There’s No Parenting Manual. Or Is There?
What was the first thing you and your partner/spouse did after discovering your amorosity* had resulted in more than a certain glow to your pallor? I still recall what it was for us. Naturally, it was a momentous event, and accordingly we made a bit of an occasion of going to purchase the biggest, most expensive book we could find: an encyclopaedia of pregnancy (complete with graphic images) that would become our bible for the next nine months. (Of course, this was not quite literally the first thing we did, though if you’re interested you can read here about our immediate reaction.)
*Is this a word? It definitely is in US English, so I’m going with it.
My ‘Pregnancy Manual’
That book was a bit of a lifesaver for me, because whether through inadvertent (or even complicit) ignorance, I was pretty clueless about the journey I was about to embark on. I knew my body was going to go through some incredible changes, and all being well, at the end we would have a baby. But the process, the associated symptoms (and the variations thereof)? Very little knowledge.
So I pored over the daily changes I could expect to see happening in my body – which I’d known relatively intimately up to this point, but suddenly felt was quite foreign. And the weekly updates of what was happening inside my abdomen were fascinating and awe-inspiring.
I just wish I’d flicked forward to the (admittedly limited) section covering the first six weeks postnatal. Because I never quite made it that far.
You see, once your baby arrives, life takes over. Gone are the opportunities to laze with a book in front of the fire. Even when they are tiny, there’s always something needs doing. Even if that something is simply pausing to lament the loss of your once-good-friend who’s disappeared from your life for the foreseeable future: sleep.
However, truth be told, the back section in those books is only ever going to be so helpful. There are bits covering signs your baby is not well, and what their poo should look like and so on. But the stuff you really need to know – like whether it’s normal to feel a bit like you’ve lost your freaking mind 92% of the time – well, as the tired cliché goes, there’s no instruction manual, is there?
So I’ve roped in some of my personal favourite – and most respected – parenting bloggers around to help me put together the next best thing. I asked each of them to tell me what they wish they’d known as new parents, and they have been kind enough to share their wisdom with you.
Here’s what they had to say:
‘The one thing I wish I had known as a new parent is that everything was going to be o.k. We had wanted a baby for so long, and after a difficult pregnancy and birth, finally had our baby. The responsibility to then keep her safe was almost overwhelming at times. I wish I had known then what I know now, as it would have helped me to relax more in the early months. Things will be o.k, as a mum you will always do the right thing for your baby.’
Aby Moore is a mum of one feisty little girl and blogs over at You Baby Me Mummy on all things family and lifestyle. After starting her blog in Aug 2013, Aby won the Best Non Dad blog in the Love All Dads annual blog awards in 2014 and was Family Finalist in the BIBs in 2015. Her blog was originally an online memory keeper, but quickly transformed her life. Now working as a full time blogger and social media manager, she helps fellow bloggers by writing regular blogging tips posts and is fully immersed within the community.
‘I wish someone had told me about the love you feel when your baby is born. You think you love your partner with every bit of you, so you think you’re just going to extend your love when they arrive, but when they do finally arrive the love you felt previously is blown completely out of the water! I wish I had been more prepared for it so I wouldn’t have become this emotional mess!
Oh! And cluster feeds. I wish someone had told me about cluster feeding!’
Kate & Sharon are two mums making their way through parenthood with their son (born Apr 15) leading the way!
‘Just how amazingly intense everything could be – the pace of which everything happens, the incredible developments, the dizzying highs, laughter and elations and the sobbing, hair-tearing lows. The heartwrenching guilt, the heart-swelling pride, the sanity stealing sleep deprivation, the angsting over everything. Being a parent feels like all the best and worst of life in one supercharged package and certainly the most beautiful, bizarre and perplexing combination of elements that nobody, or certainly any manual could ever prepare you for. That you will be pushed beyond some limits, and then some more, but in spite of it all, you wouldn’t have it any other way.’
Talya is a freelance writer & blogger at Motherhood: The Real Deal
‘When I look back on those chaotic first days of life with a newborn, I feel I was pretty well informed about most things. I had read all the books, been to every antenatal/hypnobirthing/yoga class going, and soaked up the birth stories of friends and relatives like a sponge. I was Totally Prepared for Everything.
I was also wrong. What I was actually totally prepared for was anything and everything pregnancy and birth. What came afterwards I simply hadn’t considered at all…
Breastfeeding: I knew it was going to be hard. Being the last of my NCT class to give birth, I knew from second hand experience that my nipples were going to hurt, bleed and quite possibly fall off from the sheer trauma and exhaustion of it all. In the end the baby latched on perfectly from day one, and my nipples were fine (eventually. Thanks lanolin!), but what I was not prepared for was the sheer amount of time I would need to spend perfecting this art. It. Took. Literally. Hours. If only I had bought a Kindle. I could have read the complete works of Shakespeare over the months of hour-long feedings that followed (and still do, seventeen months later), and become an expert on esoteric Shakespearean put-downs. So from one mum to another, buy a Kindle. You won’t regret it.
