Some Parenting Truths NOT Universally Acknowledged

When we first find out that we are going to have a baby, most of us probably put on some rose-tinted spectacles, start buying baby clothes and imagine that it’s all going to turn out fine…

…And for many of us it is “fine”, or at least that’s what we say to everyone else. So here are some of the real truths of being a parent as experienced by me and himself.

1) Birth is not necessarily a “perfect” or “life-affirming” experience.

We’ve been through it twice now and Himself has said never again. I kind of agree now. I was mildly traumatised by the not quite working epidural, forceps and episiotomy the first time. Himself was traumatised by wife’s blood pressure nose diving 5 minutes post birth with the need for oxygen mask, oh and the screaming when someone tried to do a VE when I was already in agony. Second time involved emergency c-section and blood transfusion.

But I do know of some amazing people who did it all on just gas and air, or nothing at all. Lucky them.

2) You might not automatically fall in love with your baby.

Some people get a blast of love and affection the minute their baby is handed to them. Some don’t. Both are completely normal and there’s nothing wrong with your reaction. Love can take time to develop.

3) Breastfeeding is bloody hard and even when you think you’ve got it right, things can go wrong. And then if you don’t want to breastfeed people may look at you in horror. Basically you can’t get it right and someone (often people without children or male healthcare professionals) will have an opinion.

Do what is best for you. Talk through your choices with the people that matter so that you know you will be supported. Never ever feel guilty for the choice that you make.

4) They don’t come with a manual and so called experts are often wrong.

I still find it interesting that the woman from Channel 4’s “Three Day Nanny” paid another person to get her own child into a sleep routine. It sort of tells you all you need to know. Experts base their knowledge on all the children they have met and then you get advice based on the thing that works best for the expert. Very rarely have I read of an expert actually talking about their experiences with their own children, because when it comes to your own little angel, all the expert advice goes out the window.

Do what works for you. If they need to feed every two hours, so be it. If they only sleep for 45 minutes at a time (that’s rough) but go with it and you may find it changes over time. Stop thinking “should”.

5) People lie (a lot) about how well their child sleeps. Also, just because the first one settled well, doesn’t mean the next one will.

Babies are individuals, they don’t do things all the same way.

6) You will probably find yourself wanting to maim your partner and/or other members of your family at some point.

Now it may be that those people really have done something terrible. However, it could also be that you’re a bit sleep deprived (they might be too) and anything, including actually being handed a glass of squash or someone cutting your toast the wrong way may make you feel like committing murder.

Family life is not like in the glossy clothes magazines. It’s sometimes angry and messy but don’t let those feelings overwhelm you. Keep talking to each other and if it is getting too much, seek professional help

7) Unsolicited advice comes from everywhere.

It’s bloody annoying being told by a random stranger in the street that your baby is crying because of hunger, or that your toddler needs to be more careful. Grit your teeth, smile, nod and walk away. It’s a bit harder when it’s your mum giving the unsolicited advice but do it anyway and then rant about them to your partner after they’ve gone. (“Her parenting advice is 30 years out of date! This is not 1985” are not things I have ever said.)

8) Those height and weight charts in the red book are bloody annoying

I often felt like the weight chart was designed to make me feel like a failure, because neither of my girls followed a smooth curve. Then someone told me they weren’t based on breastfed babies but on bottle fed and even then they are averages. They are rough guidelines on where your child should be. My youngest was on the 91st for weight when born and the 75th for height, her head was off the top of the chart. However within 5 weeks she was on the 25th for weight and 25th for height, sending mummy into a panic.

An unnecessary panic, as Lala was in fact 11 days overdue. If I compare her chart with her older sister’s (75th height, 9th weight) after 4 months, both girls were in the same place on their charts. My mum then dug out my old weight card from the same period in the early 1980s. Surprise, surprise, I tracked roughly the same weight as my girls and so had my brother two years before.

9) Children = mess

When they’re babies it’s because of general baby paraphernalia and you’re too bloody knackered to tidy. From the moment they can walk it’s because every child delights in getting things out and is always “too tired” to put things away. My lounge and their bedrooms regularly look like a toy/pen/clothes bomb has gone off, usually two minutes after I’ve attempted to tidy and hoover.

Children also like to find sticky or messy things and smear them everywhere. Himself and I still cringe at the Sudocrem incident and the drawing on the lounge wall in black pencil crayon that wouldn’t rub off.

10) Parenting = Guilt

I don’t think I’ve met a single parent (mother or father) who didn’t feel guilty about something regarding their children. Our guilt comes out of our desire to do the best for our children but it’s a bugger. There are so many reasons we feel guilty for what we have or haven’t done. We compare ourselves with others and their children but we always forget the key thing; other parents are not you and their child is not your child.

That said, trying to give up guilt is like trying to hold back the tide. I have yet to master it but in 6 years, I have learned to let go of a lot.

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