At the time of writing, I have been a parent for almost six and a half months. We are definitely out of the newborn phase- I can now shower with efficiency, I can make a pretty good guess at what day it is and I can leave the house in less than two hours (#winning).
Reaching the six month mark felt a huge accomplishment and a time for reflection. What I have learnt? What’s changed? What can I share that will empower new parents to be…?
I believe every child is different, so just because the latest bedside crib worked for the one set of parents and baby doesn’t mean it is going to work for another family. So what can I impart? I did a little brainstorm and found the common thread between the ideas was the importance of setting boundaries that work for you and your family. That maybe sounds a little scary...let me explain…
Raising a child is a concept we are all familiar with. Even if you are not a parent, you were a child once and were raised in a unique way to you. As a new parent you immediately qualify for a barrage of opinions, thoughts, advice and perhaps judgement by those you know and those you don’t. Often I think it would be easier if a new parent planned a trip to the moon, as not many people have done it and therefore you couldn’t receive comments such as; “Those ‘named brand’ moon boots really got my child into a routine” or “That rocket is going to be perfect for you- so speedy, lightweight and space friendly”.
Overall my experience as a new parent has been positive, just the occasional weird comment, but here are a few things I would like to share in a girl power from the 90s way:
- You know your family set up, your baby and circumstances. You know what you are dealing with 24-7; your experience, your environment, your money situation and what feels good. If you receive any advice that doesn’t fit within your situation, however sweetly meant, ignore it and do what works for you. When others share advice, it is based on their experiences and their circumstances at the time. They may have a totally different perspective on life, one that is not necessarily aligned to yours. If you need help, select the source wisely. Most of us may have been tempted by Doctor Google and been promptly misdiagnosed with a number of life threatening conditions. Trust and confide in the professionals so you don’t scare yourself silly at 3am by landing on a random, shabby forum. Equally if you don’t connect with your local professionals, keep digging until you get the answers you require.
- Always trust your instincts. Yes, you may be sleep deprived. Yes, you may have done some crazy things that you would have never have done pre children e.g. switching off the fridge for two days?! Er, yep. True story. But don’t forget, as a new parent, you are in ultimate survival mode. You are an athlete with immense stamina (well occasionally!). Never be brushed off by the “I think you are being ridiculous” response when you share something that you are worried about. Listen to that inner voice and act accordingly. Even if you have been woken every forty five minutes for the last fortnight, you are most probably more effective that someone with a slight hangover.
- Keep your circle close. You may not be on great terms with all family members so don’t allow yourself to be in a vulnerable position. You set the rules, the tone and don’t be afraid to say no. Being a new parent gives you optimum (geddit?!) permission to say if something doesn’t work for you.
- Sometimes others say daft things because they don’t really know what to say. I have had detailed conversations with the newsagent about the weather to pass the time of day. When really, I’m not that bothered. Rain or shine, I get on with things. Sometimes, there is a need by others to fill the silence when a normally, ‘pretty together’ new mum is in her pyjamas at 4pm with a screaming baby. This can easily welcome some odd comments, that may require your best nodding and smiling act.
- Don’t let others’ language influence you- again it is all about perspective. Just before my baby was six months, I mentioned (with a jolly, smiling baby bouncing around on my lap) that he wasn’t sleeping 7am-7pm and was up several times in the night. I received a prompt ‘Ohh, I had a terrible sleeper too’. This made me feel rubbish (but just for a moment), like I hadn’t nailed the sleeping. In fact, generally nights are good- they are just not ‘text book’ and that’s ok.
Allow time for daily/weekly/monthly check ins of ‘Things are going well actually’. Even better if you can rope your partner into the chat/pat on the back scenario. I’m not necessarily talking about your child being able to speak four languages or be able to perform a plethora of circus tricks but just time to notice what you notice. The little changes can be just as rewarding.These observations may be simple- an extra hour of sleep, a delicious meal (and you ate it whilst it was still hot) or you managed to work out the logistics to have three and a half minutes to yourself. It all counts. Whatever you are doing that works, do it. Enjoy every moment you can.