides in my son (sorry Mother Theresa) I am so proud of his empathy, kindness and an ability to see others as equal human souls. I work very hard on instilling a certain moral code in him, so he can grow up to be the best human he can be. That being said, he isn’t always going to want to listen to a twenty-minute monologue on the importance of true equality or how we must educate ourselves on others as it is not their responsibility to do so, when all he’s asked is if he can have a cookie.
They will use your words against you.
I’m not saying I regret teaching my son about the importance of consent, or teaching him the phrase, ‘My body, my choice’ but when you are trying to remind your child, for example, food equals life, so they need to eat enough, as not to shuffle of this mortal coil and that this was their favourite food two days ago, so they can’t possibly hate it and then they repeat back to you, ‘Its my body, my choice’ it is a toss-up between feeling huge pride at a card well played (because how do argue against yourself and the fundamentals of respecting each-others bodies) and putting your head in the oven. Which seems a good time to add this – Pick your battles. Not everything is worth it, tactical war far is the name of the game here, sometimes you need to give them a win as to artfully manipulate the battle field at a later date. I try to have a core set of values that we live by and the rest is negotiable.
Sorry, who’s in charge?!
You will not always feel that you have the status in this parent child situation and to be honest its because you don’t and in these moment you will find you will turn to, pleading, bribing or from nowhere throwing out some trope that you hated as a kid and realising you have become a hypocrite after swearing while the kid still gestated inside you that you would never be ‘that parent’ In any of these cases your kid has won but fear not they have to go to bed earlier than you and you get cake and wine, so who really lost?
Playing with your child is supposed to be fun, right?
Yeah… ish. I love playing with my son when its something I want to do but I’m not always in the mood to be told, in excruciating detail what the rules are of any given imaginary game and then finding out the only rule is, you do exactly as I say and there is no room for some light improv. Playing is fun, sure but sometimes its ok to fake it when on the inside your counting the seconds, or you know passing the buck to a relative…
In closing I would like to say this, you are enough. You. Are. Enough. (it bared repeating) Every parent is scared shitless and the ones you look at with their perfect family having it all? They are just awesome at hiding the fact they don’t have a bloody clue either. So, don’t try and be ‘the perfect family’ instead be beautifully unperfect and learn the rope one day at a time, its much more fun when you don’t have to try and fit everyone into a mould that doesn’t exist anyway. Also, as one last little piece of advice, you don’t need to take every piece of advice, you just don’t. Keep doing you, learn and grow with your kid and just know, if its feeling impossible right now, there is always cake and wine.