I once knew someone who was THE PERFECT parent. They had all the best advice and they knew EXACTLY how to raise their child in the right way to ensure the best possible outcome.
This person was me.
Before I had kids.
We’ve probably all met someone like the ‘before me’ - someone who has all the ideas and can happily dish them out on their 8+ hours sleep, freshly laundered clothes, and midday weekend naps (oh how I miss thee) before teetering off home to put their feet up and admire their wonderful furniture (without scribble marks) with sharp corners and clean lines, an array of hurricane vases that will not get broken by anyone, and a fridge full of vino or prosecco – which they can drink WHENEVER THEY WANT. Oh, and did I mention, if she doesn’t fancy cooking that night she can just head out for a meal with no prior planning? God, I hate her. I miss her terribly…but I detest her just the same.
No one is the epitome of a ‘perfect parent’ (in their own mind) like the ‘parents to be’… and if you’re anything like I was, you’ll have a whole list of things you say you’ll never, ever do when your own little bundle of joy arrives! Things like this…
1. I will never allow my child to use a dummy – As a Primary School Teacher I saw the difficulties that dummies could cause with speech and language, and I was adamant that I would never, ever give one to my child. Then I had a baby with severe colic and reflux. By week 5 we were at our wit's end and a midwife took me aside and said: “if I had a baby with colic as badly as yours, I would give them a dummy”. We bought an orthodontic dummy which is shaped to the palate in order to minimize any issues and we kept it only for sleeping or times of real stress and upset in our child. As he grew we had a rule that if he wanted to talk to us he had to take his dummy out first. You’ll be reassured to hear that he was speaking well before the usual developmental milestones and using a dummy in the way that we did has had zero impact on his speech. We gave my daughter a dummy on night two. There was no ‘nipple confusion’ when breastfeeding because of this either. In short, if they need it – use it.
2. I will never let my child sleep in my bed – I had read so many articles about the horrors and dangers of co-sleeping and truly did believe this would be something that I had a choice about. Nah ah. If you are a breastfeeding, non-smoking, non-drinking parent of a baby – then co-sleeping is actually one of the safest ways to sleep…and impossible to avoid when you are being woken up for night feeds. This is especially true if you have a baby with reflux, who requires an upright hold after feeds to keep their milk down. By the time I had my second child, I had learnt those lessons and prepared for co-sleeping from the start. We bought a co-sleeper crib, and I also had an amazing pregnancy pillow which I used to help support me when sleeping upright with my daughter on my chest.
3. I will not pick my baby up every time they cry for me – but why???? WHY did I think this was the right thing to do ( or not do) ?!? That flick switched in me from the moment of birth and THANK GOD it’s stayed on ever since. I remember being wheeled out of recovery after post labour surgery to repair a pretty bad tear and the midwife said to me, “if you can hear a baby screaming, it's probably yours”, and she wasn’t wrong. I’d been in surgery for hours and my baby had spent the first few hours of his life away from me. My heart literally hurt hearing those cries. Remember, it’s the ONLY way a baby can communicate with you for ANY of their needs: hunger, thirst, wet diaper, pain, needing cuddles, too cold, too hot, unwell, unsure…I don’t know about you, but I want to raise children who believe there is a reason to try and communicate, because those attempts will be answered. The moment they stop trying is the moment they feel there is no point because you won't be there. The old me, and everyone who taught me to believe that, was very, very wrong. By the time I had my second, the hospital policy had changed so that newborn babies were allowed into the operating theatre with their mother so that they need not be separated.
4. I will not let them watch TV unless it's educational – I ALMOST (sort of) stuck with this one for a while. Arthur only watched ‘Something Special’ with Mr Tumble when he was little – we used Makaton signing at home to help with language development in the early years and he learnt a lot of new signs which we used at home from watching this TV program. Obviously, as he has grown, we have allowed other age-appropriate programs into his screen time, and this means that Charlotte also has a wider variety of viewings from an earlier age! We believe in most things in moderation and having an understanding of ICT in the Early Years, and the many forms this can take, is important. Obviously, we are very balanced and my children don’t sit watching TV for hours a day – but we do allow periods of ‘wind down’ with the use of a screen if wanted.
5. I will never let them have an iPad at the dinner table – actually, I’ll be honest here and say that before we ever allowed an iPad at the dinner table, we used it in the bathroom! Arthur was very early doing his ‘number 2’s’ on the toilet (wees came much later!) but at 16 months he stopped doing poops in his diaper and asked to use the toilet. In the beginning, the only way he stayed there until he had finished his entire poo was by relaxing and watching the iPad. Similarly with the dinner table – when he went through the fussy stage, he only ever ate his food when he was distracted watching something. These days we have a rule: iPad only at the breakfast table – mainly because we are so busy rushing around getting ready in the morning, it keeps them still and quiet for long enough to get the jobs done. Not an ounce of guilt here for that.
6. I will not change my career ambitions once I’m a parent – There were lots of reasons as to why I didn’t return to teaching after the birth of my first child, but the biggest thing, which I was so unprepared for, is just how much becoming a parent would change me as a person. Suddenly, my priority wasn’t climbing the career ladder and focusing on my ambitions as work. My priority became my child and my ambitions for myself changed to my ambitions for them. I didn’t expect it. Your brain literally changes to help form a bond and attachment with your baby – I am not the same person, and neither are my career ambitions.
7. I will not post-baby spam and pore over photos of my child – ohhhhh but you will! You’ll spend hours watching them sleep and if you go to the toilet alone you’ll get your phone out and spend the entire time looking back through photos of your baby. You will waste hours doing this, and that’s okay! In the early days, I found that sleep deprivation and hormones meant that at times I struggled to remember exactly what my baby’s face looked like if I was away from them. Post Natal Anxiety meant that I’d worry about something happening to them and then I’d never be able to ‘pick them out’ because I couldn’t remember what they looked like – I wanted that little face etched into my mind and so I would watch and stare for hours and hours…and as for baby spam? It doesn’t stop when they stop being a baby either.
Is there anything you said you would never do but actually did??