And on that note, a word about feeding in public. Get those boobs out with pride!’
Single mother, teacher and ancient Egyptian god of fertility and lettuce. Blogging about being a single mother by choice and generally attempting humour.
‘I wish I’d known that it’s OK to feel a bit S***when you have a baby and to expect to at some point in those early days/ months. It’s the rollercoaster of motherhood.
Before my first child was born in 2010, and blogs weren’t really ‘a thing’, the media painted a purely glossy side to parenting which undoubtedly left a lot of mums like myself feeling pretty inadequate and rather rubbish, particularly as I was personally battling with a traumatic birth, sleep deprivation, a colicky baby and the shock of new motherhood.
Yes there is a lot of joy, and that deep love for your child is incredible- but that mixture of emotion, the good with the bad is normal and common, but of course if it all feels too much, please ask for help. Seeing a councillor and moving back to being close to my parents was the biggest healer for me and led me to feeling strong enough to have a second baby.
I love that blogs have opened the discourse on motherhood, they allow for a democratic space where women, and men, mothers and fathers can be truly honest and thus supportive, ensuring no one feels alone.’
Vicki/ Honest Mum, is one of the UK’s most successful parenting & lifestyle bloggers and a multi-award winning filmmaker.
‘For me it’s the little things. I wish I’d known that newborn babies aren’t nearly as cute as they become a few minutes later – like a good roast chicken they need to stand for a minute or two before they’re ready. Their neck folds are also a legitimate place to look for lost property. I’ve always enjoyed the odd cup of coffee but since becoming a parent I’ve discovered you can drink that much you can hear your teeth. On the flip side, it’s possible to be so excited about going to sleep that you can’t actually sleep.’
Sam Avery is a stand up comedian and dad to twins. When he’s not changing nappies or gigging he blogs about parenthood at his website: www.samaverycomedian.co.uk. He also hangs out on Facebook a bit too much at www.facebook.com/samaverycomedian
‘What I had wish that I had known was the those first few exhausting months, where the tiredness eats you away, and sometimes you cry or shout at your husband do eventually go. That it is normal to live off caffeine and have dry shampoo in your hair most days. That it’s all part of the process to look a bit crap and it does get better!’
Emma is a Mum and an award winning vlogger and blogger raising two small children in the second city. Living of caffeine and an unhealthy obsession with Mr Bloom.
I wish I’d known that I didn’t have to get everything right first time, that Parenting is an ongoing learning experience and that I didn’t have to get breastfeeding, getting my baby to sleep, even knowing what to dress them in right first time.
You make mistakes, that’s ok if you learn from them. I’ve made plenty but we’ve all survived and I’ve adjusted the way I parent along the way and will always do so.
Be kind to yourself – allow yourself to learn and trust your gut instinct as it’s almost never wrong!’
I’m Mim, a 30something, breast-cancer fighting Brit living in Australia and a mother of a 2 year old little girl and a baby boy. I’m an advocate of hypnobirthing, positive thinking and laughing at myself and I’m pretty much making up Parenting as I go along. I started writing mamamim.com in 2013 and it’s a place for Parenting, Pregnancy, Travel and Home ideas and inspiration.
‘If there one thing that I wish I knew as a new parent, it’s that everything figures itself out and falls into place in the end. I spent so much of the first few months of motherhood worrying about getting our baby into good habits and routine unnecessarily, when instead I should have just relaxed, gone with the flow and enjoyed the journey. Perhaps even trusted my new parenting instincts a little.
You end up living in this new baby bubble and becoming a little obsessive about their sleeping habits, their feeding habits and everything in between. Perhaps its the desperation in the moment that drives you to it, but looking back on it which is so easy to do in retrospect, some of the things that I did were frankly a little absurd. Reading a dozen baby sleeping books, pretty normal. Contacting a baby whisperer, clearly verging on desperation. Booking Osteopathy session, completely ridiculous.
Then there was the anxiety about how we would make life work as a working family just as my maternity leave was coming to an end. For months I worried about how we would make it all work when I went back to work. I worried about childcare, I worried about the finances, I worried about what it would do to our family dynamics. But yet again, everything just seemed to fall into place. Opportunities appeared, things almost magically happened and it all just worked.
So the old adage that you just make things work when you have children is most certainly true, and with number two on their way I hope that we can remember that the second time round!’
Emily is a first time mummy to a two year old little lady and one more on the way. She blogs at My Petit Canard about what life is like as a mother, wife, city high flier perpetually trying to figure out work life balance. Follow her and her family in their every day and mini adventures. This is what life looks like from the city to motherhood and back again!
‘The most important thing is to sit down when you go for a pee.
