Guest blog: I’m half way through my second pregnancy with a little boy who will be two years old when the baby comes. When I first became a mother, despite having lots of friends with older kids who shared their wisdom with me, of course I messed up just as much, if not more, than the next person. So as I’m approaching the birth of this new bundle of sick, poop and joy, here is some advice to my future self, hopefully some of it will be useful to you too.
1) Don’t worry about some screen time. Last time I swore I wouldn’t go on my phone in front of the baby. I’m sorry to say it but breastfeeding, watching an episode of Bing for the Nth time or just playing all day are… boring. Some time on your phone, or whatever your vice might be, are not going to permanently scar your kids. Giving them 100% of your attention all day, every day, isn’t realistic unless you’re determined to become a planet circling their sun. You’re a person too, it’s good for them to know that, so don’t worry about it.
2) Don’t worry about the mess so much. I’ll caveat this that I’ve never been a clean freak to start with. But on having my first I became a bit more focused on having a tidy and clean house for guests and toddlers. I have discovered that the best friends don’t judge you for a messy house, puke on the carpet or piles of washing up. It would only ever be you that judges yourself on these things.
3) Only have VERY close family over immediately after the birth. Last year I broke the rule and had some extended family and friends over and didn’t do the ‘ just us ‘ bonding. It meant the baby blues hit me quite hard. This time people can wait a bit, short visits are great, but give us a good few weeks before you invade mumma bear’s cave.
4) Actually let people help. People offer very kindly, work mates, friends and family. This time I’ll let them bring food or do washing or change nappies. I’ve discovered it actually feels nice to help people, so let them.
5) Don’t over schedule your time. Last time I was scared I’d get lonely if I didn’t get out and about. I was scared of isolation, so I went to baby groups every day, sometimes twice. This leads to exhaustion and very loose friendships as you see lots of people, but not very frequently. This time I will select the people who make me feel better and I love and I’ll see more of them but frequent fewer groups. Down time is useful and box sets in the early days should be on prescription.
6) Remember going back after maternity leave is OK. I was scared last time that my brain had died, or that I’d lost my networks. I even questioned whether I would be able to do the role again. It took a few months to get into the swing of things, but I swear I’m better at my job now than I was before I had a baby. I’m more organised, more prepared, worry less, treat people with more compassion and get things done in 3-4 days that somehow used to take 4-5. The nerves wear off, remember you rock. Also note that your baby will get sick a lot to begin with if at nursery /childminders, so plan accordingly. But remember this period won’t last forever.
7) Beware Google. Late night feeds and strange symptoms always led me to Google anything and everything. This leads to hypochondria, insomnia and worst of all know-it-all-ness. If you’re worried speak to a health visitor, midwife or doctor. Otherwise remember everything passes and this will too.
8) Hold your rules lightly. Whether they are routines, meals, behaviour (the baby’s or yours) remember they are there to help you, not rule you. If you’re feeling a compulsion or aversion to them, then you might be holding to them a bit too hard. Be kind to yourself and don’t expect yourself to meet impossible standards all the time. It’s hard on those around you too. As Elsa wisely says, ‘ let it go ‘ (and if you don’t know who Elsa is, you soon will!)
9) Share responsibilities in a relationship. This applies to all but particularly in m-f straight relationships as stereotypically the woman takes on a much larger part of the household load and child rearing even after returning to work. And it’s not that men shirk their responsibility, rather we women are brought up socially to think we should be able to do it all. We live in the 21st century and gender does not determine ability to cook, wash or cuddle a baby. Sharing the load is good for all of you. It means good bonding for both parents, a better adult relationship and better career prospects for mum.
10) Don’t be derailed by people who make you feel down. You will meet them in parent groups. They’re feeling insecure and not good enough themselves, that’s where it comes from. If you take some time to listen with empathy and reassure them, they tend to be pretty damn awesome people too. You don’t have to see them every day, but remember what you’re like on a bad day, you’ll piss people off too, so be kind and don’t play the competitive /negative game.
……OK, remember what I said about holding your rules lightly? Here’s one extra for that reason.
11) People love to give advice. Even those who tell you to ignore everyone’s advice will still give you advice. Smile, nod and do what you wanna do. The same goes for this list.
……………..Trust your instincts, you’re doing tons better than you think you are.