I see you, childless/newly pregnant woman – dishing out parenting advice, pontificating on pregnancy; uttering the timeless phrase, “When I have children, I will…”.
Slow your ropes there, lady. If there’s one thing all parents everywhere resent, it’s being told how to parent by someone who doesn’t have the first idea about parenting. It’s why people like Gina Ford are infamous in some circles, and why when the Three Day Nanny wrote a recent article about struggling to adjust to motherhood, let’s just say people weren’t falling over themselves to sympathise with her.
The saying is twee and trite and no doubt you’ll complain, but there are some things you really won’t know until you become a parent (if you choose to become a parent – some people choose to remain childless, and that is a perfectly valid choice [BUT STILL DON’T TELL PEOPLE HOW TO PARENT!] ). In lieue of an awesome “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You”-style training montage, here’s a few things you should know before you regale anyone else with your theoretically-brilliant parenting skills.
- “I’ll never call my baby names”. Whether it’s a hastily-muttered and instantly-regretted “that bloody child” in the middle of the night, or whether you’ve referred to your child as “the little crotch booger” in your head so much that you’ve forgotten their name, everyone insults their child mentally – or on their blog, or in conversation with others – at some point. The important part is not actually calling your child a butt nugget to their face.
- “I’ll only buy wholesome wooden toys for my child”. Just wait until you’re introduced to the benefits of noisy, bright, plastic tat. IT’S WIPE CLEAN!
- “I will never leave the house without my make-up, hair done and good clothes on – I won’t be one of those slattern mothers”. I don’t know of any mum that hasn’t done a shopping trip/nursery drop off/doctors appointment in the same jogging bottoms she probably wore to bed last night. Oh, and straightening your hair isn’t easy with a toddler hanging off your arm.
- “I will have lots of mummy friends and let my baby interact and develop excellent social skills!”. You may hate every other mum you ever meet. EVER. And no matter how well you socialise them, your child will still bite another toddler at least once, and will learn a swear word at the most inappropriate time. There’s always charm school!
- “I’m going to love all of those Rhythm & Rhyme Time/Jo Jingles/Sing and Sign classes we’ll go to!”. Wind The Fucking Bobbin Up. I was a theatre student and even I hated sitting in a circle pretending to enjoy singing the ‘Hello’ song to a group of babies more interested in nibbling their toes.
- “I’ll still have sex with my husband, even when I’m huge, and after the baby arrives”. Bet you a tenner that when the doctor discusses contraception with you at the six-week-postpartum checkup, you’ll growl “He is never touching me again!”.
- “I won’t be one of those lazy new mums, I’ll be back in my pre-pregnancy jeans within weeks!”. I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of all the biscuits you’ll be eating during feeding sessions. <possibly bitter that it’s taken me eighteen months and being very poorly to get me down to pre-pregnancy weight>
- “I won’t neglect my friends when I’m a mum”. When you’ve had a baby, there is a hierarchy of things you manage to give your full attention to. Baby is first. Sleep and food is second. Going out for a Starbucks with your pals is down there at the bottom of the list with “eating vegetables” and “remembering birthdays”, unfortunately.
- “I’m going to breastfeed. Mums who don’t just don’t try hard enough”. Aaaalrighty then.
- “The baby will just fit in with our routine. We won’t be changing anything about our lives”. Heh. You know when you’re in Year 11 at school, and you look at all the tiny naive Year 7s with reminiscent sighs of “Ah, to be young again”? Whenever you say something like the above statement, every mother in the vicinity gets that reminiscent feeling of times gone by when we were naive, just like you.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that you will manage one of the things on the list, or half of the list, or even all of it. However, it’s also possible that you’ll find motherhood isn’t the walk in the park you imagined it to be, and you’re not the armchair expert you thought you were. Coming out with gems like the list I’ve just posted is a sure-fire way of alienating the been-there, done-that mums you’ll be wishing you had around you for support if you’re sitting up at night wondering where you went wrong (and, for the record, you haven’t gone wrong – parenting is a bit shit some of the time, and hard all of the time).
Though it may be tough, bite your tongue, hold back that judgy comment and remember – you can read about something all you like, but until you’ve experienced it for yourself, you can never really be an expert.