I question my parenting on pretty much a daily basis…because I’m resigned to the fact that even the picture perfect days will have me hollering like Peggy Mitchell at least 6 times.
This has got me thinking back to my pre-parenthood days and all those ways I knew I would parent if and when I was lucky enough to be blessed with little angels myself…
I wasn’t naïve, I ensured I did my research. This covered three main areas:
- Babysitting. This is obviously the best way to conduct research as it’s like high school work experience. A couple of weeks sweeping up at the hairdressers from 9-3 with breaks every 5 minutes gives a great understanding of the ease with which this job comes. It’s a similar concept when you’re lucky enough to be the childless auntie. I was called on to babysit on a regular (sometimes as often as bi-monthly) basis for both of my sisters’ children and from here it gave me a great understanding of what it was like to be a parent. Endless brilliant days spent walking in the woods, taking trips to the park, painting, baking etc. I even had sleepovers (after they were potty trained of course). This was almost exactly the same as looking after them 24/7 with no break, little sleep and when they are in the first few months, no adult conversation. The experience meant I was well on my way to perfect parenting. It also meant I was well equipped to offer advice to those with young children who were going through any challenging behaviours.
- Alongside this hands on experience I felt it imperative to broaden my research base by observing parents I didn’t know when out and about with little ones in places like the supermarket, on public transport and in restaurants. It was here that I noticed most of the parenting fails and knew exactly what I would do if/when it was my turn.
- Lastly, when I became pregnant with baby one I invested in some baby books. Handy little guides on how to get your baby into a routine early and all the priorities for their health and happiness. Fabulous, I love a list, I love a timetable and my children would too.
From here I felt extremely well prepared, with the knowledge and skills required to parent the RIGHT way. I have noted below just some of my expectations based on said research compared alongside the results:
- Water Birth with little to no pain relief
- Skin to skin contact immediately
- Breast-feed, obviously
- No dummies
- Regular interaction
- Regular naps in the daytime to ensure they are not over-tired in the evening
- Bath, bottle, bed every night, in this order, at the exact same time.
- Healthy home cooked food every day
- A positive encouraging environment at meal times to ensure a lasting, healthy and happy approach to food
- Food based treats kept to a strict minimum
- Sleep training
- Consistent discipline from an early stage using the naughty step technique – no empty threats of toys and treats being taken away
- Absolutely no bribery (the worst ones being ‘if you can’t eat your green beans we will have to put that chocolate you were going to get in the bin’)
- Create a loving environment where we would do our best to have fun, while teaching them kindness and respect and basic life rules.
What a great list. And so easy to maintain with just a little focus and patience.
Five years on, I’m delighted to report that we have managed to stick to one* of these! Hurrah! Number 11. (I say we’re sticking to this, we’re definitely trying our best, but the methods we use to try to implement this change on an almost daily basis when we reconvene after being mentally battered for another day, to brainstorm as to why said method hasn’t worked and agree on a better approach!)
In the main we’re frazzled, still sleep deprived soldiers – employing whatever technique is necessary based on the situation, just to survive in one piece. We’ve done breastfeeding (one of us) and bottle feeding, dummy and no dummy, pureed food and baby led weaning, naughty step plus a whole load of other approaches (including bribery and reverse psychology) to maintain order. Give us an approach, we’ll have tried it. If not, let me know, I’m happy to give it a bash.
What I’ve realised, is just how judgemental I was before become a mum myself, thinking about all those things other mums were doing ‘wrong’. It took me a long time to realise that when my own mum would say ‘remember they haven’t read the books’ she wasn’t trying to wind me up to the point where I wanted to throw both her and the screaming baby out the window, what she was actually trying to say was, ‘there’s no right or wrong way to parent’. As long as your child is fed, loved, clothed and cared for in the best way you can, that’s all that really matters.
I still struggle with that one as I know there’s a whole bunch of things I could do better, and most nights I’ll think about those things. I doubt there’s many parents out there who don’t do this. It’s really easy to pass judgement on others, especially those we don’t know, but I can guarantee those parents are already giving themselves the hardest time. These days if I see a parent bribing a tantrumming toddler with a Kinder Egg I just give them a wee mental high-five, for doing what they think is best to survive that moment.
*Edit: I tell a lie, I’m a bit of a stickler for number 7….but that’s just because come 7.30pm I’m done parenting and want a few hours of peace and bloody quiet.