10 things that being a young parent has taught me…

  1. People will judge. People won’t be afraid to voice their opinions. All you can do is grit your teeth and remember that those who shout the loudest, know the least. Or, if their opinions are really offensive/it’s really getting you down/you’re feeling up to fighting injustice, take them down! Call them out on their opinions! Quite often these people are only so outspoken in their prejudice because they don’t think anyone will do anything about it. Challenging their opinions may seem difficult, but in most cases, it’ll show people that just because people don’t say anything to them, it doesn’t mean they agree!
  2. Parenting is harder than I ever expected. I think there was a good deal of teenage naivete going on with me, because I always wondered what these parents were on about on Facebook. How hard can it be, popping out a baby and looking after it? So be prepared for all your preconceptions and previously held beliefs to be challenged and changed, and just go with it. It isn’t a bad thing. 
  3. You will go through a rapid ‘growing up’ process. I thought that maybe the moment they placed the baby in my arms, I’d think ‘Oh gosh, I’m an adult now’. It didn’t happen like that for me – they put her in my arms, and I felt like this was just the halfway house. From the second I found out I was pregnant, that growing up process began. Taking responsibility for myself, booking appointments, listening to my body and trusting my instincts, making my decisions based not only on me, but the wellbeing of someone else who was wholly dependent on me, was all part of that process. The process didn’t end once I’d given birth – it continues now, as I learn to adapt to being the mother rather than the child. 
  4. If your parents were supportive during your childhood, you’ll start to see exactly how much they’ve done for you. In four short months I’ve realised that everything we’ve had to do – the sleepless nights watching her to make sure she was still breathing; holding her while she has her jabs, walking around with her for hours while she screams – is exactly what my parents had to do with me. Parenthood is immensely rewarding, but immensely difficult. 
  5. You’re not as immature as you thought. Before having a baby, the thought of changing nappies and cleaning up sick seems like the most disgusting thing ever. I definitely felt that way. Then SB was born and suddenly it was like… oh yeah, that’s just part of having a baby. I don’t know if it’s because pregnancy and giving birth are both messy businesses, so you become desensitized to it, or if it’s just the realization that ok, we are the ones who have to do this now, so we may as well get on with it – but nothing’s been as bad as I feared. Even today as I cleaned SB up after a poonami of epic proportions, it’s all over her clothes, her bouncy seat, the mat, her feet, and although I needed a little moral support from D, I dealt with it! (Also, it’s hard to be grossed out, when you compare everything to your daughter sticking her foot in her own shit and then popping that little foot straight into her mouth before you can stop her). 
  6. Your writing skills will improve. I struggle to write a 2,000 word essay on British theatre since 1945. If you were to ask me to write a 5,000 word essay on what I see when I look into SB’s eyes, it’d be done by tomorrow morning. 
  7. You learn to distinguish between well-meaning but useless advice, and advice that is harsh but correct. ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ is bollocks; your time when your baby is sleeping will be divided between staring at your baby, monitoring their breaths and panicking if the baby is breathing deeply/loudly/quietly, and doing all the chores that you chose not to do when pregnant and nesting, and now you’re thinking maybe you should sort out those dishes now that something appears to be living on them. Harsh but good advice is ‘Tell everyone else to take a running jump’. It doesn’t matter if they’re baby’s distant aunt’s hairdresser’s cousin twice removed or a grandparent; unless they’re going to sort out their own cup of tea, not expect entertainment and hold the baby while you pee/shower/sleep/get rid of living organisms in your pots and pans, you shouldn’t feel obliged to have them in your house. Implementing hospital-style visiting hours would work well for particularly persistent visitors. 
  8. Goodbye, careless youth! Suddenly, there is danger everywhere, even when there isn’t. Crossing the road is an ordeal. Watching someone else hold your baby is like seeing someone dangle them out of a third-storey window. And just reading that gave you palpitations (nearly as bad as writing it did!). There’s no such thing as ‘What harm can it do?’ – that is replaced by ‘Hell no, think how much harm that could do!’. 
  9. For the first time, someone else has to come first – your tiny human, who can’t fend for themselves. And although sometimes you just want to sit down with a drink and some crap TV without distractions, but you can’t because the baby is screaming, you don’t really mind deep down. 
  10. Lots of people will offer advice and opinions. You are better than their prejudices and stereotypes. They’ll tell you all about the other teenage parents they know, but they don’t know you as a parent yet. It’s easy to write everyone off based on the stereotype and statistics you see in the media, or the bad example you’ve heard about from your cousin’s wife’s hairdresser’s maiden aunt’s grandmother’s postman, but it’s important to remember that you are more than an idea or an opinion; you’re your own person. Becoming a young parent will give other people more perceived reason to have a go at you, but it will also give you a thicker skin, and the knowledge that you are braver, stronger, smarter and better than people expect – and more than you think, too. There’s only one thing that feels better than proving prejudiced people wrong – and that’s holding your baby in your arms. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s