When you are pregnant, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, every single woman who has ever had a child (and some who haven’t!) is going to try to pass on their ‘pearls of wisdom’ to you. However unwanted they may be. Everyone wants to share with you the advice they think you need as a new mum, based on their own experience. Often they can go beyond the boundaries of advice, and it can become very opinionated and inconsiderate without realising what they are doing. So, that’s exactly what I’m about to do, give you my honest advice for new mums.
Why do people give you their advice about having babies and raising children?
I get it … NOW. Now that I’m older and wiser, and more experienced. The reason so many women want to give you their advice is simple, really. They’ve gone through this life-changing experience and they want to share their knowledge, learnings and experiences. If you’re the one in front of them in that moment, with child or expecting, you’re going to hear about it.
Why do we Overshare?
Well, I for one, was massively unprepared.
Personally, I was completely and utterly ignorant and terrified. I didn’t know anything! I was oblivious. I was an ostrich burying my head in the sand until I was about 35 weeks and then I realised I needed to actually do stuff, and then the panic set in. Call it what you want, but it did not feel like ‘nesting’ to me, it felt more like stress, hard work and if I think back now, I realise that’s probably when my struggle with anxiety started.
Secondly, you realise that you really Don’t Know what it’s like.
What I don’t talk about often is that I am actually a step-mom too. My step-daughter is a teenager now. In the early days of our relationship, my future husband would often say to me, “You don’t know, you’re not a parent.” To which I would respond angrily and defensively, “Just because I’m not a mom, doesn’t mean I don’t know! I do know!”
But in truth, I didn’t. How wrong I was (mostly). I say ‘mostly’ because there are some fundamentally instinctive issues that are entirely personal and no child or relationship can change that. However, being a ‘step-mum and being a ‘mom’ is different, at least they were for me. A lot of that is because of instinct and awareness.
A while ago, my daughter’s young, newly married, energetic and enthusiastic teacher (no kids yet), stood in front of a classroom of over-tired, exhausted and anxious parents and actually said those words “I know what you’re all going through as parents.”
Ah, no love, you don’t!
With the greatest respect for your role in my child’s life, you really don’t know what it’s like for us. Until you’ve been through it and come out the other side of whatever parenting moment you’re experiencing, you don’t know what the hell you’re actually doing. None of us does, and we’re the ones actually doing it!
Hindsight Is A Wonderful Thing
It got me thinking though if I were to write down my honest advice, to be available for anyone dead scrolling in the middle of the night panicked but exhausted, what would my advice be. So here it is, my advice to new mums who are sick of hearing all the advice from everyone in the world who’s ever been a mother (yes, I get the irony):
Just Hear Them Out
Listen to the advice from strangers with an open mind, it hurts no one to hear it. One day you will have a burning desire to share how you came out of it the other side scathed but alive. All you have to do is hear it, process it and then decide whether to discard it or treasure it. Either way, it takes nothing to be polite and listen to your aunt, cousin, mother’s friend, great-great- granny in-law. Just be polite and figure out what you want to do, and then do that!
And just a head’s up. If you think it’s only nine months of unwanted advice about everything from baby’s names to sleeping patterns, you are sadly mistaken It never ends! No matter what stage of parenting you are at, someone else older, wiser and more experienced, with more kids than you, will ALWAYS have advice for you, whatever the situation!
Fed Is Best!
Do not get hung up on what the books or great aunties have to say about growth spurts: breast is best, baby-led weaning, inverted nipples, the formula makes them constipated, blah blah blah. There will always be someone you’re not pleasing with your decision on how to feed your child. But, that little person you are responsible for is the only one you have to answer to! What do they want? And what can you manage without losing your sanity? Whatever it is, do it!
If you listen to everything everyone tells you, you will drive yourself crazy and your child will be hungry and cry until you literally go insane! If your child is hungry, F.E.E.D I.T! Breast 24 hours a day, or breast with a formula top-up, formula only, cereal 24/7, or mashed up butternut! Whatever it takes! Just feed your child so that it can stop crying and go to sleep so that you can too.
Here we go!
- If your baby falls asleep whilst feeding, so what!?
- If your baby falls asleep on your chest, so what!?
- Co-sleeping – fine! I’m not a fan, but it happened anyway.
- If your baby needs to be pushed around the block in their pushchair 45 times at 9 pm, you push!
- If you have to remortgage your house to fuel up your car to drive 90 miles every time they need a nap, just so your child can sleep … well, you might need to reconsider, but if you can afford it, DO IT!
Whatever it takes, do it! You can deal with the consequences later after you’ve got more than four consecutive hours of sleep. You will actually survive the sleep deprivation, but they need to sleep too.
This is probably the most important piece of advice I have to give you about being a new parent:
Do not buy all the stuff that the adverts and books tell you to, and try to avoid pushchair envy (it’s a real thing).
You don’t need half that stuff. I promise!
- You do not need a bottle steriliser until your child is actually using a bottle!
- You do not need a dummy/pacifier steriliser … boiling water in a coffee mug will do!
- You do not need the highest end of the market bouncy chair because your child will grow out of it in less than 6 months, and then what?
There is also a time and place to buy the stuff you do need. Just wait, give it time. In the first few months of having a baby, all your child really needs is you, food, 14 changes of clothing, nappies, warmth and love!
Reality check: Most first-time mum’s don’t put their newborn down for very long anyway so do you really need the state of the art designer nursery before he/she is born? No, you don’t. You might want it but get a little perspective. Do you need it?
You Can’t Stop Time
No matter how prepared or unprepared you are, that baby comes eventually. You may be only 35 weeks (or earlier), you may be 42 weeks and counting! Whether you have a cot or not, a baby bag or not, a pushchair or not, that baby will still come when they are ready. You will never really be prepared despite your best efforts.
Never, Ever, Say “Never”.
Before I became a mom, I said all the stupid cliche’s, all of them! This is possibly my second most important piece of advice to new mums and parents, never say never!
- “My child will never have a dummy.”
- “My child will never speak to me like that.”
- “I will breastfeed exclusively for the first year.”
I don’t care who you are, what your background is, your circumstances are, and what support structure you might have, most of those
ridiculous declarations you make before you’re a mom will be proved untrue by that precious human you love unconditionally.
Don’t Be Afraid
For those of us who struggle through the dark days, weeks and months of PND, ask for help! By simply asking for help, you are stepping up to be the parent your child needs.
So, my advice to new mums would be “You’ve got this.”
Believe it or not, this is the serious version of this topic on my blog. If you want the light-hearted, slightly sarcastic version check it out here: Skills Required To Parent