Due to the pandemic, both my children are either very local or at home with me at the moment, which is a highly unusual given that they are now 22 and 24 years old. I’m absolutely loving it! How proud I am of them and the people they have become. They are, quite literally, all I had hoped they would be.
If I could have foreseen this day when I was in my twenties, I don’t think I would have believed it. I wasn’t someone who ever considered having children. Being an only child, I hadn’t grown up in the proximity of other small beings, and had therefore decided that it probably wouldn’t come naturally to me to be a mum. Therefore, my pregnancy with my first child was a bit of an odd experience. I remember a couple of friends were pregnant at the same time, and there was much excitement over trips to Mothercare and the picking out of buggies and prams. I felt none of this and it worried me… what if I didn’t FEEL anything when my child was born?
My son was born in October 1996 and I literally became a protective lioness overnight. The love I felt for him hit me SO hard and was SO unexpected, that I think I was in a state of shock for the first few days of his life. I kept holding him thinking “I can’t actually BELIEVE it, I can’t believe that I have given birth to something so beautiful.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing of course, when he was 3 weeks old, I developed mastitis and was very ill indeed, but I was spared post natal depression, for which I am eternally grateful, as I understand that this affects 1 in 10 new mums and is as debilitating as it is terrifying.
I was keen to add to our family as soon as possible, and was pregnant again by the time my son was little over a year old. Sadly, that pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Thankfully, I was able to get pregnant again fairly quickly, and this time, in July 1999, gave birth to an impossibly beautiful baby girl.
Unfortunately, when my son was 9 and my daughter 7, their father and I split up, and I spent the next five years or so in a pit of guilt, worrying about how they were coping with having 2 homes and essentially 2 separate lives. They coped incredibly well as it turned out. Children are amazing at adapting and readjusting when circumstances change.
We have had ups and downs over the years, wonderful times and challenging periods, as everyone does. I hope that even in the most challenging times, I never stopped showing them that they were the most important part of my life. It’s been wonderful, inspiring and terrifying being a mum of 2 small human beings. And I have loved every minute. Every single minute.
And now suddenly, they are grown. So what have I learned? What advice can I offer to those just starting out? Here is a short list, a very short list, because you will find your own way…. but I hope you find it helpful:
1. Throw away the books that well-meaning friends and relatives may offer on how to be a wonderful parent. They will make you feel like a useless, failing parent. Trust your instincts. They are more important and more real than a million ‘how to parent your child’ books. The best advice I can give for those new parents on the receiving end of unwanted advice, is to smile sweetly, nod politely and go and do things exactly how you want to. Mum (and dad) knows best.
2. Do not allow yourself to get wound up with what your child “should” be doing at any given stage. Your child will develop perfectly adequately in their own time and, comparing with others, will only make you either boastful or paranoid. I had friends who were constantly boasting of their children’s achievements and I found it very unsettling.
3. Give up all your cherished ideals. Things like your child will never eat and watch TV at the same time; your children will never be bribed to keep them quiet; you will always have time for your child and never fob them off; you will never compare them with other children; you will never be competitive about them; you will never wish you could have a minimalist, neat, tidy house again. You will feel and do all of these things and it is absolutely fine. Doesn’t make you any less of a parent.
4. Be as positive and happy as you can. If you are happy so will your baby/child be. Don’t sweat the small stuff. As long as both you and your little ones are in clean-ish clothes, they are fed, and are happy and healthy, you are doing great as a parent.
5. Take photos – like every 5 minutes – because it goes so fast and one day you wake up and they are 23 and you will wish you had taken more photos when they were toddlers.
6. When my kids were junior school age, I remember a couple of friends encouraging their children to call them by their first name instead of ‘mum.’ I would advise against this. You are their mum, not their friend. The distinction is important.
7. Don’t beat yourself up. No one is a perfect mother. I know I am not, but I’m good enough and that’s what matters. As a new mum, you need time to learn and adjust. You will learn as you go along and that’s absolutely fine. Ask for help when you need it, remembering that owning not being able to cope, and reaching out for help, is a strength not a weakness.
8. Set boundaries from an early age. Boundaries are so important. As long as they are the right ones, they will make your child feel safe, not restricted. But don’t wrap them in cotton wool as they grow up. Let them climb things, jump off things and generally play. Let them get dirty and don’t sterilise everything around them. They need contact with germs to build an immune system.
9. When you make a mistake, own it and apologise. Your kids will respect you for being able to show that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s ok for them to do so too.
10. Always try and give them your time and attention. But also make sure you preserve your own life. Don’t lose your identity, you are still you, not simply someone’s mum. Leave your precious newborn with a trusted baby sitter as soon as possible while you go out for at least an hour. Always accept all offers to change nappies.
Finally … Teach them to be polite and friendly, respectful and aware. Teach them about the environment and how to treat animals. Teach them to be kind.
I remember vividly going into town a few days before my first child was born. I saw a new mum struggling with a baby and a child seat and I thought, “This is it! My last few days where I am responsible for only myself. It’s going to be a very long time before I can say that again”. That point seemed a lifetime away that day. Now that day has, to some extent, come, and I feel shocked that the time has gone so quickly. So, if you take anything from this article at all, please remember to enjoy every single moment. No, every second. Because this time is the most precious you will ever know. ❤️
“To raise a child who is comfortable enough to leave you, means you have done your job. They are not ours to keep, but to teach how to soar on their own” Author Unknown
I hope you enjoyed this post. You may also be interested in my post Children Leaving Home to go to University .❤️