A Realistic Guide To Parenting

Many parenting books advise us of challenges a new-born will bring.  They emphasise the delirious exhaustion it brings and the rejigging of a previously carefree life.  We are shoved into debates about breast vs formula,  sleeping rituals or how best to bond.  But once that precious newborn smell starts to fade and the nappies turn to training pants, we are left, without warning, with a small person who wants to navigate the world their way.  Sounds exciting right? Well actually, it can be really really hard and you may feel, at times, like you are going mad. The terrible twos is real, except it starts around 18 months and ends at about 4 years (if you’re lucky).  

After a ghastly nights sleep (if you can call it that) I’ve necked my coffee and have decided that there is categorically no solutions to parenting.  All children are different, the crappy times are unavoidable and therefore we may as well have a laugh about it. I’ve written my own, more realistic, guide to parenting below. 

1)      Tantrums

Tantrums have no limits. I kid you not, some tantrums were/are so out of control that I get a ringing sensation in my ears for days. Once, she threw her shoes in the road as we were walking into nursery, another time she threw her shoe at my head as I drove, and the worse was when she laid on the floor of Tesco kicking and screaming.  This was made more stressful when Brenda who was surfing the fruit aisle for some bananas decided to tut at me. Children may be small, but they put up a good fight, so come armed with supplies. I usually find a hip flask of wine and the ability to pick your child up and run quickly back to the car can help a public tantrum. Genuinely though, do not give in; let them scream it out.  Learn to play an episode of friends in your head and ignore the shrieking. Alternatively you may just go deaf which I guess can be considered a win.

2)      Users

Don’t expect unconditional love from a toddler. My children cheered when I suggested snuggling up to watch a movie together only to be told they weren’t interested when the only snack I had was fruit. They were cheering for the sweets and popcorn they assumed they would get, not me. Whilst we’re on the subject of children being users, expect to only hear you’re the ‘best mummy in the world’, after buying both a kinder egg and a magazine. You must then also expect to be told you’re the ‘worst mummy’, 6 minutes later when you won’t let them play on your phone.

3)      Bedtime

Before I had kids, I imagined bedtime to be wonderful. Me and my child sat arm in arm whilst I read them their favourite book and giggled at the funny parts. They would kiss my cheek and tell me they loved me as I left the room and they drifted off into 10 full hours of sleep. Last night, in protest of going to bed, my daughter slept under her bed. She was so pissed off that she ripped a page of her book, threw it at me and then climbed underneath. And no, I wasn’t alarmed, I was so fucking happy she was asleep I simply slid her out from the bed and tucked her in. She can fall asleep in the airing cupboard for all I care, as long as shes actually going to sleep.

4)      Bedtime Part 2  

Just a word of caution, a child’s bed is magic.  When children get into them, they suddenly remember their need to hydrate or empty their bladders. They also realise they have to tidy their room, need to say goodnight to everyone including the next door neighbour, like light, hate light, hate dark, they’re scared, they’re sad, they’re poorly, they need a poo, they need a wee, they’re going to be sick, they need to wash their hands, their eyebrows hurt, THEY NEED TO CHECK THE TINY PEICE OF FLUFF IS STILL IN THEIR SHOE. Basically, come armed with a bucket of water, install a toilet in their room and don’t expect to be out of there before midnight.

5)      Hair Brushing

If your child has long hair, you should anticipate them turning into the grim reaper if you so much as comb the tiniest knot. The other day, to test the authenticity of said reaction, I merely brushed the air next to my daughters hair she, in turn, held her head and SCREAMED ‘ow’. Fake it until you make it hey?

6)      Disappearing Socks

Children’s socks are not like adult socks. Like beds, children’s socks are magic. They can escape, hide and disappear. I once put a sock on my child and two minutes later it had runaway, never to be seen again. Another time, I wrapped a few pairs and put them in my child’s stocking but when the present was opened, they had gone. The socks had escaped. Socks will leave, you will buy more and they too, will leave. They will never match, and you will spend every day of your parenting life looking for a clean pair of socks for your child. You will eventually need to re-mortgage your property to afford the cost of new socks. Alternatively, it may be an idea to make contacts at a sock making factory.

