This is by no means a comprehensive list or indeed everything I’ve learnt since becoming a parent but these are just some random ten points that came off the top of my head. I hope they’re useful!
1. Wet wipes are good for cleaning almost everything: Conventionally used to wipe the baby’s bottom but you quickly learn that wet wipes are every parents’ ‘mousekatool’. It wipes up spills, vomit, poo, urine and a whole host of other unidentifiable stains and spots from floors, furniture and clothing. Don’t forget to recycle the containers and the not-so-soiled wipes by using them as dust cloths. They’re multi-functional, so don’t leave home without them.
2. Not every parent book is the right one for you: Gina Ford’s ‘Contented Baby’ book left me perplexed and frustrated. My firstborn was not a routine baby. But over time he developed his own routine. I always heard from people how important it was to follow a routine and that it was crucial to introduce one as soon as possible. In my experience that’s true but following what your child wants and using that is a guide initially is far less stressful. And when the second one comes along? It seems to me that they fit in with your ‘already established’ routine. But perhaps I’m just lucky.
3. Don’t let your toddler dictate the potty training: If I hear one more person tell me that “he’ll potty train when he’s ready”, I’ll go postal! I seriously believe that the nappy manufacturers and their ilk are making it more acceptable for children to stay in nappies for longer. Some experts say it will affect children mentally if you start potty training too early. But I disagree. If you are ready and you think your child will cope, then go for it. I came across a rather interesting book in a sale called ‘How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm’. It’s a fascinating book about how people from around the world parent and how all the various cultures differ in their approach. In it, the author Mei-Ling Hopgood outlines in a chapter ‘How the Chinese potty train early’ that Chinese parents generally have their children potty trained before the age of 18 months. Hopgood says some babies go nappy free as soon as they can walk or even sit and she had even heard of 12 month olds that had been trained in three days. My sentiment is how are they meant to know they should be out of nappies if you don’t show or tell them or DO something about it. Perhaps I will change my mind on this further down the line when we start potty training our youngest but I doubt it. In our case I believe we delayed the potty training more than what we should have. But at least that part is done and dusted now – what a relief!
4. It gets easier as time goes on: In the beginning it’s hard. Well at least that is my experience. You don’t know what you are doing and those late nights/early mornings where you are woken up to the sound of screaming every forty minutes (or even less) are enough to drive anyone potty. But after a while you get used to it. Then one day there’s silence. You panic when you wake up wondering in your delirium why you didn’t wake up to feed the baby. You race off to the cot and find that the little tyke is still asleep. It’s his first ‘sleep through the night’. Such a satisfying feeling.
5. Sleep through the nights don’t last, and that’s the killer: Once you get over the shock that your child wasn’t actually a victim of cot death but simply slept through the night you (sometimes) get the luxury of this trend continuing for weeks and sometimes even months. Enjoy these moments/nights, cause they don’t last. Teething is a b*tch and it comes to bite you in the ass as soon as you get comfortable. It’s worse in a way cause after you get used to sleeping through and you get back to the screaming and waking up every forty minutes (or less) routine you’re left standing in nursery at 3am with dishevelled hair and a frazzled look wondering what the hell happened.
6. It’s different with the next child: It just depends if it’s ‘different good’ or ‘different bad’. I also haven’t figured out whether it’s ‘easier’ because you’ve ‘been through it all before’. By the way those that say ‘surely it’s easier, since you’ve been through it before’, should really have their head examined. Yes you panic less, cause you more or less know what to do when they get the inevitable bump on the head. But those long, restless, sleepless nights – they definitely don’t get easier (for why, refer back to point 5).
7. The second time around fewer people put their hands up for babysitting stints: Yes, all those people that asked you ‘so when are you having another one’, are strategically ‘busy’ when you’re in need of a babysitter. And to a certain extent I can understand. Managing one is hard enough – but two? Well, that’s only for the most skilled and tolerant. So if you happen to have a family member or friend that does help out, regardless of the number of kids that you have – treasure them like the rare diamonds that they are. If you don’t, there’s nothing wrong with employing a professional. In Cape Town, I tried Baby’s First Sitter and they’re amazing and professional.
8. Not everyone is understanding: I’m a big believer for telling it like it is and I don’t mince my words. Yes I tend to perhaps take things too far or I say something bordering on controversial, but if you are anything like me don’t expect everyone to give you an easy ride. Sometimes the lack of support and understanding comes from those who you would least expect to criticise in the time of need. But it happens. Then you have to decide whether it’s worth it to keep that person in your life or not. My view is that you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life when you have kids to worry about. Being a parent is hard enough so keep those who support you close and the critics at arms length.
9. People are nosy: When I was pregnant, I once had a lady tell me that I ‘shouldn’t eat that’ after I put a sushi platter in my trolley. I told her it was vegetarian (which it was). What I should’ve added is that it was none of her business and demanded that she produce evidence of her medical qualifications.
10. You can work and shop until you pop: If everything is going smoothly with your pregnancy you can work and shop right up till the time you give birth. Why take a month off before the due date and sit at home twiddling your thumbs? Besides, if you take off closer to the due date you get to spend more time with your bundle of joy. Also, don’t feel obliged to stay at home just before you give birth. Go out shopping, have your hair done, a manicure – whatever you fancy (well, obviously don’t go bungee jumping). I’ll never forget the Pick n Pay teller asking me when I was due and me saying ‘tomorrow’. That look on her face…priceless.