It doesn’t matter what anybody says, nothing prepares you for how much a baby changes everything. A cute little bundle lands in the middle of your life, throws everything up in the air and it all settles back around you just a little differently.
I do not profess to be any kind of expert in parenting, in fact I don’t think anybody truly is, even the people who write books about it. My biggest observation after many months of spending time with other new parents is that we are all totally making it up as we go along. But, in my first 9 months of parenthood there are some things I have picked up along the way that I think will resonate with others riding the same rollercoaster ride.
Here are 9 things I have learned:
1. I’m not an Earth Mother and that’s ok
When pregnant, it is easy to make plans and decide how things are going to be. For most people there is a very abrupt and rude awakening, generally during the process of giving birth (which never goes to plan as far as I can establish) or very soon afterwards. One of my rude awakenings was that I am not going to be the ethereal Earth Mother I envisaged. Extended breastfeeding, organic only food, no pouches or jar food, all natural body products, no TV or iPad screen time, lovely wooden toys and no brightly coloured plastic littering the home…..epic fail on ALL counts. In fact, I’ll rephrase that, not a fail but just not how we ended up choosing to do things when in full possession of all the facts about how our new life would actually be. After several months of beating myself around the head with a big guilt-stick I’ve come to realise that really, it’s all fine. If you are one of those mothers who smells of sunshine, skips through fields with the wind in your hair and doesn’t own a TV, that’s fine too. We are all just doing our best.
2. This too shall pass
Those mornings when after a total of one hour of broken sleep you wonder how you will ever survive the day…you will. I can’t tell you how, but you just plough on, dragging your eye bags along with you. It gets better, it really does. A good supply of cake and chocolate helps.
3. A nappy explosion can be a beautiful thing
….especially when you’ve waited several days for it! Oh the relief. Who’d have thought?
Seriously, if it means no longer watching your little one in pain and discomfort, that stinky episode is the best thing ever. For a little while, anyway.
4. It is impossible to keep all the germs away
Whilst I still inwardly cringe each time Little O chews a random toy at soft play, I know it’s impossible to make sure everything that touches her mouth is clean. At some point I have to accept that day to day germs will reach her little body. A lot of time is spent cleaning and sterilising baby equipment at home, only for her to head straight for the grubbiest looking toy in the communal playroom as soon as we venture out. I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to stop this happening but unfortunately I’m not Inspector Gadget and I just don’t have long enough arms or superhero powers. I’m sure little O passes on just as many germs when she indiscriminately slobbers on any chewable surface she can find. So for now I’ll stay friends with the hand sanitizer and Dettol wipes but not stress too much when, like today, a fellow baby sneezes in her face.
5. Second hand is cool
I’ve already blogged about this but it really is true that not every toy or item of clothing needs to be brand new. Fabulous bargains can be found on buying and selling sites, in many cases babies get bored of toys quickly which means they are lightly used. All the more reason not to spend a fortune. Before Little O came along I never thought I’d spend so much time hunting a bargain but now I’m a regular buyer of whatever nearly new toy becomes the next big thing.
6. An iPad is the best thing since sliced bread
I was always a person who would pull on my massive judgey pants when I saw parents using iPads to occupy their children. However, I have to admit to succumbing to this, on occasion. It’s a matter of survival. The iPad, with downloaded cartoons and other child friendly delights, has prevented or dampened down many a force 10 meltdown. In particular, the iPad has helped with long haul plane travel, distraction during minor medical procedures and middle of the night hysteria. I’m not saying the iPad is pulled out every time we hit any difficulty, but it certainly is an excellent addition to the parenting toolbox. Back when I was a baby I guess the equivalent would have been jangling a bunch of keys, but somehow that doesn’t work for Little O.
7. My baby has a better social life than I do
Seriously, a whole new social circle opened up the moment the blue line appeared on the pregnancy test. Little O was making friends even whilst in bump form. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed navigating the waters of all the different mum and baby groups around Abu Dhabi. The ones I’ve stuck with have people just like me who are happy for a couple of hours of chatter over some good cake, whilst the little ones happily wreak havoc in a new environment… that said, to fairly distribute the damage I do my share of hosting too. I’d be lost without my mum-mates and I’m pretty sure that Little O will soon realize that she would be lost without her baby chums, too.
8. It’s ok to want time out
I could spend 100% of the time gazing adoringly at Little O…or now and again I could find some little place to hide out for some ‘me time’. I choose the latter. It took a while to lose the guilt about leaving Little O for an hour or two with Mr O whilst I go off gallivanting, but I soon got over it. My current hideout of choice is the spa at one of the hotels near to my home. After a massage and a delicious herbal tea and chewy oat biscuit, I’m ready to face the world again. Whether it be yoga, spas, a trip to the supermarket on my own (luxury!) or just a quick walk along the seafront, these solo moments definitely save my sanity.
9. Live in the moment
I’m quite good at navel-gazing and getting lost in worries about the future or wasting time wondering what could have been done differently. What the last 9 months have taught me most of all is that time flies. It doesn’t feel that way when the baby is screaming at 3am, but really, it’s true.
Spend too much time lost in worrying and planning and you’ll miss those tiny wondrous moments, generally found in amongst the mundane. A random cheeky smile in the midst of a food-refusing session can catch me off guard and make it all ok. Playing peekaboo for the 50th time that day is fine because I know someday there will be a last time and I won’t even know it. Soak it up.
If you like this, please ‘like’ the Mum’s Hideout facebook page and share, share away!