Bit of a departure today – J has hacked into my blog. So this one is from the perspective of husband/Daddy Cool/purveyor of bad jokes.
Hey little Belle. It’s your Dad here. The one Mum mysteriously refers to as ‘J’ on this blog. It’s been nearly six months since you invaded our perfectly happy little married life, and, begrudgingly I have to admit, you make it even better (most of the time. Except now – I’m writing this wearing a dressing gown with poo stains from one of your fun little pranks. After all I do for you…)
Mum set this blog up to remember her journey raising you (and your future little brothers and sisters, God willing), and to write down little thoughts to you as and when they came up.
But it occurred to me that, even though it seems a thousand years away from the little baby we have at the moment, you’ll probably be a Mum yourself one day. Weird to think of, but true. So I thought I’d write down some of the things I’ve observed in your very own mama – things you might find useful one day (although maybe file this post away for the next 30 or 50 years). Your Mum is far too modest, but I reckon she’s quite a good role model for you in the future.
1. Make great Mum friends
Your mama has made some incredible friends since having you. It’s one of the best things about you coming along. Before you were here, she was always very busy doing useful things, and we both found London a little tricky to make really strong friendships. But now that you’re here, she’s been forced to slow down and spend lots of time with other mums doing the same thing. When you share your high points and low points with other people in the same situation as you, some magical things happen. So whichever city or country you settle down and start a family in, make sure not to do it alone.
2. There is such a thing as too much information
Now it’s important you don’t read this until you’ve finished university. When you’re at school or studying, learning is super important. So don’t try and pull that trick on me – it won’t work. But when it comes to parenting, the sheer quantity of opinions out there is terrifying. It was bad enough for our parents, with all the opinions of friends and well-meaning family. But your poor mum had to navigate motherhood with the internet at her fingertips. Every decision she takes might kill you, or give you learning difficulties, or make you a terrorist. Don’t let that override your instincts. You’ll take your responsibility seriously, so you won’t be making a reckless decision. And as long as you’re not contemplating something completely stupid (like the time I wanted to build in Calpol as part of your bedtime routine so we could guarantee sleep – mum knocked that one on the head), everything else is swings and roundabouts. It’s more important that you feel confident and empowered in your role as a mum, so talk to your husband and friends, and then go for it.
3. Mum guilt is REAL. Watch out for it. You’re probably doing a great job
Have you heard of mum guilt? It’s the feeling that consumes you when you make a decision that you feel isn’t in the 100% best interests of your baby. It might be a runny boiled egg when you’re pregnant, or not acting on a cry that ends up being a sign of your baby being poorly, or contemplating teaching you to sleep on your own on a cot when you want to be held and cuddled all the time. The problem with mum guilt, other than feeling horrible, is that it makes you less clear on what to do. It can just take over. I’ve seen that with your mum – she’s SO committed to making the best decision for you that it sometimes paralyses her. Newsflash little Belle – there aren’t many things you can do that will really, REALLY harm your baby. Back yourself, and pay attention to the encouragement of those who love you. You’re doing a great job.
4. You can go without sleep for a while, but everyone has a limit.
If you’re anything like your mum, which I hope you are, you’ll be totally obsessed with your baby the minute he or she arrives. Even before that, you’ll be reading up the impact of runny eggs and coffee on a bump, and even if you love coffee more than anything in the world you’ll give it up. Big sacrifices for mum, for the chance of a small benefit for baby. That’s part of the territory of being a mum. But nobody’s going to mark you down for looking after yourself too. I hope you find a husband who keeps an eye on that, but it’s important you value it when he’s not around too. Eat, shower, talk to friends and most importantly SLEEP. When you’re thriving, your baby will too. It will be hard when you baby is brand new, but make sure you make plans that involve you getting some quality sleep. Your mum still hasn’t slept for more than three or four hours in a row in the six months you’ve been here, and that takes its toll. Don’t be a hero – value yourself as well as your baby.
5. Don’t be afraid to employ the help of cartoons when you need a break
Mum and I had lots of earnest conversations when she was pregnant with you. One of them was about how cartoons and TV and smartphones can take over, and how we didn’t want you to grow up dependent on them. That might be true, but Mum found out early on that sometimes five minutes of Peppa Pig is a lifesaver. Don’t be afraid to use whatever works. There were times when Elmo’s song was the only thing that would stop you crying. It will probably be all about virtual reality when you’re a mum, so grab a baby-sized headset and have it in your back pocket for emergencies.
6. In parenting, like in blogging, consistency is everything
You’ll have really good days, and you’ll have really bad days. You’ll have days when you achieve amazing milestones with your baby, or when you finally feel like you’ve hit your groove. Equally, there will be days when you’re at your wits end and then your husband says something that tips you over the edge. That’s totally fine. But will you do something for me, little Belle? Don’t fall for the trap of thinking your success is built on the high points, or cancelled out by the low ones. The important bits are the ones you don’t pay much attention to: the things that just happen. Your mum is amazing at this – she’s the queen of consistency. You could learn a lot from her about how to keep lots of plates spinning at once. She’s a great mum, but not because of the big things. It’s because of all the small things. On even the worst day, she’s held you when you cried, fed you when you were hungry, smiled with you when you were happy, changed you when you were dirty, day in, day out, like clockwork. It’s those things that make her a great mum – so don’t think you’ve failed on a day when you haven’t done very much.
7. And finally, remember which relationship is the most important one
Ever heard of the distinction between ‘important’ and ‘urgent’, little Belle? I hope I taught this to you when you were growing up! ‘Important’ things are just that – things that are really important in the long term. They’re the things which will have a lasting impact on the direction of your life, your happiness, your fulfilment, and your relationships. The ‘urgent’ things are like a yapping dog, barking away at you. A very wise man once said ‘I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent’.
Your marriage is the most important relationship in your life. It’s the one from which everything flows. EVERYTHING. I’m going to teach you lots of things about boys, and love, and marriage and all those exciting things over the years. I hope that you’ll ask for my input when you’re picking who you want to spend the rest of your life with. Either way, the person you pick becomes part of you. It’s so much more than picking a prince and living happily ever after. Your mum and I made that decision when we were very young, and it was the best decision we ever made. She shapes who I am, and I shape who she is.
But then suddenly your baby will come along, and everything is 100x more urgent than anything between you and your husband. Whether it’s crying, feeding or playing, there will always be an urgent need with a baby. And you can’t ignore them. But make sure not to let the ‘urgent’ override the ‘important’. Make room where you can to feed and nurture your marriage, especially when it doesn’t feel urgent. Mum and I are still learning this one!