Cherish Every Moment? Nope.
I was asked last week what advice, if any, I would give to brand new parents. I couldn’t help but think back to myself as a new mum. It made me feel a bit sad.
The New Mum Me was a bundle of self-doubt. I wasn’t doing anything right. I wasn’t cut out for it. My baby deserved better. I was failing. The New Mum Me once stood in the shower with my fingers in my ears, crying, trying to drown out the sound of the nursery rhyme CD which in turn was drowning out the sound of the screaming baby I could not settle. When my husband returned home I could only recall the 5-minute neglectful shower (I was sure this had emotionally scarred our baby for life) and not the 9.5 other hours I had attentively fed him ‘on demand,’ cuddled him and whispered to him that he was the most perfect thing I had ever seen.
So, with the magical wisdom of hindsight now bestowed upon me, I think I would tell brand new parents the following:
You are not obligated to cherish every moment.
It’s true that you will ‘never get this time again.’ It’s true that it will all ‘be over in a flash.’ It’s true that one day you will wake up and wonder where the time has gone, why you wished the days away, how it is possible that your baby will soon be heading out into the Big Wide World (reception). At 2am, however, when you’re not sure if the wet patch in the bed is leaked breast milk or leaked baby excrement, it is also true that you will quite justifiably wonder what the actual fuck has happened to your life.
Nobody cherishes every moment. Yes, some moments are magic. But others are a bit shit. On a sleep-deprived/‘cluster feeding’/nothing-stops-the-crying type of day, it is quite possible that the moment ratio will end up at 80:20 in favour of shit. Social media will never reflect this shitstorm because social media is not real life.
There is no shame in asking for help.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Quite the contrary, it is a sign of strength. To be struggling and to admit that you are struggling demonstrates a kick-ass determination and fierceness in your ability to look after your baby.
There is also no shame in putting your own needs above the needs of domestic chores. Of course, we all know that the liberally-offered ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ nugget of wisdom is a bit of a joke (are you going to hoover when the baby hoovers, too?) but sometimes sleep is the most productive thing you can do with thirty minutes. Do not feel guilty about sleeping. If and when you have subsequent children you will kick yourself for not maximising naptimes the first time around, as you find yourself at the beck and call of a toddler who wants you to watch his Ninja Turtle kick for the gazillionth time.
Have faith when people tell you that one day it will all be worth it.
You might want to smack them in the face. But they are right. The New Mum Me who broke down in the shower couldn't see it. I was yet to feel my heart jump at the sound of my baby's giggle. I was yet to feel the overwhelming pride of watching him have a go at writing his name before looking up at me as if to say, 'I did it, Mummy!'
If you're reading this as a brand new parent, I want you to know that there are magical moments to come. And some shit ones, too, which you are absolutely not required to cherish.
That's what I wish I had known.