We all know that parenting advice is everywhere. If I’m reading an interview with a celebrity, actor or writer I like to zoom in on it (but often realise that the key thing is how much help you get from other people). Nevertheless I love the idea that there’s some secret I haven’t discovered.
Over the last couple of years I’ve been given some useful advice from friends. I’ve also been given some that was really, really annoying. Here’s a short list of advice that nobody actually told me but I picked up from reading books/articles/other sources.
(As with all advice feel free to ignore completely).
‘Good For You, Not For Me’
Amy Poehler, the American actress/comedian, talks about this in her book – ‘Yes Please’. Basically if something works for one parent and that’s the way they want to do it…fine. But maybe that doesn’t work for you. That’s okay. We could avoid a lot of senseless mud slinging if we chanted this out loud whenever we hear something that doesn’t fit with our own parenting philosophy. You want to potty train your baby at one month old? You think ice cream is ‘devil food’? You won’t allow any TV in the house at any time? Well that’s fine. ‘Good for you. Not for me’
‘Competition Is Boring’
No one told me this. I wish they had. But competitive parenting isn’t helpful. If you get that itchy, tight feeling in your stomach and find yourself yakking on about how ‘my daughter can poo in the toilet on her own now,’ then you’re veering into that dangerous territory. It’s boring (and you will feel ashamed afterwards). It all levels itself out eventually anyway.
‘Never A Judge or a Lender Be’
I am pretty sure this is from the bible. Basically if you see a parent doing something in public and start constructing a ‘Daily Mail’ headline in your head…take a step back. That’s unless it’s something truly TERRIBLE (and terrible is not feeding a child a Kit-Kat whilst checking your phone for emails).
‘Your Kid Isn’t Very Interesting To Other People’
This was something I noticed when I went back to work. Basically I would find myself telling a story about my daughter’s sleep patterns and my colleague’s eyes would rapidly glaze over. There’s also been a couple of occasions when I’ve bored myself to tears. Sleep patterns of babies aren’t interesting (unless you’re telling your best friend and even then she’s just pretending to be interested because she loves you).
‘Some TV is okay’
Watching ‘some’ TV is okay. The problem is how you define ‘some’. I have found a helpful rule of thumb. If it’s bad weather then triple the amount of TV that is acceptable to you. If you need to get something done then ‘five minutes’ is okay but it will probably end up being more than that (more like an hour). If you have a hangover then TV for at least 2 hours is good. It’s also better than being mean and resentful because you’re crawling round trying to pick up beads and pipe cleaners. Baking is overrated in my home. No one enjoys it and the cakes are always horrible.
Things will get better (at some point)
This was one of the things that people said but I was so depressed and disorientated that I wasn’t listening. In the beginning, I was living in a claustrophobic, upside-down space capsule, a bit like Sandra Bullock in the film ‘Gravity’ (but without George Clooney as a welcome distraction). People say this is a ‘cosy time’. I wouldn’t describe it as cosy. I would describe it as bad. I wandered around the house picking up things and weeping. I had purple bags under my eyes and wept if the postman rang the doorbell. In the supermarket I looked down the baby/child aisle and felt besieged with panic. The formula, baby food, nappies, pull up pants, aprons, school vests and books – each thing represented another responsibility and another way to screw up. But things got better (eventually).
‘You’re Doing a Great Job’
My Dad didn’t say tell me this to my face as he’s a quiet, old school, hippie. He did type it in an email though. People assume that you don’t need to hear this. They think you already know. I would like someone to wake me up each morning and whisper this in my ear. Then I’d like them to make me a cup of tea with this written on the side of the cup. On my way to work I’d like the tube to sing it in unison.
Basically I’d like it piped into my brain at all times. Wouldn’t you?