7)      Toilet Flushing

Your children will be fascinated by flushing the loo for the first 3 times they use it and then they will never bother to flush it again.

8)      Home Décor

If you must choose a colour of carpet suitable for children, then I would suggest the colour ‘it doesn’t exist’. The best advice is to not bother with floor. Maybe you could put some newspaper down, if you’re feeling fancy, but no floor is the best bet. Same with furniture. Don’t bother getting any, before you know it will look like you had a break in, and your furniture was vandalised.

9)      Timekeeping

Astonishingly, none of the parenting books I have read have ever mentioned the fact that children are unable to understand you until you have repeated yourself 53 times.  If you ask them something the poor little soles cannot register it until you have actually lost your voice getting the message across.  If you want them to get ready for school on time, it’s worth waking them at 4am and starting the requests then, as they may have heard you by 7am. Also, all children are born with a defect that causes them to automatically slow down when you are in a rush. This again, is strangely not mentioned in parenting books.

10)   Extra Senses

They say children can see ghosts and their senses don’t just stop there.  They have all sorts of additional powers.  One is knowing what a food tastes like before trying it.  For instance, they know that a chicken dish you’ve spent an hour cooking tastes horrible, but only need to hear the word ‘ice cream’ to know it tastes amazing. Other additional senses include; hearing you eat no matter how hard you try to hide it, sudden ability to adhere to all rules if chocolate is mentioned and the instant hunger they are hit with once they are near a cake.

To summarise, parenting can be so hard and were all blagging it.  And yes, that includes tutting Brenda in the fruit aisle.

To The Girl I Used To Be

Sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed with balancing life, relationships, work and being a good Mother to my two children. Imagine trying to carry six bags full of Tesco shopping, whilst walking a tightrope and reciting the 8 times tables backwards; that’s how I feel most days.  I often think back to my younger self and compare her to who I am now. I view myself then and myself now as two entirely different people, sometimes wishing I could be more like her again even though when I was, I wasn’t too fond of her.

I remember my Mum saying to me when I was a teenager that she had a dream that she was free.  She had no ties or responsibility and the feeling was amazing and one that she had forgotten.  It stuck with me because I had no idea what she meant at the time. Now, I understand just how possible it can sometimes be to miss that freedom from responsibility.

People used to say (before children) that I was selfish…and I was, because I could be.  Don’t get me wrong, if a friend or family member needed me, I would of course be there for them, but if I wanted to do something then I did it; regardless of consequences. If my parents asked me to babysit my younger brother on the same night of a huge party, then I would be politely declining. I used to put my own needs first, sometimes to a fault. I’m not bitter about the fact I can no longer do that anymore (I couldn’t think of anything worse than gracing a nightclub until the early hours) and being a mother is my biggest achievement to date, but how do I be a good mum and partner AND look after myself at the same time? That is the bit I find difficult. And where along the way did I lose my ability to be even remotely selfish? 

The love I have for my little family is too strong to not prioritise them, I want them all to be happy first and foremost. Consequently, self-care falls by the wayside. I truly find it to be one of the most challenging parts of parenting. When is it ok to put yourself first? Are you even supposed to ever again?

I used to tell myself that I needed to be less selfish, but I always ended up making the decision that suited me best. People would pull me up on it; ‘You must think about others Hayley’, ‘It isn’t all about you,’ ‘Here she goes, talking about herself again’, were things I heard often. At the time, I was always really miffed when someone mentioned just how self-absorbed I could be.  I would instantly jump to my own defence and justify myself into continuing to put myself first. In hindsight, I’m glad I did. And if I could go back, I would tell myself that from the age of 30 I won’t be able to be selfish, so it’s worth enjoying it. A quality I used to think was my weakness I now miss and wish I still had to a degree as it is now engrained in my mind that I MUST do it all, so my selfish side, or the ability to prioritise my wellbeing, always takes a back seat.

