I have loved and hated getting advice since I became a mum. Sometimes you are crying out for it and sometimes to you want to tell them to get to, well somewhere not very nice. However, I wanted to share my top 5 tips which will hopefully not be preachy but more like helpful ear-worms that will stick in the back of your head when you feel yourself getting down or stuck in a parenting rut. I know, I've drawn you in with taking about crying and worms already but stick with me.
Expect the Unexpected
You've had advice from your parents, friends, friends of friends, midwives...hell, even the kitchen sink has chimed in, so you are starting to think you know what lies ahead but the chances are you don't. If I've learnt anything from our daughter arriving 5 weeks early, all births, children and parenting styles are different and this combination leads to you having to find a path that works for you and your new little family.
I'm not saying ignore everyone's advice but in the same vain you should panic when:
- Your birthing plan doesn't come close to how you actually gave birth
- You can't breast feed because your milk won't come in or your child isn't gaining enough weight
- Everyone else's kid is sleeping through the night but yours won't even let you lay them in their cot
- Your child shows no interest in the toy that everyone swears by
- The only way you can get vegetables in your child is to dip them in chocolate (ok, this is maybe a step to far)
The list is endless and I can assure you we all feel like we aren't doing the best we can do for our kids half of the time but the trick is to try and not let it get the better of you. Take a break, think about how big a problem it actually is, and start planning your next steps. If you stick your head in the sand and get lost in the problem, then it can easily drag your mood down, making and already difficult time feel horrendous.
Don't be scared of bugging medical professionals, be it your GP, midwife or health visitor for help - they are there to support you. I really struggled with breast feeding to begin with and this was really getting me down as my daughter couldn't come home from hospital until she had put on weight. One night at about 3am, a midwife asked me if I'd considered using a nipple shield. NO WHAT THE HELL IS A NIPPLE SHIELD!?!?! Thinking she was about to pull out a piece of armour for my boob, I was relieved to see a small piece of silicone that changed my life and all of a sudden it felt like a huge weight had been lifted. This didn't mean that our feeding woes were over as 4 months later we had to switch to formula after trying everything we could to get my daughter to put on weight. I'm proud of that decision to this day as I didn't let myself get emotional over breast feeding (even though I knew I'd miss the snuggles) and did what I thought was best for my daughter, with advice from a great health visitor. The change in her was amazing, she went from a child that cried any time I put her down to a much more contented kid and I felt like we were beginning to get some control back over our lives again.
Online groups can be your friend
Over the last year I've seen online groups doing good and bad for parents but I think if you use them wisely they can be a great source of knowledge. Most cities and towns have a Facebook parenting group, so you should be able to find one relatively close to you and can either be a poster or a watcher. Some mums love posting on these groups and you start to feel like you know their kids like their your own family, however I'm more of a watcher. I like to take in what other people are saying and put it away for a rainy day where I may need that piece of advice. There is nothing wrong with being a serial poster but just be careful about over sharing or unwanted advice from other people. I've seen people having a pop at their partner, someone that knows them screenshots the message and send it on, thus commencing a Facebook showdown with lots of people wading in with their two cents.
There are also groups that help get you out of the house. Edinburgh has an amazing Buggy Walking Meetup Group which is just a bunch of mums looking to get out the house walking with prams. I know this doesn't sound like the most exciting thing in the world but when you've been cooped up in the house for a few days, its lovely to get fresh air and chat to other mums/dads.
My fav piece of advice I got online was about brushing teeth. After a month of kicking as screaming, mainly from my daughter, I was pulling my hair out and needed help with how to make this daily task easier. I put a post on Instagram with lots of hashtags asking for help and got a list of ideas to help me. We struck gold with one of them and after downloading a tooth brushing app (who knew there was such a thing) our brushing woes were a thing of the past, as long as my phone doesn't run out of battery.
Keep a little piece of what makes you...you
So you are now a parent and your social media feeds have changed from drunken nights out to endless streams of cute baby photos but remember you are still you, no matter how much baby puke is down your front. You may have noticed that I love to craft but this hobby went on hold when my little one was born. After 6 months, I decided I needed something for me again, so once a week I started going along to a free sewing group and all of a sudden I'd made some new friends and felt a bit more like my old self again. Granted everything I made was for my daughter and I probably bored people talking about her but I was out doing my crafty thing again and it became something I really looked forward to every week.
I know it's not always easy to get out the house without your little one, but there are ways you can get around this. If you are into photography, see if there is a photography group where you can take your baby out in the sling or if you love horror film, set aside one night a week where you watch a new horror with as many snacks as you can manage. Get creative and remember - if you are in a good mood, parenting becomes that little bit easier.
Having fun doesn't mean ditching the kid and getting drunk, it means enjoying your new family. Have you ever felt like you are bored out your mind and you can't watch that annoying kids TV program your child loves one more time!?!? Have a think that night and plan something new to do that week which will break the norm. It doesn't need to cost lots of cash, I used to do little mum and daughter park picnics before she could even sit up and we'd just lie on a blanket together talking rubbish, but at least we weren't stuck in doors. You could meet a mate, go swimming, paint a picture...the list is endless so find something to do that is fun for you and the little one to shake that funk off.
You don't need to always talk about poo and sick!
REALLY, REALLY! We've all done it so don't even pretend you haven't but does it really need to come up in almost every conversation. I love how it becomes the norm to talk about boobs, poo and body rashes but there's a whole world of exciting things to discuss so please keep the chat to a minimum. Have you ever been discussing your babies toilet habits with someone you met at a baby group and you can't even remember their name or maybe you've made some new friends through having your kid but you don't know anything about them pre baby as you just talk about your kids all the time? STOP IT NOW and think of something new to talk about, you will feel so much better having a different conversation with someone.
So now you've got my two cents to add to all the other advice you've heard but hopefully this will help you trust your own gut and make you open to asking for help from the people around you, even if it's your new online community. I would love to hear about your experiences and the best advice you've ever been given so please feel free to comment below and you never know, your advice could help someone else!