Five Things That Have Surprised Me About Parenting…
It starts from the moment new Mummies get together. There seems to be this compelling need to ‘win’ amongst some parents. Whether it is how many hours of sleep they got last night, how early their baby smiles or how many spoonfuls of banana porridge their little cherub had, everything is a competition. Then we enter the world of development. Oh boy, for some parents how early their baby rolls over, or how many words they use to construct a sentence becomes the main topic of conversation. Enter the school gates and enter another level of competitiveness. Which reading level the competitive parents’ offspring is on is the be-all-and-end-all. SATS results are publicized with pride and at the peak are the parents who post about their child’s glowing parents evening report on Facebook. As you may be able to tell, I’m not into the whole competitive parenting thing!
Everyone Has An Opinion
From the moment your bump starts to appear, it seems everyone has an opinion, and a strong opinion, about well, everything! What sort of pain relief you should go for during labour (or not) whether you should use disposable nappies or cloth ones and whether you should allow your baby to have a dummy. Two of my children sucked their thumbs, and I clearly remember a complete stranger coming up to my son, who must have been about nine months at the time, and him wrenching my son’s thumb from his mouth. We all have opinions, of course we do, but it seems parenting is an area of huge controversy. People feel free to share their opinions, and strong ones at that.
When you have children you enter into a world of politics by proxy. Birthday parties are a prime example of this. I hate to make anyone feel left out, so I insist that we either invite the whole class or all of the girls or boys. There is nothing more cringe-worthy than watching a child give out invitations to a select few, in front of the other children. There are also playground politics, and I don’t mean amongst the children. Who do you stand with at pick-up? If you stand with Mummy number one, will that offend Mummy number two? Parenting is a minefield of politics, best avoided at all costs.
Since becoming a parent, I feel guilty about absolutely everything. I feel guilty about what I feed my children and what I don’t feed my children; how I discipline my children and how I don’t discipline my children; what I say to my children and what I don’t say to my children. There have been many occasions when I have gone to bed at night and sobbed, recollecting the day’s events, wishing I’d just spent more time with them, regretting something I’ve said or wishing I had been more patient. I never quite feel that I live up to the expectations I place on myself. That guilt is only good if used to spur us on to be a better parent, otherwise it can be highly destructive and detracts from the good times. Listen to the guilt, use it, and discard it.
I left this one to the end because actually, none of the others matter in the big scheme of things. When I tuck my children up in bed at night and give them a kiss whilst they are sleeping, I remember how much they mean to me. I still remember holding each of my little ones as babes for the first time. The all-consuming love that you feel is like no other. Sure, there are times I would happily offer a ‘buy one, get two free’ deal on my children, but it doesn’t last long.
Being a parent is both challenging and rewarding. There may be politics to play and guilt to be felt, but I wouldn’t change being a parent for the world.