The issue is that my brain thinks I am failing as a mum if everyone else is not happy, fed, clean and clothed; it just seems that I don’t fit into that equation. I am sometimes so focussed on making my children and partner happy; making sure their lunch is made and clothes are washed, only to realise I have no clean clothes and I forgot to make my own lunch.  

My partner works very long hours, so without hesitation I will sit up with the children if they won’t sleep, same story if they get up early, I always insist on giving up my lay in even when he hasn’t had a long shift.  Whether this is habit I do not know, but it is the only way I feel I’m doing my job properly. Just for the record, my partner asks to take over all the time and is more than willing to do his share. This issue lies with me, and the fact that ever since I became a mum, I seem to accumulate an immense amount of guilt if I accept a hand and don’t complete everything myself, even if I don’t want to. My capacity to allow others to take the reins appears to have been left in my hospital room the day I brought my son home.

Maybe the way I feel is a common feeling amongst mothers, or maybe it is a consequence of my own experiences. Either way, I do sometimes wonder if the traditional ‘man/woman’ role is more engrained in us than we are aware.  Maybe, as women, we subconsciously think it is our job alone to satisfy everyone else’s needs. The trouble is, times have changed and commonly, women now contribute financially, me included.  Despite this, there still seems to be an immense societal pressure for women to take on the majority of the household and childcare duties.  I know of at least seven other mothers who feel the same way. I know of a few who also don’t of course, but it appears to be more common than not, when talking with others mums.   I am not saying it is the fault of husbands or partners at all, and this isn’t a feminist debate, I am simply stating that I think women feel as though need to do it all and end up feeling guilty if they don’t, even when help is offered. 

I’ve previously confided to my partner about how I feel which makes him frustrated. He asks why I do not just let him take over sometimes and why I decline his help. And he is right. How can I be so stressed and in need of a helping hand, whilst insisting I’m completely fine and don’t need said helping hand? It isn’t fair on him and it isn’t fair on me. I want to say ‘yes please do it this time’, but I just can’t seem to allow myself.

A natural progression in life is to mature, and with that comes responsibility. I don’t miss living recklessly and partying in Ibiza; in fact I don’t miss that at all. What I do miss is how much I cared for me.

There are plenty of qualities I have accumulated over the years as I have grown up which I am truly thankful for. For one, I am far wiser and a lot calmer in a crisis, but the thing I miss most is the raw ability to not care what anyone thinks. I used to speak my mind, shout my opinions and not let anyone walk over me. I rejected a lot of people’s opinions and justified that I was who I was and if someone thought I was odd or had said something unkind about me then that was their issue. I laughed at myself and I laughed at the negative opinions’ others may have had of me. Now, one negative opinion can ruin my week, and I don’t know why. I am so conscious of other people since becoming a parent, and I don’t like it. 

I feel remorseful for sometimes wanting to sit in a room on my own and read a book when my little boy wants me to watch him play a game or my daughter wants to show me a new dance, and I assume this is quite a natural feeling, but it is also one I should be listening  to. You only have to look at the conflicting messages society gives to mums to understand why it can be so confusing.  

Have a break/Don’t miss the special moments. Look after and have time for yourself/ You will have plenty of time to yourself later 

I just need a little moment to myself. It’s the little moments with your children that you will remember.

 It becomes exhausting.

If I sit down and start to relax I can guarantee I will suddenly remember an article I read which told me the years ‘fly by’ and how before I know it I will be a lonely old woman sat at home crying because my children won’t come around for tea. I am then unable and completely unwilling to have a bit of time to myself. 

