Welcome to a new feature on the blog – my Honest Parenting series!
Having had a few months break from regular blogging, I’ve been able to think more about how I want this blog to progress and the topics I want to discuss. I’m really excited to get back on track and have lots of ideas buzzing away for posts I want to share. Although I don’t want the blog to become entirely focused on parenting or motherhood (I’ll still be sharing outfits, recipes and travel adventures with you), Evie is such a huge part of my life now that it would be almost impossible to avoid the subject completely (especially as I have so much to say on the matter). So to keep the baby and parenting content in a nice little corner of its own that you can absolutely avoid if it’s not your thing, I’m going to be starting a new regular feature called ‘Honest Parenting’ where I’ll be writing about our parenting highs and lows as we navigate this new chapter of our lives, as well as sharing some honest thoughts along the way about how we’re making it through alive. Since becoming a parent myself, I’ve realised just HOW MUCH advice and opinion there is out there when it comes to rearing your child. But the majority of it can be extremely overwhelming and unhelpful when you are actually going through a tough period and it’s very easy to feel immediately guilty when faced with the idea that you aren’t doing things the ‘right’ way.
Even as a sensible and rational person, I’ve had more than a few complete meltdowns since Evie was born where I’ve felt like the worst Mum in the world after a visit from a health visitor or medical professional left me feeling inadequate, a baby sleep workshop told me our routine wasn’t where it should be or a Mum group was a little too judgy. My aim with this series is to simply be as honest as possible (my usual style anyway), and to hopefully show that there’s no such thing as being a ‘good’ parent or a ‘bad’ parent simply good and bad days while doing our absolute best. A little like the wedding series I penned while planning our nuptials, I’ll try and just interject these posts alongside my regular content in a fairly unobtrusive way and I really hope they’re interesting/helpful to at least some of you but apologies if it’s not your thing at all – feel free to skip!
Anyway introduction over – for this first post I thought I’d start with a few of the things we’ve learned so far in this parenting rollercoaster.
Evie turned 4 months old at the end of June and it definitely feels like we’re entering a new phase in the baby journey and leaving the newborn stage behind somewhat. This is great in many ways, but also sad too – my baby is growing up, sob sob! Instead of attending breastfeeding clinics and dreading the weekly weigh ins, we’re now buying books and going to classes about weaning, getting set to try solid food in only a couple of months. We’ve gone from having to pad out Evie’s pram and moses basket with rolled up blankets and teddy bears to keep her snug, to waking up one morning and realising her legs reach the end. We’re about to transition from pram to buggy, are reluctantly having to give up the sleepyhead and it won’t be long before she’s moving into her very own room! She’s almost sitting up, chats and sings all day long and is rolling and wriggling non stop. Seriously, it all feels like it happened overnight. Even looking at the picture at the top of the post (taken when she was 11 weeks old) she looks so tiny and precious compared to how she is now.
So here’s a whole bunch of nuggets of wisdom that we’ve developed over the last four months, some within the first few weeks, some only in the last few days…
You break all your parenting rules within the first week – I was adamant I wanted to exclusively breastfeed until that night when Evie refused to feed from me and turned a shade of purple from screaming so much, and I was in tears because my boobs were so sore I thought my nipples might fall off, so my husband drove to the 24 hour Asda at midnight, bought some formula and that was that. I was keen to avoid dummies until that time I was on my own in the aisles of Tesco with a screaming baby and found myself throwing a two pack into the trolley without even thinking, and my ideas of limiting screen time until Evie was older went out the window when I realised a Youtube video of bouncing coloured balls kept her amused for ten minutes. I can honestly say there’s been absolutely no conscious parenting going on whatsoever, every decision we’ve made over the last 4 months has been based purely on survival and what realistically will see us through the day in one piece. Maybe that will change in the future but for now I’m ok with that.
You need to eat ridiculously fast – I used to be the worlds slowest eater, now I can demolish a meal in seconds. The reason? In those early days when Evie wouldn’t be put down for longer than 5 minutes, I learned that if I didn’t eat fast, I didn’t eat at all.