My son was 1 and 4 months. Technical types call this 16 months. He was walking but hated one thing above all others: closed doors. He was also very strong. If you sat him on your lap to read a story he’d wrestle the book from you. If I was standing in the kitchen he’d come up behind me, grab my legs, twist me and not let go. Like a textbook rugby tackle.
So, one fine day Daddy decides to go for a pee. I quickly nip into the cloakroom and close the door and unbutton. I hear screaming from the living room. I’m desperate. I start to pee and open the door to reassure my son that I’m only in the cloakroom and not gone to Mars and I’ll be out in a mo. Quick as a flash he’s in through the door and…
‘No son, stop wrestling the backs of my legs.’
‘Stop it now.’
‘You’re grabbing my trousers and twisting.’
‘My, you are strong. And now I’m mid-stream and Noooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!’
I sprayed in his face.
Not right in his face, on his forehead, but you get the picture. And it was only a bit as I stopped as soon as I could. When the horror struck me. And then I bathed him quickly and got him clean and dressed and gave him a biscuit. And we never speak of this time.
Now, I simply sit whenever I need to pee. Its popular in Germany apparently. And nicer all round as it means a little less cleaning. Also it meant that if my kids come in, I could talk to them and not feel rushed.
Plus I didn’t want to run the risk of peeing in my daughters face. I wouldn’t be able to afford the future therapy bills.’
@adadcalledspen writes the feature ‘A Man’s World’ at www.zeitmygeist.co.uk. In the past he’s written about parenting, depression, being a stay at home dad, being a full-time carer for his mother, and has had pieces published in a number of books. He won the Writer category at Britmums in 2013 and is still waiting for them to tell him there was a terrible mistake. He has two children, and two stepchildren, and is currently working on a ballet version of The Only Way Is Essex. He likes cheese.
‘I really wish I’d known the importance of getting my strength up post pregnancy and post birth before attempting to mother. It’s so difficult because the instinct to be the best is so strong, but I found everything so overwhelming and I never let myself fully recover from the emergency cesarean I ended up having. Consequently I found it harder to bond with my son in those first few months. If I’d given myself a break I would have been back to health much faster and over all I would have enjoyed those early days much more. Sleep, rest and recover. Do what you need to for your health and the baby’s but don’t do anymore. Not until you feel ready to.’
Blogger and vlogger for The London Mum.
‘Oh, so much…most poignantly I wish I’d known that my babies would grow up because I would have enjoyed them more. That sounds like an absurd statement but bear with me. Of course, I knew they would grow up but it didn’t actually occur to me quite how hard hitting it would be.
You have this tiny baby that depends on you and needs you constantly. Then your tiny baby so quickly grows into a toddler and before you know it they are teenagers. So many people will say to you ‘enjoy them as babies, it goes so quickly’ and it is so very true. I had no idea how much I would miss the way they were when they were little. Their imagination that knew no bounds, their beautiful childish innocence, their persistent exuberance for life. Because they grow up and things change and the dynamics change and so will your relationship with them.
It’s so bittersweet and although moving on to the next phase of being a parent to a young adult is exciting and wonderful it’s just very different and so hard to describe; there’s no recapturing the magic of childhood once that stage has passed. So enjoy them when they are little, while it lasts.’
Professional writer and blogger, Amy from Mr & Mrs T Plus Three, lives near Bristol in a grown up tree house on the edge of 100-acre wood. She can usually be found chasing after a small child camera in one hand, strong coffee in the other.
I have very deliberately ended on one of favourite pieces of advice; because I’ve so often been guilty myself of looking at my angel and feeling mournful, as my tiny baby slips away further into the past. Of course, I’m also proud of the little girl she’s becoming, which acts as a balm for those bittersweet daggers of emotion.
And yet it took reading Amy’s wise words for me to appreciate that during those moments I am looking at my daughter and seeing only how she has grown so much, I am rather missing the point:
Tomorrow I will be mourning my younger daughter of today – but it’s not yet too late to cherish the current moment I have with her.
The realisation thwacked me in the solar plexus, and so that’s a little something I’ve personally taken away from this project – and shall be making conscious efforts to embrace from hereon in.
If I’d had access to this info when I was pregnant, I’m confident I’d have felt better prepared for the odyssey I was about to embark on. As it is, it’s taken me until relatively recently to feel truly confident in myself as a mother. And if you’re interested in my thoughts on the subject of this post, I wish I’d known to trust my own judgement; that in almost every circumstance, the person who is best equipped to know what my daughter needs is ME. (I spoke about it in a bit more detail in here.)
I hope this valuable advice, sourced from the actual experiences of some of the best-recognised bloggers in the industry (with thanks!), serve to make your journey a little easier to enjoy.
Good luck to you and your imminent new families!
Don’t forget to stop by for more insights and cynicism when you’re sleep-deprived and insane – I’ll be waiting here for you to join me. (Or forward-plan and subscribe to ensure you don’t miss out!)