Several people have asked recently what advice Mummy would give to new, or newish parents. Obviously the most terrifying thing about this is that there are people out there who are under the impression that Mummy knows anything at all about parenting, and is in some way a responsible adulting type of person. Mummy can hear the derisive laughter from pretty much everyone she knows at this notion. But here goes anyway.
Obviously, if you are now a parent, it’s too late for the most useful piece of advice, which would be “Get a puppy instead.” Puppies are lovely, and a lot less annoying and expensive than children. But, since you’ve decided to take the plunge and have a baby instead, you will have to make the best of it now. And doing your best is really all anyone can ask. There are vast swathes of conflicting advice out there, from the ‘cry it out’ camp at one end of the scale to the home schooling, anti vaxxing parents at the other. Most parents, Mummy assumes, fall somewhere into the ‘muddling through, thinking what the devil have I done?’ group, somewhere between the two extremes. As long as your baby is fed, clean, warm and loved, nothing else much really matters.
Mummy is quite glad really that her precious moppets were babies before the whole social media thing really took off, as new parents these days seem to be endlessly bombarded with articles telling them how to parent, as well as the photos of everyone else having a fabulous time with their clean and tractable offspring, for they are #soblessed, while you are still in your pyjamas at 3pm with sick in your hair (Mummy’s main foray into social media when the children were tiny was a Facebook group called ‘People Who Park In Parent and Child Spaces Without A Baby Should Be Shot’- it was a very good group and a sentiment Mummy still stands by as she spent a lot of time in supermarket car parks in those days shouting at inconsiderate drivers, and the group meant she could continue with her self righteous rage at home). It was bad enough when the Girl Child was a new-born and Mummy used to look up at the prams passing her basement flat each morning and wonder how on Earth anyone with a baby managed to leave the house before lunchtime (practice, and learning not to care about whether the house was tidy turned out to be the answer).
With the benefit of hindsight though, Mummy has come to the conclusion that the best thing you can do for your baby is what feels right for you (except for vaccinations- GET YOUR BABY VACCINATED). If you want to breastfeed, love breastfeeding and want to carry on until they are older- fabulous, do it! If you hate it, or you find it really difficult and you just don’t think it’s working for you- then actually, the world won’t end if you put your baby onto formula. They will be just fine. A bottle fed baby with a happy mummy is much better than a breast fed baby with an exhausted, stressed out, miserable mummy. Breast feeding is great, but if it’s not for you, that’s OK, and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Likewise, weaning- do what works for you. If your OCD kicks in at the very thought of baby led weaning, then spoon the mush into them. It’s not that big a deal. Also, despite all the health professionals’ diktats on when to wean- all babies are different. The Girl Child was almost seven months before she would even think about solids, but the Boy Child was ready at four months- luckily Mummy had a sensible health visitor who realised this.
So, that’s the looking after the baby part- but what about looking after you? Again, there is such pressure on mothers to be perfect, such expectation that this baby is now their entire life. Personally, Mummy doesn’t think this school of thought is very helpful to mummies or babies. Mummy would die for her children in a heartbeat, obviously, but that doesn’t mean they are her life. Mummies are still the same people they were before children, only with less money and worse hair and more dubious stains. Having a baby doesn’t mean you have to give up your personality and everything you were before. For a few weeks, yes, everything centres around this smelly, squawking bundle of joy, but after that, when the baby is less physically dependent on you, it’s OK to be you again; to take time for yourself if you can; to do things that you enjoy. This isn’t selfish, it’s sensible, because the happier you are, the happier your baby will be. And if you really feel you aren’t coping, then get professional help as soon as you can- it’s OK not to be OK, but if you think there is a chance you might have post natal depression, then you don’t have to try and be brave, or strong, get the help you need, and get it sooner rather than later, if possible.
Although there is every chance you will (justifiably) want to kill your partner, try not to do that; not least because it is illegal and you will go to prison. Despite the seething, gnawing resentment burning deep inside of you that they get to leave the house, alone, in clean clothes and spend the day talking to people whose primary goal is not to smear them with as many different bodily fluids as possible (unless they work in a very niche sector), try and make some time for each other. If you can get a baby sitter, and you can afford it, in the unlikely event the baby is not draining your bank account faster than a Nigerian general trying to pass on your unexpected inheritance, go out. If you can’t go out, try and do something nice together in the house occasionally. At the very least, agree that you will have one night a week where you don’t refer to each other as Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig.
And partners, since the mother of your beloved child has so graciously agreed not to stab you through the heart, try not to be a pain. Don’t play the competitive tiredness game- yes, you may well have just worked a long shift, but she has had a whole other PERSON extracted from her body by one unpleasant means or another, her bits will likely never be the same again, and nor will her boobs and she is also chronically sleep deprived to boot. Telling her how tired you are is likely to result in her attempting to pulverise your testicles with the Contented Little Baby Book, because the wretched thing might as well be useful for something. Daddy only retains a working set of equipment because he wisely made this remark to Mummy down the telephone from several hundred miles away, so he got off lightly with a perforated ear drum after she screeched “I’ll give you ******* tired, you ******!” down the phone at him.
Finally, the baby groups. Go to them. Yes, you will endure the worst coffee you have ever tasted in your life. Yes, there will be an awful lot of smug annoying people there, who practically have #soveryblessed tattooed on their foreheads and will be dying to tell you how much better their revolting baby is than yours. Yes, there is a high chance you might be licked by someone else’s child (top tip- apparently it is frowned upon to visibly retch when this happens). Yes, you will almost certainly have to sit in a circle and sing irritating songs while your indifferent offspring find something more interesting to do, like trying to eat a chair leg. But there will be kindred spirits lurking in there somewhere, and once you have found them, everything will become much, much easier, once you know you’re not the only one who thinks that certain children’s presenters look like paedophiles (you know which one), and that your baby is not the only one who enjoys drinking his own soapy bathwater, and that there are other parents who also subscribe to the theory that blowing on a dropped dummy or toy is pretty much the same thing as sterilising it, and who also sometimes wonder why they didn’t listen to that mad woman off the internet and just get a puppy instead.
And allegedly, one day, your precious moppets will actually grow up and have children of their own, and then oh, how you can laugh. So Mummy is told anyway.