Dear first time mummy me,
Well we’ve been parents for 7 years and two months so far and don’t panic- we’ve made it!! They are alive, still have all limbs attached (by some modern day miracle given how hell bent they are on self destruction) and there are now three of them running around!! 3!!! Can you believe it?! Remember that time when we feared we’d never even have one?! Well now the back seat of the car is jam packed and our hands are fuller than a fat blokes plate at an all you can eat buffet!!
My phone has been throwing up memories of baby George and it got me to thinking… thinking about how hard we both found those first months! How in my darkest most sleep deprived moments I feared we’d made a massive mistake in turning our lives upside down! How it seemed to come so easily to everyone else but how I felt like I could never seem to get it quite right with feeding or sleep or soothing his grumpiness! How I genuinely thought I might die from tiredness!
And it got me to wishing, 7 years on and two babies later, wishing I could go back to that time and tell you some things that I’ve learnt along the bumpy road that is parenting! Reassure you that you’re not doing it all wrong and give you some confidence to just relax and enjoy it more! Here are some of the things I’d tell you…
There is no magic fix. Some babies don’t sleep! Feeding is hard. Some babies are just grumpy and that’s their nature! He doesn’t hate you! He’s not not sleeping because he’s been sent as some kind of ninja assassin to bump you off through sleep deprivation! He’s just a big, hungry baby and likes cuddles with you rather than being in the cold cot all alone. You will sleep again! Not for a while, but I promise, one day you’ll close your eyes for longer than 20 minute intervals!
Everyone has advice on how to raise your child. But he’s yours! You might not think it, but you know what’s best for him. Go with your gut. Listen to people if it echoes what you think or you trust or want their advice but don’t allow yourself to be bullied into things because Sandra’s daughters, neighbours baby slept through from 2 days and she swears by the ‘Cry it out method’! Trust yourself- you may feel like you’re doing a rubbish job and that you don’t know what you’re doing but as far as that little baby you’re holding is concerned, you are his world! You are the face his eyes roam for and your voice is the one he is desperate to hear. You are basically God to him and his opinion is the only one that matters! And it will get easier- remember how we didn’t leave the house for two weeks after George was born?? Well Ted was born at 12.12 in the afternoon and we went to the pub down the road for tea that night! It will all start to slot into place and things won’t feel quite so overwhelming soon!
Lower your expectations. Everything feels overwhelming because you’re trying to do too much. Your house will be a tip for months (actually scrap that-you will never be tidy again!! Just make your peace with it!!) You will not be able to ‘nip out’ for years!! You will pretty much never look smart or well turned out again!! Stop trying to match your pre baby self- that person did not have a human being relying on them to keep them alive! You will inevitably be able to do less because you are spending 8 hours a day with a baby stuck on your boob!! Some days, getting through the day where everyone is fed and still alive is enough! Brushing your hair and teeth in the same day will be your biggest achievement in that first month… you can do anything… but you can’t do everything at once!
You will have an ideal of the parent you will be but some of those ideals will fall by the wayside. The things that matter the most will stick. You will always read a story at bedtime because it matters to you all. You will not always manage to practice spellings in an evening because life will get in the way! You will soon fall foul of plastic toys despite proclaiming a love of all things wooden! You will cave in to tantrums in the supermarket because you know people are staring! Your kids will watch WAY more tv than you expected! You will do WAY less crafts and educational activities than you anticipated!! But sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to make it through the day and your principles can be the thing you put your feet up on at the end of the day when you fall onto the sofa in a crumpled heap!!
In an ideal world, people will tell you that other people don’t judge your parenting. But they do. People do make judgements when your in a public place and your child is kicking off or screaming on an aeroplane or running riot in a supermarket check out queue. But what you will come to realise is the people who do judge you fall into three categories; those who are not (or not yet) parents, those who’ve forgotten what it’s like to parent young children and those who are mean spirited arse holes!! I once stood behind a pair of old ladies watching a woman valiantly attempt to deal with a child’s tantrum in the supermarket and heard them whispering about ‘how spoilt’ the child was… they seemingly missed the point that the child was having a melt down because the mum had said no to something, thus meaning the child was the opposite of spoilt! He was kicking off because the mum was sticking to her guns and not taking the easy option and caving in to the relentless demands for more stuff! But these people didn’t choose to see that- sometimes it’s easier to judge others than to put yourself in their shoes! It’s the exact same reason you’ll go out of your way to give a knowing smile to people who find themselves with raging children in public places!!
Having children will change many things about you; your relationships being probably the most dramatic. You will find planning child free time with your friends becomes more difficult than solving complex algebraic equations! Finding time in between football matches and parents evenings and gymnastics when you are all free becomes a full time job- and finding a time when you are all free AND all able to get a babysitter is basically impossible! But the good friendships, the ones who are worth the hassle, the ones who you don’t see for months and then slot right back where you left off, the ones who will turn up when your house is a mess and the kids are kicking off and your ugly crying and not make an excuse to run away… they will prevail. Likewise you will develop an army of mummy friends! For me these were not new ones I met in baby groups but I was lucky enough to go through this parenting lark at a similar time to some of my closest friends and neighbours. These people will come to be the ones who keep you sane. The ones with whom you will attempt to have a conversation with, get interrupted numerous times, but effortlessly pick up where you left off each time like the pros that you are! You will sit in play centres and cafes and each other’s houses and whine about husbands and children and jobs and the constant balancing act as well as celebrating the little wins and triumphs of parenting! You will leave each of these meetings with a slightly lighter step and a happier heart knowing you are not the only one finding it tricky and realise that two hours with friends is the best form of therapy going! Being a good parent and a good spouse or partner can sometimes feel mutually exclusive of each other… You will regularly feel like the only conversations you have with your husband are about logistics but it will eventually settle down! Stick with it through the sleep deprivation and you will come out the other side stronger!
There will be days when it all feels far too much! When you realise that 3 really is a lot of children! When you wish that each of them just had that little bit less character! When bedtime can’t come soon enough! When you’re just not sure you can manage! But you can. And you will. Because tomorrow will be another day and they may have gone to bed having spent the whole day fighting or having fought against ‘the nap’ and become the devil incarnate between 3 and 7pm or had a massive meltdown because you wouldn’t let them wee on the front lawn (true story! Esme!) but ultimately, they need you. They need you to show them the right way and to forgive them for being foul and to calm the troubled, overtired waters of childhood. Call in back up, put Netflix on repeat and do what you have to do to get through the tricky days… one day soon you’ll miss them needing you so much.
Try to be kind to your body. In 7 years time you’ll still be trying to make your peace with it but its been through a lot and having spent 27 collective months (and 8 long days) growing 3 actual humans inside it is going to take its toll. Your hair will never be the same again! Your feet will always be that fraction wider meaning your favourite black strappy heels that were always snug will now be banished! Even though you’ve shed most of the weight, your body shape is different; the waist is wider! Boobs less pert! Your rib cage is bigger! But you grew 3 massive babies inside you and have three healthy and beautiful children to show for it! Try to forgive the jiggles and wobbles…
Being a mummy is relentless! It’s an emotional rollercoaster of frustration and love and anger and pride and worry and laughter! It can be hilariously funny if you can find the strength to lift yourself above the madness to see that. It can also be infuriatingly bonkers! Just take the highs when they come and ride out the lows when they appear- 7 years in you know that everything is a phase and nothing lasts forever!
We’ve got this!