Becoming a parent is scary. It doesn’t matter how many kids you’ve babysat or how many younger siblings you’ve helped with. Becoming a parent for the first time is terrifying, exhilarating, empowering and overwhelming.
I was nineteen when I had my first child. I was what you’d term a “young mum”. There are a lot of things I wish I had known when I welcomed my first child and became a young mum. Here are the top 10.
1. Don’t listen to everyone’s ‘advice’.
During my first pregnancy and after, I was often the recipient of well-intentioned ‘advice’ from other parents I knew, and even strangers. I went into my first birth experience petrified because of the horror stories people enjoyed scaring me with.
Afterward, I started to doubt myself and wonder if I was doing well enough for my child based on the different pieces of advice I received from people. It was a long learning curve for me to find my own footing as a parent.
My advice, for what it’s worth, is to take it all with a grain of salt.
2. Every baby is different, and that’s okay.
I have tried heaps of parenting techniques. I’ve tried 1-2-3 Magic, Triple P, BEST, time-out corners, chore/reward charts, gentle parenting, and even devoured Supernanny episodes.
I’ve been an authoritarian parent and a helicopter parent for a brief moment in time. I’ve tried it all. And what I have found is what works for one kid, might not and probably won’t work for another.
After a lot of self-reflection, I employ a flexible approach to parenting. And deal with each kid as an individual. It’s something I wish I had figured out when they were younger.
3. Some days, it’s going to suck. Monumentally. And that’s okay.
Unfortunately, parenting is not a utopia of positivity. Some days are hard AF. Nothing you do seems right, and everything seems to go wrong at once.
It’s easy to self-blame when nothing you do makes your kid happy, and you’re definitely not alone in feeling like a failure as a parent.
But you’re not. Some days just suck. It’s okay to cry it out. It’s okay to shut the door on a mess and leave it for tomorrow. It’s okay to stay in your pyjamas and watch movies together all day.
4. Fed is best.
There is a lot of public pressure to breast/chest feed a baby and not wanting or being able to leads to a lot of guilt.
Fed is best. Milk or formula, feeding your baby is key to a happy baby. If you don’t want to nurse, don’t be afraid to say so and don’t feel guilty if people disagree with you.
5. Don’t be afraid to say no.
Raising kids as a single parent is tough. I developed a tendency to try every avenue I could to give my kids what they asked for to compensate for the people who didn’t want to be in their life.
This built up a habit I am trying hard to break now with even my adult kids. In hindsight, I realise it wouldn’t have hurt my kids when I said no to something. And this is absolutely something I have done to myself.
But getting them used to hearing no as little kids, makes it much easier to say no when they’re older.
6. Don’t compare yourself.
Again, social media is a beast for self-doubt. It’s hard not to compare ourselves to others when they seem to have it all together. But what you see online is carefully created to look perfect. Behind the scenes is probably a hot mess.
It’s bad for your mental health to see these perfect moments and compare them to your life. I still struggle with this occasionally and am a work in progress.
The same goes for our kids. It sucks when their friends or people they follow on social media have the newest fits or swag and it’s out of our reach.
7. No one can MAKE you feel anything.
This is the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given. It came from my TAFE teacher, and she told me no one can make me feel any type of way. I allow their words or actions to affect how I feel about myself. I sat on this statement, delivered at the end of class when I was having a rough day with my ex, for a week, and it was incredibly liberating.
Other people’s problems with me, are just that, their problems. And unless they pay my bills, their opinions don’t matter as much as they used to.
8. Don’t let being a parent encompass your everything.
We’ve all met parents who seem to make parenting their entire personality. They’re the ones you read about who coddle and protect their children from everything, including the consequences of their own actions. They make even the strictest parents seem like the fun people at a party.
You are still you. If you’ve done your job well, your kids will grow up and move out and who will you be then? Keep your hobbies, go out with friends, take yourself somewhere fun and with adult company.
9. Enjoy your kids.
Every now and then someone posts a viral meme or story about a harried mum in the supermarket whose kid is throwing a tantrum in the store. Someone always tells the embarrassed mum not to react harshly with her kids because she will miss the days when her kids are so young.
This always makes me cringe. Yes, I miss some parts of my kids’ toddler years, but the tantrums I could do without. But I wish I had taken the time to enjoy them more.
The kids, not the tantrums.
To stop pressuring myself to have it all together and take them for a walk to the park.
To worry less about bedtimes when they didn’t actually have to be up for anything and camp in the loungeroom with them watching movies.
To do the things the ‘perfect parents’ on social media don’t do because they spout the benefits of routine and how not having one messes up your kids.
A few nights here and there won’t hurt them, or you. I would love to have had Jennifer Garner’s Yes Day philosophy when my kids were younger and I was a young mum.
10. If someone offers to babysit your kids so you can have a night to do whatever…take it.
It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a family member or friend will offer to take your kids for a night/weekend so you or you and your partner can have some alone time.
There can be a lot of internal pressure to politely refuse so it doesn’t look like you can’t handle it.
But say yes and enjoy the break.