Things I’ve learnt the hard way as a parent

I’ve learnt lots of useful things over the last almost 3 years as a parent. Before I forget them or they become instinctive I thought I’d write them down. They might even help someone else out.

Here’s the list. As I write each post I’ll kindly add a link so you can read more of my wisdom. I’m thougtful, huh?

Wonder how they figured that one out.

Lesson One: It’s mostly trial and error. There is no manual to follow, and most people’s advice is irrelevant to your family. Basically, raising children is one big experiment.

No leaving now.

Lesson Two: You can’t change reality. Even if you really want to. Forget what you have read or heard about what “good” babies do. A good baby is a baby doing what he as an individual is meant to do. Sometimes this means being a great sleeper. Sometimes it means waking every 30 minutes. Sometimes he can be helped with whatever is the problem. Other times you just have to accept it, embrace it if you can, and wait it out. This too shall pass. If you try to change reality, you will go insane.

Lesson Three: Western society is not naturally supportive of motherhood. You know the saying “it takes a village”? It’s true. But the way our society is ordered these days means there is no village to help mothers. Add to this the expectations of perfection from both within and without (is that even a word in that context?), lack of family support – or they have totally different ideas on parenting to you so are unsuitable as stand-ins – due to people moving away, plus a whole host of other crappinesses, and you get a situation that is harder than it needs to be. Parenting is damned hard, but it could be easier.

Lesson Four: It’s ok to ask for help, but you probably won’t get nearly enough. This is partly a result of Lesson Three. There just isn’t that much help available of the kind we really need. Like people doing the laundry and cleaning the house and organising meals. While we do what our bodies are meant to do – mother the baby we bore. There are plenty of people willing to give support in the way they want to, like unwanted advice… which leads us to Lesson Five.

I don’t really do that. Honest.

Lesson Five: Mother knows best. Under this come sublessons five a and five b: It’s only an issue if YOU think it is; and, Choose your battles. In New Zealand, most new mothers are provided with support from Plunket. The only problem is that Plunket think they know everything about your child and what is best. (Ok, ok, yes, there are apparently some really good Plunket nurses, but I didn’t have a great experience with them and didn’t go back second time.) What I learnt from my Plunket experience is that I’m the only person (along with Amazing Husband) that knows my kids and what is best for our family. Also, sometimes it’s easiest to just tell them what they want to hear and then do whatever you want. If they’re not going to listen to your point of view, there’s no point sharing it.

Lesson Six: Choose your battles. With advice givers, sure, but also with children. There are some things that just aren’t worth fighting about. And some that are. Things that are just annoying usually aren’t worth a fight, because there are so many things that are destructive to persons or property you have to stop kids doing that you’d just go crazy if you tried to stop all the annoying stuff too.

Lesson Seven: Perfection is unattainable. She said, rewriting this post for the tenth time. (Actually not, but maybe the third time.) This is partly because of Lessons One to Four. Part of this lesson is trying to prioritise and not go mental when everything seems equally as important and both children are screaming at you at once. And you really need to eat, and wee, and the phone is ringing, and there’s someone at the door, and Lord B needs the toilet and Sir A needs a clean nappy and Mummy just wants time to herself. This is hard for perfectionists with overdeveloped senses of unfairness. But they have to get over it.

Lesson Eight: Mummy can’t fix everything. This is similar to Lesson Seven, but has a different focus. Most of us tend to want to fix stuff, make the crying stop, have everyone happy, but so often what parents need to do is just be there and let the child fix it themselves. Which very often involves holding them while they bawl it all out. In my opinion, quite a lot less pleasant than cleaning out a potty of diarrhoea.

I probly have one of my actual man and baby but can’t be bothered finding it. Like getting him to sleep or changing a nappy or something useful.

Lesson Nine: Dads are parents too. I don’t help Amazing Husband with his job, so why should he help with mine? Well, cos he has two, I suppose. Plus, er, choke, cough, I can’t frickin’ do it all on my own. And he’s a bloody Amazing Daddy too. (Reminds herself of Lessons Two-Four, Seven. Only Amazing Husband will almost always give me the help I need, unless he’s not there.)

Lesson Ten: You can’t give what you haven’t got. For example, sanity and general non-bansheelike-screamingness. Which involves that elusive creature: me-time. Without time to refuel it’s only a matter of time before Mummy goes postal and everyone suffers. Of course it’s something that’s hard to get: enter Lesson Nine, while trying to forget pretty much all the others.

NB: I’m not really insane, as most of this post implies. Honest. Also, I’m told I need more photos. I’ll try, but they might be totally random.

Update: I’ve just figured out another one: Lesson Eleven: Getting ready to go out/tidying up etc doesn’t have to be a necessary evil. If you can schedule it in as an activity rather than a stressful transition between more ‘fun’ things, it can be a great bonding and learning experience and the kids will be more interested in cooperating because you’re not stressed and barking instructions. The trick is making enough time that there’s no hurry and you’re stressed you’ll be late. They’re so sweet.

2 Responses to “Things I’ve learnt the hard way as a parent”
  1. Technology! No matter what I do, Lesson Eight just doesn’t want to be seen 😦

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