From birth to Year R, here’s what I wish I’d known.
Birth and the first few weeks
Giving birth smarts a bit. It’s ok to use pain relief.
On day three after giving birth, your breasts will double in size and become rock hard while your emotions will turn to mush. It’s ok to cry all day.
If you feel like crying most of the time for many days, give your doctor a call.
When you have a baby you do not need new bffs. You need colleagues and comrades. If people serve a positive purpose in your new job, keep them in your life. Otherwise? They’re fired.
In the first six weeks, you will be tired and emotional and you will meet lots of people who tell you how fast this period goes and how you should enjoy it while you can. Try not to hit them.
Six weeks to three months
As the fug of the tiny new baby lifts, you will realise that you are being given lots of advice. Most of it will be terrible.
When you do try to get small children out in the fresh air they will need some sort of toilet-related attention. At times this will make you weep, and that is OK.
If you can’t get out, embrace your PJ days 100% – duvets, biscuits, and terrible, terrible TV.
I am not going to talk to you about how best to feed your baby because it is none of my business what you do. Anyone who makes it their business, avoid.
In the first three months, you will be tired and emotional and you will meet lots of people who tell you how fast these first few months go and how you should enjoy it while you can. Try not to hit them.
Three months to 6 months
You will start to realise your house is an absolute tip. People will tell you not to worry about the cleaning and will then begger off leaving you and your child to sit sobbing in the filth that is now your permanent place of work.
You need either a cleaner and/or a schedule where tasks are shared. You also need realistic expectations. Ditch the iron now.
Invite people over. People will generally start cleaning your kitchen for you. Let them.
One day you will once more sip a hot beverage until it is finished. Until then note that coffee microwaves well but microwaved tea tastes like the devil’s bile.
Two of my children had dummies. One did not. They are all fine.
In the first six months, you will be tired and emotional and you will meet lots of people who tell you how fast these first months go and how you should enjoy it while you can. Try not to hit them.
Six months to a year
You need a good night’s sleep now. Pull in all your favours to make it happen. While you are at it treat yourself to a hair cut and new pair of knickers.
Weaning is not the faff the weaning experts will lead you to believe it is. However, you do need to go through the faff to gain the confidence that you are doing it right.
Once through the weaning phase, keep bread, pasta, pesto, tinned fruit, half a dozen eggs, milky bar buttons, yogurts, hot dogs, milk and a lump of cheese close to hand at all time. They will save your life.
If someone judges you for having hot dogs in your food store, don’t invite them over again.
Teeth are a pain. I am sorry I can offer no more help in this regard.
If you haven’t already, you will be about to have your first postpartum period. It hurts. Cancel all plans and make sure you have pain killers and a hot water bottle in.
You will quite likely be looking at returning to work. If you are a woman, it is possible that you are about to face some sort of discrimination because you chose to have a family. Be aware that this might happen to you and if you think it is doing, contact acas.org.uk
In the first year, you will be tired and emotional and you will meet lots of people who tell you how fast the first year goes and how you should enjoy it while you can. Try not to hit them.
Sharing is a nice idea. But would you share your new car or wedding ring with a snot covered stranger? Be realistic in what you expect from your kids.
It’s one of life’s great mysteries that no matter how many Little Tykes Cosy Coupe cars are in a room, there are never enough.
Your child is going to get hurt by another child and your child is going to hurt another child, probably because of an argument over a cosy coupe car. Nobody has failed as a parent when this happens
Learn basic first aid. You are going to need it.
It’s best to wipe from your mind all notions of holidays being a mixture of hedonistic pleasure and much needed R&R. Instead, see them as team-building exercises: nice in theory, hellish in the run-up, bloody hard work, but generally something you look back on and are glad that you did.
When you need some R&R, telly is awesome. Just awesome. Embrace it.
Avoid telly with adverts, unless you want tears at Christmas time.
During this period, you will be tired and emotional and you will meet lots of people who tell you how fast these first years go and how you should just enjoy them. Try not to hit them.
Pre-school and choosing a school
Potty training should have been listed as one of Dante’s circles of hell. Accidents loom infinitely. They wet the bed at unpredictable moments for years. The most infuriating thing anyone will say to you is, ‘they will get there’.
They will get there.
Kids tend to do what you do, not what you say. If you read, write, go for a walk now and then, and dabble in something creative, they probably will do too – maybe not now, but eventually.
Unless your child has specific needs at this age, they are not behind or advanced. They are just taking things at their own pace.
Don’t worry about attainment, assessment, and achievement until they approach the age of seven (and even then, only give it a cursory glance and stay calm!).
The more chaotic looking nurseries are usually the ones your kids are going to enjoy the most.
An infant school you can walk to is more important than the one a drive away with the better ofsted.
A home you can afford is more important than a house near the school with the better ofsted.
If you were perfect, you would be weird. Your kids need you to be perfectly human. That means just being you – warts and all.
It is very likely that in the first few years you will do something you are dreadfully ashamed of: a grip; a look; a yell; a full-on sobbing break down in public. Learn from this but also remember that it is very unlikely that the damage you perceive you have done will have a long term impact upon your child.
Be kind to yourself or at least be near someone who is kind to you.
Kids are incredibly honest. Your kids think you are beautiful. Therefore you are beautiful. Fact.
As for the next phase? Who knows, I’ll tell you when we get there.
In the meantime, remember: those first years go quickly – try to enjoy them while you can.