Simple tasks now take an absurd amount of time – Things like going to the supermarket for your weekly groceries used to be a relatively easy outing, add a baby into the mix and it takes 3 times as long (not to mention the 3 hours it took to actually get out of the house), the calm baby you left the house with will no doubt turn into the devil child the minute you step foot inside the shop, you’ll have to deal with a poo explosion in the supermarket toilet, you’ll probably have to breastfeed in the car park, everyone will come home super stressed, exhausted and hungry and despite spending a small fortune you will realise you have bought absolutely nothing you actually needed. Just do an online shop.
Life now operates on a feeding and napping schedule – We try to be flexible as much as possible because…life. But when you know your baby has to eat every 2 hours, you really do have to plan your outings/errands around those feeds and most of the time it’s all systems go to try and get all my jobs done before the next round. Similarly if I do by some miracle get her down for a nap, I should (on a good run) get at least 45 minutes before she wakes to run around the house doing one of the 10,000 jobs on my to-do list and (on a really good run) I might get an hour and a half! Never thought I’d be one to fit my life around a baby’s schedule but when you have a baby who fights sleep as much as ours does, as soon as those eyes close it’s GO GO GO to have a shower/make breakfast/brush your teeth/write a blog post. (P.S if you’re reading this with a newborn don’t worry if you have absolutely no schedule/only get them to nap on your chest/are feeding every 40 mins – this eat, play, sleep routine just started to happen naturally around a month and a half a go.)
You spend a lot of money on coffees – I’d say a day rarely goes by without me frequenting a coffee shop/cafe/restaurant at least once. Firstly because I need to get out of the house to stay sane, secondly because my social life mainly consists of coffee and lunch dates with fellow Mum’s, and thirdly because when your baby gets hungry every two hours (see above) it’s almost impossible to get anywhere without immediately needing to stop somewhere to do a feed. Seriously they should give parents some sort of Starbucks loyalty card when they leave the hospital.
Poo explosions only happen on the days you put a brand new outfit on your baby/ have gone out with those friends who don’t have kids/ haven’t brought a change of clothes – It’s as if they know! There’s never an explosion in that hand me down baby gro that you wouldn’t mind having to throw out, oh no! But those super cute new floral shorts from John Lewis which were brand new on that day? Oh yes, perfect attire for an explosion while at a train station with no loos!!!
Your parents no longer care about your well being now that they have a grand child – ‘How is our Evie?’ is now the first thing my Mum asks when I pick up the phone and proceeds to talk about her for the entirety of the phone call.
You have to give up on a clean house – I used to be quite house proud before I had Evie, now if I can see the floor through a sea of baby gro’s and toys we’re doing well. Because seriously, who manages to look after a baby AND tidy their house? And if you are one of those people, HOW do you do it?
You can do a lot more than you think with one hand – make a cup of tea, pour a bowl of cereal, unscrew the calpol, blow dry your hair, fasten your bra. Who knew I was such a superhero?
You get really sick of hearing the same phrases over and over – ‘She’s just a windy baby’ (This is of no consolation at 3am when I’ve had to be upright all night while my baby sleeps on me because she refuses to lie down), ‘Tummy time is so important’ (Shut up already about tummy time – we get it, we’re doing it, our baby still hates it, you don’t need to scare us with stories of children unable to hold pencils at school because they never got to play on their front as a baby!) ‘Watch out for the 4 month sleep regression’ (Can we just deal with one hurdle at a time? We haven’t even got our baby to sleep through the night yet and we’re already panicking about it all going tits up when we do!).
Buying clothes for your baby is way more exciting than buying clothes for yourself – I’ve barely bought myself any new clothes since Evie was born, but her wardrobe? It’s amazing! Shopping for baby clothes is absolutely one of my favourite things in life right now.
The highlight of your social calendar becomes a bounce and rhyme class rather than a evening of cocktails – Evie loves her Monday morning sing along, and I have to admit I kind of look forward to it too. Not because I enjoy having ‘Row Row Row your boat’ stuck in my head for eternity (see below) but because I get to have a good natter with my Mum pals, talk about how much of a nightmare/delight our babies were at the weekend and go for a coffee and a slice of cake afterwards. WHO have I become?
