There was a time where the parental advice people shared was based on a combination of experience and old wives tales. The advent of social media and smart phones now means that ‘expert’ advice is readily available and enables people to feel that they are an authority on any given topic.
While much of the advice offered to mums has a sound logic basis (although not always) and seems to work for many people, often the reality just doesn’t live up to the theory.
1)“Get all the rest you can now, you’ll need it when the baby is born”
THEORY: Stocking up your energy reserves during pregnancy will help you cope with the tiredness of looking after a newborn.
REALITY: Your back hurts, your pelvis hurts, your stomach hurts, your ribs are being crushed and you get heartburn every time you lie down, how exactly are you supposed to rest? Even if you are one of the lucky ones who are unaffected by these ailments during pregnancy, even if you manage to sleep for the entire nine months, it will count for absolutely nothing when you are getting up every two hours throughout the night with a newborn. Sleep is not something that can be saved up and spent during a rainy day. When you are exhausted and sleep deprived, the knowledge that you had once slept for ages is of no comfort to you. In fact, it will just make you hate yourself.
2) “Make sure you do your pelvic floor exercises“
THEORY: Doing these exercises for at least eight weeks before and eight weeks after birth will strengthen you pelvic floor muscles.
REALITY: The chances are you will forget to do them beforehand, as you’ve never had to think about bladder control previously. You’ll also feel self-conscious about ever doing them in front of anyone else even though they won’t actually know what you are doing unless you tell them. After birth, you will not be friends with that region of your body for some time and will not want to do anything that engages with it.
The result of this will be a weak bladder, which will get considerably weaker with each child you have and will mean an impromptu visit to a trampoline park with the kids will leave you wishing you had invested in some Tenor Lady. Not that that’s ever happened to me, of course!
DO YOUR PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES!!!!!!
3) “Let them just cry it out.”
THEORY: When you are trying to get the baby to sleep, leave them to fall asleep on their own. If they cry, periodically check that they are okay but do not pick them up, talk or make eye contact with them. Your baby will soon learn to sleep and/or settle themselves and you will be free to dance around the living room dressed as Wonder Woman should you wish to do so.
REALITY: Rather than getting on with other things, you will spend the entire time that your baby is learning to ‘self-soothe’ anxiously pacing up and down the hallway. You will experience the highs and lows that are experienced by someone on recreational drugs. There will be a sense of absolute euphoria every time they go quiet for some time; You’ll congratulate yourself on how you’ve become an authority on sleep training and even imagine yourself giving advice to others, and maybe even writing a best-selling guide.
This will be followed by complete devastation when they eventually cry hysterically for a prolonged time that will cause you to sit in a corner rocking back and forth whilst developing irrational fears that the child will cough, vomit and choke, fall and become unconscious even though they are in a cot and have nowhere to go and/or be abducted and you will go to prison for facilitating it.
I know this method works for some people, and that’s great for them, but you’ve got to be pretty ballsy to ignore a baby’s cry for any significant amount of time. Unless you fully believe this will work, and you’re determined see it through every time, it’s not going to. If it doesn’t feel right to you, just don’t do it – it’s not for everyone.
4) “Don’t pick them up too much or they will get spoilt.”
THEORY: If you hold a child all the time, they will get used to being carried and will never let you do anything. They will cry to be picked up and this will make your life difficult. Make sure they are fed, changed and winded, and then leave them to amuse themselves.
REALITY: If you are a first-time-mum, you will hover over the baby like I hover over a buffet table at a party and pick them up if they do so much as yawn. You will stare at them while they are asleep, think about how adorable they are and wait for them to make the slightest sound so you have an excuse to hold them. You will instantly regret it when no amount of holding, singing and rocking will console them because you disturbed their sleep, but you shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for wanting to be close to your child; it’s called love!
Also, the idea that a newborn can cry just to manipulate you into doing what it wants is akin to Donald Trump thinking that he can make the Mexican president pay for a wall that he neither wants nor benefits from. Your newborn does not know its arse from its elbow; in fact, it doesn’t even know that it has an arse and an elbow. So, unless the father of your baby is Vladimir Putin, the chances are that your baby is not an evil dictator and is not deliberately making you do anything.
And as for making your life difficult….Well, we all need a role in life!
5) “It’s probably just a phase/growth spurt/teething”
THEORY: If your otherwise good natured baby has suddenly started to display the characteristics of someone possessed by demons and there are no obvious signs of illness, the chances are that they are experiencing one of the above.
REALITY: You will worry that every rash that appears could be meningitis, every cough could be symptomatic of tuberculosis and any new mark you find could be the beginning of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease.
I’m exaggerating, of course. While you initially may fear that there could be something seriously wrong, you will have plenty of time to Google things while you are up all night trying to comfort them and you will probably come to the conclusion that it is one the above yourself.
It’s still exhausting though and people telling you that, ‘it’s probably just a growth spurt’ may still annoy you because it generally means that they’re not acknowledging how difficult and tiring it is to deal with it. Knowing that the misery will end eventually doesn’t make it easier to deal with now.
