Any week now my sister is going to make me an Uncle, thus granting me the highly coveted male familial quartet of Father/Son/Brother/Uncle (a feat only achieved…by a dazzlingly high number of people…mostly men).
Regrettably she is over in China, and so I haven’t had the chance to pass on all my accumulated knowledge on what it’s like to become a parent for the first time…but I know she reads this blog, and I needed a topic for this fortnight…so this is what we in the industry call a ‘twofer’.
Now I’m No Expert But, here in no particular order are some things I wish I had known before I became a parent, but I didn’t find in any of the books I pretended to read about becoming a parent.
You will want it, miss it and crave it. You will become obsessed with your child’s sleep. Complete strangers will ask you about your sleep. And do you know what? Not one of these things will actually help you get sleep.
There is no point comparing the amount of sleep you used to get before you had a baby, because that was a totally different time. Just as you can’t yell at your husband about having to make your own lunch, because you didn’t have to when you were 7 years old. That time has passed…and so to has having long stretches of unbroken sleep. Complaining about it won’t result in more sleep…but it is immeasurably therapeutic.
One of my clearest memories of when Josh was a couple of months old was talking to my boss at work and mentioning how many times I had been up the night before trying to get him to sleep. My boss had teenage kids and just looked wistfully into the middle distance and said ‘I would do anything to know where my kids were at night.’
Just know that there does come a time when you get to sleep through the night again, and that in the interim you will be freaking tired…but will find amazing reserves of energy.
2. Your child will be fine
One of the wonderful results of having very little sleep and being thrust into a role you have had very little preparation for, is that you suddenly start aging your baby 10yrs but giving them their current behaviours. ‘Oh my god I’m going to have the first child who sleeps in their parents bedroom until they’re 20’, ‘Oh my god our child is going to be the only child who still has a dummy at 10’, ‘Oh my god, my child is just going to scream every time he doesn’t get what he wants’. These are all things I thought about our first and second children, it’s only now with the third that I am able to relax and just enjoy my time knowing that they will develop at their own pace.
3. Accept people’s offers of help
A very large part of you will just want to just form a little cocoon around your new family and keep the rest of the world at arm’s length. Not least because you have no idea what you’re doing and don’t want someone to come in and tell you that you’re doing it wrong.
But if someone offers to bring around a meal, or clean up, or hold the baby while you have a lie down…take them up on it. They will feel great knowing that they’re helping you out, and you will feel great having one less thing to worry about.
4. Get ready to have your world view changed
Your respect for single parents will increase about 400%…your shame about your behaviour towards your own parents will increase about 8,000%…and the frequency of you crying while watching movies/news reports/Octonauts will be awkward for your fellow film viewers/colleagues/6 yr old nephews.
Also, have you heard that amazing new album by that hot new band? No, neither have I…however some of the Hooley Dooley’s early stuff is sublime.
In the last three years I have never read so few books, but listened to so many podcasts.
I’ve never been so consumed by own little part of the world, but had so many moments of noticing true beauty in the world around me.
And I’ve never felt so insanely out of control of my life, but felt so content.
Best of all you can start any sentence with ‘As a parent…’ and non-parents have to pretend that this actually somehow makes your point more valid.
5. Go in and look at your baby before you go to sleep
This is not out of some paranoia that they might have stopped breathing (although, to be honest….you will do this a couple of times), and not because it is the one time when they’re not expecting you to do something for them.
But because there is nothing more beautiful than the sight of your own child sleeping.
So let’s see that’s everything I know about parenting in less than 850 words…yep, that sounds about right.
Babies are contrary things, so just because something works one day…doesn’t mean it will work the next. But by the same token a failed strategy one day may be the perfect solution the next. Just go with your instincts, you’ll be right more times that you’re wrong. Why? Because you’re an amazing person, and you’re going to be a fantastic parent!