*(or No Dummies, depending on your preference/opinion/latest evidence-based research…)
Who are you calling dummy?
The hospital bags are packed; the car seat is waiting in the hall; your phone is switched off to avoid any further kindly enquiries from friends and family in case you’ve had the baby, and, you know, forgot to tell them. But what happens next? What about once the baby is home, and you’re into that shadowy land of Parenthood? Here’s a list of top 10 tips which you won’t find anywhere else, on how REALLY to survive your baby’s first year
1. Make a To Do list
By this, I mean a real List. Think about all the things which you will need to remember over the next few months, write them down, and stick them to the fridge door. This way, you’re less likely to forget small matters like your car’s MOT, your house insurance (you think I’m kidding, don’t you?) and Aunt Mabel’s 100th birthday. If you’re particularly organised, it’s worth buying and addressing cards for all the birthdays and special occasions coming up too, so that you just have to take them out of the box and remember to post them at the right time.
2. Invest In Decent Soap and Handcream
Studies show that new parents wash their hands approximately four dozen times a day. Your skin will turn to pumice, and you will start hosting life forms under your rings. Invest in some lovely handwash, dry your hands thoroughly, and have tubes of handcream stashed within easy reach all over the house.
3. Have a Smart Phone
One way or another, you are going to do a lot of sitting over the next few months. It sounds lovely, it can turn out to be less so. Holding a book one-handed is tricky, and TV is unreliable. Whether you virtuously spend your time learning a new language and reading lecture notes from Harvard, or fritter it away on Twitter and Facebook, believe me: you will feel a lot more in touch with the adult world. Also: photos.
4. Develop Selective Vision
That’s not dust under the sofa, and they are definitely not skid marks in the loo. If it’s not going to make you ill, it’s not housework which needs doing. Honestly.
5. Develop Selective Hearing
The trouble with child-rearing is that almost everyone has done it or seen it done. The secret to remember, however, is that no-one has ever reared YOUR child. You are well-informed, you have a powerful instinct, and unless you are advocating that your newborn rides a motorbike without a helmet, you are more likely than not to be right. No-one else will believe this, unfortunately, so the correct response to comments from anyone (other than a health professional) is a smile and a “Thank You” (along with a mental dismissal). It will add years to your life. And possibly theirs.
6. Make a Date for Photos
Take a picture of your baby every Saturday morning (or Wednesday evening, or whenever suits you, at a regular interval). One cute idea is to photo them each time next to the same toy, so that you can see them grow. While you’re at it; film them too. Even if they’re not doing anything particular, they’ll never not do it like that again. I never did this, and I wish I had. You think you’ll remember every stage. You really won’t.
Unless being slovenly genuinely upsets you, this is no time for standards. Buy ready-meals/prepared sauces/disposable duster wipes. Convenience can be a marvellous thing, and can help you feel on top of things – which is Very Good Thing.
Babies can grow like weeds. If your little darling is sprinting out of his/her clothes on a regular basis, do yourself a favour and bag them up by size, with labels clearly visible. That way, when you get them out of storage to pass them on or use them again, you won’t have to spend an afternoon of your life turning tiny white vests inside out to see if they’re 0-3 or 3-6 months.
9. Go Out
The first few weeks of having a new born can feel as though you’ve had a layer of skin or two removed, and the world outside can seem a bit daunting. Add to this the logistical nightmare of sleep/feed/nappy times, and the need to pack for a short holiday just to go to the shops, staying at home seems really attractive. Meeting other new mums is really important, though, and it’s worth trying to get to baby groups as much as you can. You might not make friends for life, but having someone to rate the previous night’s sleep out of ten with, or who are as fascinated as you with the contents of a nappy will make the early days easier. You might not want to believe it, but it’s true.
10. Look after Yourself
Having a new baby is really hard. It’s hard physically, mentally and emotionally. You owe it to your baby, your partner, but most of all to yourself, to be kind to yourself. Take any help which is offered (or ask for it!), try to find time to pluck your eyebrows/read a book/go out for a run (delete as appropriate) or do whatever it is which makes you feel more like yourself again. Don’t be afraid to say if you’re struggling. Being honest about finding it hard, and needing help to get you through the difficult times, doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful, undeserving or unworthy.
I wrote this originally for a local parenting magazine. It’s not really my blog style, but it sums up a lot of what I wish I’d known before I had my first baby. And yes; it makes a lot of smug assumptions which won’t apply to everyone. It’s just what I wish *I* had known.