With a four-and-a-half year old I’m a still novice at this parenting gig but as someone who is prone to reminiscing I reflect often on the past 54 months. Parenting is a steep learning curve that comes with a library of complimentary …I mean CONTRADICTORY…self-help books none of which you have time to absorb or care about because you’re usually too busy planning meals or nursing toddler tantrums or trying to keep some semblance of your pre-parent self alive all the while just hoping for a few extra hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Before I became a mother there were a slew of things that I thought I knew. A plan I thought I’d follow. And a life I thought I’d lead. But when you’re given the job and your new boss is screaming at you for a clean bottom, warm milk or a never-ending cuddle you pretty soon realise that things are never going to be the same again.
And that you should never say never. So here’s seven things that, as a new mother, I was never going to do.
1. I was never going to give my baby a dummy.
I just loathed the look of a dummy in a child’s mouth. A newborn baby maybe, but once you give them one, how do you get it off them? So I gave that quandary exactly no thought when, having arrived home from the hospital with the baby just six hours prior, husband was dispatched to buy dummies! And baby loved it. And she only really needed them to sleep. Rarely had them in public and didn’t scream or howl in protest when I took it out of her mouth. As a dear friend told me early on “Some things are just meant to suck (like Nickelback)”.
And if you’re interested we used Minkie Mary the Dummy Fairy when it was time to say bye bye to the dummies.
2. I was never going to bottle-feed.
Who wants all that bother of sterilising bottles and searching for the right formula when breast is best right? Ha. How about your best is best. We tried for months. MONTHS. Turns out my baby had her own ideas about feeding and none of them matched mine. I wrote a about that palaver in another post aptly titled “Boobs”. Eventually at six months old, and after three months of expressing six times a day, I put my baby on formula. Everyone was happy. Judge away people.
3. I was never going to be a Mother’s Group joiner.
What a nice idea. Sitting around drinking tea and chatting about poo. No thanks. As it happens they are a bloody brilliant idea! Especially for someone like me whose girlfriends had all had their babies years ago. No one else wants to hear about the feeding, sleeping, pooing schedule and I while I thought I was never going to be that mother that just blabs about the minutiae of my baby’s bodily routines – I discovered I actually wanted to from time to time. Who knew? Shocked the hell out of me. I had a lovely group of mothers to chat about poo with and now, four years later, I rely heavily on their counsel for everything life and a shared love of red wine!
4. I was never going to sit around at home in track pants.
Who did I think I was kidding? I spent the better part of my maternity leave trawling the likes of Big W and K-Mart looking for just the right comfortable but not too daggy looking tracky daks. And now I find I haven’t done up a button or zipped a zip in the last four years. I’m calling this my ‘leisure wear’ phase. I have no idea when it will end.
5. I was never going to change my routines for the sake of the baby’s sleep.
It took me all of a nanosecond to realise that keeping my baby’s routine meant a day that was 100% more manageable.
For days where routines where unavoidably disrupted I was always exhausted at the end of them. So if I found myself planning lunches at 11.30am and coffees between the two-hour windows of wake time (that’s both me and the baby being awake!).
6. I was never going to put my baby in childcare.
As crazy as it sounds I gave zero thought to childcare options. I hadn’t even thought about what happened when my maternity leave ended. Just didn’t think that far ahead. Which was a tad reckless given that getting onto childcare waiting lists in Melbourne is pretty much an Olympic sport. Luckily I was influenced by my life-saving mothers group and just followed along to open days and information sessions. Now, I couldn’t imagine my daughter’s life without her childcare and Kindy days. She gets so much more from that interaction and education than I could possibly give her pre-school self. And let’s be honest, there’s only so much play doh and barbies I can do! Besides, these routines also mean she’s excited for school days, which are just around the corner.
7. I was never going back to work.
Ok, so that’s an exaggeration. But I just didn’t really think about what I would do when my baby wasn’t a baby anymore and didn’t need me every minute of every day.
I’ve had what I’d call an opportunistic hapsadasical kind of corporate career. Opportunistic because I’m good with words and the right kind of jobs have presented themselves where I get paid to use them. Hapsadasical because I didn’t plan my career and haven’t nurtured it like many would in order to succeed. I’m not that ambitious. I’ve stayed in roles mainly due to the people I’ve worked alongside and I’ve left roles easily enough when another opportunity presented itself or I got bored.
When I went on maternity leave I thought I’d left my corporate self well behind. My baby signalled my happy resignation. After more than 20 years of full time work I thought I was ready to leave it all behind. I wanted the next phase of baby rearing and toddler training and childhood schoolyard antics. My corporate exit strategy could be summed up in one word. “Mother”. I was ready for my new job. I was ready for my new boss. And I was ready for a little bit of chaos.
What I wasn’t ready for was no longer being a money earner. No longer responding to every text and call. No longer wearing anything that zips or buttons…and no longer really caring if my hair was washed or not. I realised I needed some structure and a purpose outside of family life for my days to have meaning.
So I went back to work, on my terms. Which meant a slower pace and self-employment and a whole other balancing act of family life and work life. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Like Ferris said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
In a few months I’ll be celebrating five years as a mother. I’ll either throw a massive cocktail party to celebrate or invite a bunch of pre-schoolers over for a My Little Pony party. Haven’t decided yet.
All in all I’m pretty happy with how things are working out in this parenting gig. Despite having a dummy, being fed formula and co-sleeping with her parents from time to time, my child is smart, happy and well-adjusted (go figure!).
When it comes to babies that all too soon aren’t babies anymore, strap yourself in and never say never. Find your own path and slay the naysayers. Oh, and remember that sometimes that naysayer might even be yourself.