You now dream in nursery rhymes – the main side effect to joining any Parent and Baby class, you’ll be singing those damn songs in your sleep forever more. That moon and sun sensory song – yup know it off by heart – and did you know that Peter Rabbit has a fly upon his nose? There’s even actions to go along with some of them and when you find yourself repeating them at 3am, you want to shoot yourself in the head.
Long lies are sadly a thing of the past – I honestly cannot even remember what it’s like to sleep in past 7am, to wake up knowing you have nothing to do, and to laze about in your PJ’s all day watching crap TV while eating last night’s leftover Domino’s.
The invention of the play gym/bouncy chair/jumparoo is the only reason you can get anything done at all – all hail the distraction technique for allowing us parents to make a cuppa and brush our teeth.
You will spend any amount of money and buy any wonder product going if there’s a chance it might make your baby sleep – sleep, ah sleep, sleep, sleep, SLEEP! It really does make your world go round and when you’re not getting any of it on a daily/nightly basis for weeks on end, the lack of it has the ability to finish you. So much so that you’ll give anything, and buy anything and spend anything if it comes with a recommendation of guaranteeing the zz’s.
When you’re baby smiles at you, every difficulty they’ve ever caused you just melts away – I just adore seeing Evie give me a proper full gummy smile, it makes my heart sing. And even if she gives them at 4am when she really should be sleeping, I can’t help but give in and smile right back at her.
If you manage to get your baby to laugh, you’ll find yourself repeating that same act over and over just to hear that sound again – because that sound right there, is the best sound in your entire world and brings so much joy. Chances are though, the same act just won’t cut it a second time around!
You used to be fun – yup, once upon a time I actually stayed up later than 10pm, had hangovers, dressed up in stylish clothes and engaged in real conversations that didn’t start with ‘Guess what Evie did today’.
You become one of ‘those’ parents without even realising – you know, the parents that talk endlessly about how amazing/clever/beautiful/funny/gifted their child is, the parents that get photos out to show complete strangers and the parents who talk to their 4 month old baby (as in full conversations) while out for a walk/on the bus/ in a cafe. I’m not sure when, where or how it happened, but it’s happened.
You can’t remember what it was like to watch a whole film/ TV programme all the way through without interruption – having over an hour and a half to yourself interrupted is a distant memory, and even if by some miracle I did find the time, I’d probably fall asleep before the film ended anyway.
Your standard on how many days is acceptable to wear the same bra changes greatly – one for the Mum’s obviously but when you’ve had no time to do washing, and don’t want to give up your favourite nursing bra to the laundry, it’s amazing how you can convince yourself that three day old milk stains aren’t really that bad.
Sleeping and feeding are two parenting subjects that EVERYONE has an opinion on, and warrant a whole lot of judgement – while the majority of parents I’ve met are hugely supportive, there is often an underlying competitive streak which centres around how long/often your baby sleeps for. It’s easy to get sucked in and feel like you’re the only parents in the world who don’t have a baby who sleeps through the night, but we’ve learned you’ve just got to find your own way (and reassure yourself that those parents who have babies who have slept 8 hours a night since day 1 will get hit even harder with the terrible twos!)
And finally, it’s only a problem if it’s a problem for you – probably the biggest lesson of all we’ve learned is that if whatever you’re doing isn’t causing a problem for you or your baby, then it’s not a problem and carry on as you were. We’re still having to bounce/rock Evie to sleep at night, we don’t give her a bath as part of the night time routine as it wakes her up too much and I admit that I commit the cardinal sin of feeding to sleep all too often. All things that the rule books and the health visitors repeatedly tell us we shouldn’t still be doing at 4 months, but when I’ve spent the best part of an hour trying to get Evie back to sleep in the early hours of the morning and she’s still wide awake, feeding her is an easy guaranteed route to us all getting some shut eye and I’m ok with that. If I’m still knackering my back bouncing her to sleep at 6 months then we’ll re-look at things.
There are honestly so many more but I fear I’ve banged on long enough. Have you any to add to the mix?
Top image by Siobhan Calder