Usually, I’d conclude my writing with some advice. But this time I have none. Prioritising myself is a work in progress. I need to retrain my mind so that I can reach a happy medium; a bit of my younger selves’ attitude would not be a bad thing and I hope to meet that girl again soon and come to a nice compromise.

I can only speak for myself and my situation and I am utterly blessed to have my two children; I wouldn’t change it for the world. But sometimes I do miss the old me. I sometimes grieve the girl I used to be.

This article is why I named this blog ‘Who’s Looking After Mum’.  Because sometimes I wonder, who is? 

5 New Born Must Haves

Becoming a Mum comes with all types of challenges and the biggest one for me was where to start when it came to purchasing all the new gadgets and equipment I would need for our new addition. I was so excited to start but as we pulled up to Bump Start (our local baby store), I started to actually feel a bit nervous. What did I actually need to buy? As a first time Mum this was new territory for me. Of course there’s the obvious pram, bottles, car seat…but what about the not so obvious bits? Should we choose a Moses Basket or a Bedside Crib? Should we buy a baby bouncer? Did we even need one yet? Everyone gives you so many recommendations, but a lot of my friends and family had not had a baby in the last two years and things change so frequently on the baby market. 

Just a tip, most stores are extremely helpful when you go shopping for new baby stuff so don’t be afraid to ask for help! John Lewis actually do a baby appointment for free. You can go in (without buying a thing) and they will talk you through everything all types of baby products on the market to help you work out what will work best for you! Such a life saver, even if you end up buying from somewhere else! 

Anyway I did a lot of research on the must haves but really struggled to find recommendations on the necessities for a new Mum and the stuff I would just be throwing away money on buying. So I decided that once I had my little boy and I had tried and tested all the things I had purchased I would write a blog around everything I thought helped me in those early weeks. Please bear in mind, this is only an opinion on what I think worked for us and our baby (this isn’t a sponsored advert). All these product recommendations are genuinely my thoughts and opinions and things we use daily. 

Shnuggle Air Bedside Crib

First of all, we decided we wanted a bedside cot instead of a Moses Basket and the reason for this was purely because at least 3 friends had said after a month or so their baby out grew the Moses basket, so I took on board that information and went straight for the bedside crib. 

After much deliberation, we decide on the Shnuggle Air Bedside Crib. The reviews were fantastic, aesthetically pleasing and it has not disappointed! It’s sturdy and was extremely easy to build even for the note so technical among us (my husband).

This bedside crib has been incredible and Otis loves sleeping in it. There has never been a transition period, he literally slept in it straight away. The main thing I love is the fact that it is right next to me, so on nights he’s moaning or isn’t settling straight away (especially at 2am), I can lean over or stretch my arm out and comfort him without having to leave my bed. Which is AMAZING! Trust me, I can’t tell you enough how much of a luxury this is when you are exhausted! 

The crib comes with a mattress and a small section underneath that you can store nappies and wipes on, which is fab to keep some organisation among all the baby products and means it doesn’t take up space elsewhere. 

The crib does retail at £199.95 but in my eyes is absolutely worth every penny, especially as it will last him till at least 6 months. If you did wish to, it’s the only bedside crib which coverts in to a stylish cot using an add on Complete Sleep System. This eases the crib-to-cot transition and providing a safe and comfortable sleeping space for your baby right up until approx 2 years old.  

Sleepyhead 

Having not purchased a Moses basket, I decided that I would need something that I could take around the house with me when we weren’t in our room. I had heard mixed reviews on the sleepyhead and at £120 my eyes watered thinking about something that was effectively just a blow up mattress! That being said, I am so so glad we did invest the money. The sleepyhead comes in two sizes 0-8 months and 9-32 months. We bought the 0-8 and again, it was something Otis loved straight away. It came everywhere with us due to its functionality, it’s a comfy spot that lets your baby sleep, rest, co-sleep, lounge, play, cuddle and enjoy tummy time.  It’s easy and light weight enough to be portable and take with you around the house or to other peoples houses and he seemed to just drop off straight away in there. 

