Over the weekend, while the rest of the world seemed to be putting up their Christmas trees, we had our own celebration. A decade ago, on a snowy night in November, I welcomed to the world, via forceps, a 7lb 14.5oz baby girl. She had brown eyes and a mass of dark spikey hair sticking up out of the top of her little round head. Across each cheek was a red scratch from where the forceps had gripped her head during delivery. Truthfully, she looked like a deranged baby version of Batman’s Joker, but she was mine and she was beautiful. The day she arrived was the day I understood what love, at first sight, felt like.
I had a 36-hour labour, by the time she finally arrived I was exhausted, but sleep wouldn’t come. Instead, I sat in my hospital bed with this tiny contented little bundle sleeping in a blanket between my legs staring at her. I was a mother. The enormity of that statement hit me all at once. Within that moment, the fear and anxiety I had felt through my pregnancy were replaced with love and fierce protectiveness for the human I had created.
Fast forward ten years, and we are a million miles from where we started. The small, hairy little baby I had is now a beautiful and sassy girl with more confidence in her cheeky smile than I have had my entire life. I too have come a long way in my decade of motherhood; now a happily married mother of three, I’m worlds away from the newly 20-year-old single mum who still lived with her parents.
I could not be prouder of the sassy and uniquely fabulous kid that my firstborn child has become. These ten years have gone by in what feels like 10 minutes and watching her personality grow has been one of the best things I’ve been witness to. She is and will forever be my first true love, and I am positive that she will do great things in this world.
In celebration of a decade of motherhood, I wanted to share 10 things I have learnt since becoming a parent.
- Never compare yourself to other parents. It is a waste of your time and energy. Focus on yourself and how you want to raise your children. I spent so much time worrying that other mums were doing it better than me and comparing the way I did things to others. It caused me no end of anxiety. The day I started to do things my way and stopped caring how others did it was the day I became a better parent. Screw what other parents are doing, if it works for you, that’s all that matters! Be organised, make lists and, prioritize tasks. This is something I learnt really early on. Don’t spend time and energy trying to do everything, if a job needs doing then fair enough but if it can wait, then let it. Making a list for each day using a planner or journal can really change your time management. This was a huge revelation for me as a parent.
- Make time for yourself and don’t feel guilty for it! Self-care is a must for parents. If you’re not looking after yourself, it will affect your ability to look after your kids. Establish a self-care routine, even something simple like setting your alarm ten minutes earlier, having those extra moments to yourself makes all the difference.
- Attend the baby groups. I have always been an anxious person and struggled a lot with meeting new people. With my firstborn, I didn’t attend any of the mummy groups simply because I was so worried and nervous that I wouldn’t be ‘accepted’. When I did finally pluck up the courage to go to a baby group with my second child, I found a welcoming community of mums and dads who were just as scared as I was. It was great to talk with people who understood the difficulties of parenting. The new parents shared the same fears I had, and the seasoned parents offered advice. I honestly wish I’d have gone sooner.
- Share the load. Whether you are single, married, a first-time parent or have a football team of children, asking for help is never a bad thing. The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ exists for a reason. Being a parent is hard, and the more people you bring into your support network, the easier it becomes. You do not have to do it alone, make sure you stay in touch with supportive friends and family and never suffer alone. If you need help, ask!
- Mistakes are how we learn. No parent gets it right every time all the time. If you get it wrong or something doesn’t go as planned, don’t worry. Learn from it and move on. If I had a pound for every mistake I’ve made as a parent, I’d probably be a millionaire. Mistakes are a part of life, so of course, they are a part of parenting. It does no good to fixate on something you got wrong, all you can do is acknowledge where you went wrong and learn what to do differently next time. Cut yourself some slack because none of us really know what we’re doing!
- Losing your temper does not make you a bad parent. This is something that I used to get so emotional about. I would never class myself as a ‘shouty’ mum, in fact, I like to think I’m calm and laid back, but even I have a limit to my patience. Losing your temper and shouting when you’re having one of those days makes you human and nothing else. We’ve all had moments where our parenting swings from snow white to evil queen in a single second. I usually have a week of this every month.
- Everything in moderation is a positive way to live. I have known parents whose children live on technology, chicken dippers and chocolate sandwiches. I have also known parents who don’t own a television and have their children follow a sugar-free vegan diet. While I firmly believe in the motto ‘to each their own’ I like to think that I do Ok as a parent somewhere in between these two parenting styles. With a little bit of everything in moderation, we have a nice balance between it all.
- Try to focus on what you can control instead of stressing about the things you can’t. I have always been a worrier, I classed it as a personality trait instead of something that I could manage. Once I changed my outlook and started to focus on the things I had control of, I found that my worrying stopped. Focus on yourself and your parenting, behaviour, words, ideas, actions, effort and reactions are all things that you are in control of. When it comes to others, you can control their actions, words and behaviours about as much as you can control the weather. So why try? As long as you are focused on yourself and what you can control, you can let go of all the things you can’t. Speaking from experience, from the moment you let go of things you can’t control, you’ll be happier.
- Listen to your instincts. This is probably the most important thing I have learnt over the past ten years. I know my children better than anyone else. I know when they are ill, tired, hungry, sad, happy, or excited just from the way they look. You too will know your own child better than anyone, so trust in your own abilities. You’ve got this!
I hope that the ramblings of what I’ve learnt in my decade of motherhood can be of use to someone. I wish I’d have known some of these things earlier on in the game, but I suppose one of the principal parts of parenting is the constant learning that comes with it. None of us really know what we’re doing, and any parent who claims they do is lying.
Until next time…