6) “They should be crawling/walking/talking by now.”
THEORY: There are certain ages by which babies should crawl, walk and talk. If not, your child must one of the ‘special’ ones i.e. slow.
REALITY: The baby apps, books, leaflets and websites tell you the ages babies COULD start reaching certain milestones, but they often fail to mention that very few actually do at that age. Also, while most people will ask you if your baby is doing any of those things out of genuine curiosity, there are always a few that do it as an excuse to mention that their child could walk, talk, self-feed, use the toilet and had enrolled at university by the time they were nine months old.
Naturally, parents are overjoyed at seeing their child doing any of these things for the first time but that joy is often short-lived, as mobile babies are overrated. From the age that they start moving until they reach some awareness of danger, you can’t so much as go to the toilet without imprisoning them in some kind of makeshift vault. And once they start talking, they can start saying no.
Surprisingly enough, statistics and other children’s development mean nothing to your baby as even they recognise that they are completely irrelevant. They will do things when they are simply ready to do them and no amount of worrying or comparing will help.
Despite being fully aware of this, whenever you see a baby doing something that your baby can’t, it will, ever so slightly, hurt your heart. You will get a little defensive and start reeling off all your baby’s achievements.
When my boy was 9 months, I took him to a baby group and found a 6 month old crawling expertly, while mine was hadn’t even started trying to move. I decided to showcase my son’s only accomplishment and proudly put him on the floor to show how well he could sit. However, it seems I put him in the optimum position to empty his bowels, which he did like a volcano erupting. There is still a lava stain on their rug. Needless to say, no one was impressed by this particular talent.
Serves me right, I know!
7) “Cherish every moment from pregnancy onwards .”
THEORY: They’re only young once, they are a blessing and their childhood will be over before you know it, so cherish each and every day.
REALITY: There are some moments that are easy to cherish: When you find out you are pregnant, when you feel the baby move/kick for the first time, when you go for your first scan, when you hold the baby for the first time, when your child does anything new no matter how insignificant or uninteresting it may seem to others, when they reach any milestone in their development, when they say something cute or funny, when you have a really fun day with them etcetera etcetera. But the truth is, other moments aren’t as cherishable.
For example, when you are asked for countless urine samples during pregnancy for which they provide ridiculously tiny bottles, and your belly is so big that you can’t see past it, so you just shove the bottle beneath you and hope for the best, which inevitably results in you pissing on your own hand.
Or when you child is having a tantrum in public, is refusing to eat, refusing to share, refusing to acknowledge your requests to get dressed or your very existence.
Or sometimes you are the one that is making moments uncherishable with your mum rage, which leads you to have spells when you shout for no real reason or massively overreact to things.
Truth be told, not everything is worth cherishing and there are some things you would rather forget.
8) “Don’t bribe or threaten your children.”
THEORY: You should find a way to communicate with your child where you reach an understanding that’s based on mutual respect and is considerate of their feelings and desires. They will then recognise that you are fair and are more likely to do as you say because they have been involved in the decision making process. Additionally, you should introduce reward charts whereby they can earn treats when they consistently behave well, rather than reprimanding them when they don’t.
REALITY: While you accept the wisdom behind this method, offering them a Kinder Egg if they do what you tell them to gets things done a lot faster, as does threatening to cancel birthday parties, outings, presents and anything else that may make them happy in the foreseeable future.
They will eventually work out that the threats are empty, particularly if you’ve paid money for something, but you will enjoy living a hedonistic lifestyle while you can and will endeavour to teach them life lessons at a later stage.
You will then have every intention to introduce an intricate rewards chart that will take centre stage on the wall and will be a treat for the eyes. If you do manage to ever get around to it, you try to make it a meaningful activity that you can enjoy together, but will spend most of the time getting annoyed with them for not sticking things where you asked them and will tell them to go watch TV instead. Both you and they will forget that it’s even there after the first week..
9) “Don’t change his nappy too often.”
THEORY: Allowing a baby’s nappy to become completely saturated with urine before changing it will help heal his circumcision.”
(I should point out that this is not generic practise for Muslim boys that have been circumcised, but is specific to the unconventional wisdom of the elders of the strange community that I live in, and is just so batshit crazy that I felt I had to include it.)
REALITY: You realise that allowing your son to develop nappy rash is not going to help heal anything, but you smile and nod when this is suggested to you knowing full well that you will not be implementing it.
If you’re lucky enough to live amongst people with incredibly unique insight, as I am, you may have people giving Mubarak/ congratulating you on your son’s circumcision because apparently that is also a thing in these parts.
NB: If there are any entrepreneurs reading this, there is a potential business opportunity for you:
‘Congratulations, you’ve been circumcised!’ greeting cards.
10) “Schedule screen time.”
THEORY: You should limit the amount of time your child(ren) spend in front of a TV and electronic devices. The best way to ensure this happens is to schedule a part of the day that allows for this or have a specific length of time in mind and do not let them exceed it.