I know some midwives are not a fan of these and I appreciate that opinion but as long as you use it safely, in other words, don’t leave them alone. The great thing is they can’t roll and the mattress is breathable and air can circulate. 

You can also buy additional covers to match your mood, room and style, which again is great for all the Mums that love that stuff like me! 

https://sleepyheadofsweden.com/collections/all-pods/products/deluxe-pod-pristine-white

Snuggle Baby bath 

This bath is incredible, from 6 weeks Otis could pretty much sit up in it even though he couldn’t support his own head yet, so it made bath time so much easier! 

There’s a foam backrest that keeps your baby comfortable and cosy. A bum bump and anti-slip surface help to secure baby, making bath time much more enjoyable. The clever shape fully supports newborn babies and allows older babies to sit up and play, while the grippy feet help to keep the bath in place.

It also looks great in my bathroom and isn’t an eyesore. It is also an absolute steal at £24.99.

Jungle gym 

This is fairly straight forward and to think I wasn’t going to buy one until later! Otis loved this from really early on. Within a few weeks I found he was more alert and awake and I loved that I could pop him on his play mat and let him look at all the shapes and colours! My sister bought the one linked as a present at my baby shower, however there are obviously many different colours and variety’s on the market. Our one actually plays music and has a keyboard at the end so he can kick his feet and set of music as he plays which he loves. 

Tommee tippee baby bottle making machine

Another controversial product and obviously one for those who are bottle feeding. I am a first time Mum but I have four nieces and nephews, so for years I used to have them over night and have experienced the pain of making a bottle and having to cool it down all while dealing with a screaming baby! I didn’t realise these even existed, so when my husband stumbled across it and recommended we buy one, I JUMPED at the chance!  

Again this cost us £130 (for the updated version) Tommee Tippee digital machine but the older versions retail at £80. The machines makes bottles in 90 seconds and the only real difference between the two are the fact the newer one is quieter and has a digital screen which seems easier to use! 

Beware Midwifes and Heath Visitors don’t seem to be huge fans of them due to reviews about pipes rusting etc but if you keep your machine clean and change the filter regularly you will be fine. 

I know I said 5 products I couldn’t have lived without, but I can’t finish without mentioning a 6th item which I bought about a week before his due date and I’m so glad I did. Although I’m not breastfeeding I was told by a friend about breast feeding pillows. 

They mentioned that when feeding your baby they can get quite heavy and uncomfortable so this allowed you to take the weight off and rest them on a pillow that helped with support. Again, he loves it and I love it and when I am tired or he can’t get comfortable, this makes life so much easier. We also use it to help him sit up after feeds for a short period of time and at £14.99, I really couldn’t do without! I got mine from Amazon, but they sell them everywhere. 

I would also recommend buying dummies just to try them. I actually wasn’t going to. I was really torn as I had read a lot about people frowning upon babies with dummies and the fact that people use them as a a first resort to stop crying. First of all it’s totally your decision, however I cannot tell you what a life saver the dummies I purchased were (we used the Mam Dummies). I know not all babies take to them, but honestly he loved them and when he just needed some comfort they have been a god send. Let’s be honest, there will come a point where we won’t want him using them but I’m sure it will all be OK; I’ve never seen a 30 year old man sucking a dummy. I also recently read a lot about how dummies can help babies with colic and wind as they act as a type of indigestion remedy when they suck! Which again has been great for us as Otis has suffered from wind a lot in the beginning. 

As I say all babies are different so some of the products recommended may not work for you. Don’t stress too much because honestly you can buy stuff once they arrive and sometimes that can be a good thing as you will have a better understanding of what your baby likes. Now he’s a little older, I’m already thinking of the next stages and the new purchases I have to make…it’s never ending. Next it will be high chairs, weaning equipment, bowls, spoons etc, although that’s a few months away yet and a whole other blog post!