Before I had kids I thought there would be a distinct line between being a parent and not being a parent. As if you give birth and simultaneously download all the parenting wisdom you will ever need from iTunes directly into your head (one day…). I couldn’t think far enough ahead to realise that as a parent, as in life, you are constantly learning and evolving every step of the way, it never ends. Once you feel like you’ve semi-mastered one age, boom, it’s their birthday again. And my parenting predictions never did take into account the reality of personalities: the Pixie at age three is almost incomparable to Bird at the same age.
It seems funny now, some of the things I did with baby number one, compared with baby number two. And number three is just a whole other method entirely (read: no method). I used to have an app on my phone that would record sleep times (to the minute), nappies (what was in them and when I changed them), breastfeeds (how long on each side plus notes: “she fussed momentarily on the left today…” hashtag: notjoking) and… you get the drift. I actually became so addicted to using it I had to delete it from my phone (if she feeds and I don’t have my phone in hand to record it… did it really happen?!) I’m sure if I sifted back far enough into the archives here there would be mention of it.
These days things are very, very different. For one I don’t have time to think about all the things I used to think about. It is liberating not to worry so much about all the tiny details. To throw caution to the wind and do what I like. I still do feel some pressure to conform to societies wishes, but I can more easily shrug them off these days and do whatever suits me: bring my baby into my bed whenever I want, cuddle and feed her to sleep without a care, feed her what I want her to eat, not worry about charts or milestones or the dreaded “shoulds” (within reason), not remember or care (much) how many times she woke in the night.
While it’s much easier parenting with more confidence, I do so miss those quiet days at home with that first little baby. It’s such an incredibly precious time. You have a lot more appreciation for it with subsequent babies, when you realise that you now have to divide yourself between your children, that that special 1:1 element takes a lot more to orchestrate when you have a toddler (or more) screaming for your attention. I didn’t appreciate that those days of freedom would come to an end, because at the time they don’t seem free at all. If only I had known that sooner than I knew it, my life would be held down rigidly by kinder (and soon, school, yikes!) timetables, playdates, and of course, work. Schedules! Bells ringing! That the next baby would be born into these schedules, not into those long beautiful expansive days of what-ifs and whatevers and what-takes-your-fancy-today. Pyjama day? Great. Three hour walk and ten coffees? Excellent. Drive to the beach? Done. Sigh. Of course at the time I thought all of those things were too hard and I didn’t know what to pack in the nappy bag and what if she cried and people are looking at me and the pram might not fit through the doorway and I could knock something over and I have to cook dinner and it might be too hot… or cold… or in-betweeny… better stay home…
If I could go back and talk to myself as a new mother, I don’t think it would make any difference. Because I wouldn’t have been able to get to this place if I hadn’t been there. I had to go through the motions to learn that it’s ok, I’m ok, KB is ok, the kids are ok. We’ve got this! You can’t learn these things from being told, you have to experience it, try things, see what you like, what your baby likes and how you feel. Do I like the idea of rice cereal or don’t I? Am I comfortable with my baby in my bed or aren’t I? Do I need to try harder to get her to sleep longer or are we ok to go with the flow? Everyone is different, what works for one is not going to work for another, you have to figure it out yourself.
I know I’ve only scratched the surface of this parenting thing, there is so much more to do and to learn. So I guess the best approach from here is just to kick back, put my feet up (ha!) and enjoy the ride while I can. If there’s something else I should be doing, don’t feel any pressure to remind me, I’ll figure it out sooner or later. xx