What I Would Tell My First Time Self as a Fourth Time Mum

I’ve been thinking about this lots this week, but particularly today as it was around this day, 10yrs ago I conceived my first baby and 10yrs to me feels like a bit of a milestone so I’ve been doing much navel gazing wondering what I would do if (to quote Cher) “I could turn back time” – or ala Doctor Who transport myself back to meet my first time mum self. I would like to tell myself the following:

1) You’re doing OK

In fact you’re doing more than OK, you’re doing bloody brilliantly, you have a happy, healthy thriving baby boy! go you! WELL DONE!!!

2) You don’t need to be on a diet

Give yourself a break – you’ve just had a baby – there are better things to worry about! in fact in 10yrs time you’ll be wishing for the body you have right now! even if all your new mum friends are going to postnatal exercise classes and slimming world it doesn’t mean you should too.

3) You shouldn’t judge yourself by everyone else

Because they are different to you, their lives are different, their babies are different and you can bet your bum they are as neurotic as you about their parenting skills! never, never, never compare yourself to others. Parenting is a journey, not a competition and we are all different!

4) You shouldn’t compare your baby to other’s babies

Especially not milestones and especially not if you judge your own worth by when your baby does things. In years to come you will revel in your child’s uniqueness and wish so much that you didn’t waste time looking at others so much, for each minute you dwell on them is a minute you miss your own child’s amazing qualities.

5) You don’t need to express milk just because everyone else is

…and you don’t win prizes for having 5lts of frozen breastmilk in funny little bags in your freezer that you don’t really need because you can’t bear to be parted from your baby- and expressing so dad can give the baby a bottle at night is not the only way for him to bond (something I can guarantee you don’t need to worry about anyway as in years to come they’ll be as thick as thieves!).

6) Don’t waste your money on the expensive cot, buggy, change bag,  baby mozart dvds, v-tech walker, tiny love mobile etc…

Your baby doesn’t appreciate how much you’ve spent on him, what he really appreciates you can give for free – in abundance and all those things above you spent thousands on, well in 10yrs time you won’t even be able to remember them, your baby got hadly any use out of them anyway and don’t mention the sangenic nappy wrapper! Don’t be too proud to buy second hand, your baby won’t know and you’ll save a fortune, in 10yrs time you’ll buy everything from NCT sales and Ebay and be proud!

7) Don’t drag yourself out to baby swimming, baby yoga, baby music, baby gym, baby French, coffee mornings etc..

You know those classes and groups that you really don’t like? the ones that cost a fortune and the ones that actually if you think about it your baby doesn’t really get much from either. Babies do not need entertainment and attending these classes does not make you a better mum, you give him all the stimulation he needs – and more.

8) Step away from the Gina Ford book (and Tracey Hogg too!)

Burn it, burn it quick! if anything will undermine your confidence and your enjoyment of new parenting it’s this book (and actually so will The Baby Whisperer, even though it seems gentler on first look). It doesn’t matter that ALL your new mum friends follow Gina Ford and have quiet babies that never cry and sleep and eat to the clock and measuring jug, they are not content, they are not something to aspire too, you are not useless because your baby woke 3 times in the night and you have no idea when he’ll next eat or sleep, just because everyone else is  doing it – doesn’t mean it’s right! Actually, now we’re on this point, those other books and magazines, throw them away too!

9) Do spend some time learning how to use your sling.

Don’t sell it on Ebay because it looks too complicated and go and buy a Baby Bjorn instead and don’t stop carrying at 6mths just because everyone else is and others say it will make him lazy. He likes to be close to you and if hold him for as long as he wants there is a good chance he will grow up more confident than the shy, anxious, clingy little boy he is now.

10) Don’t take up everyone’s offer of “looking after the baby so you can go out and get some me time”

Ask them instead to cook your dinner, or clean the house while you sit in piece and cuddle your baby. You are totally normal in not wanting to go out shopping alone for the afternoon and leave your 3mth old with a friend or relative…and that housework? actually forget it, good mums have dirty houses because they spend their time with their babies!

11) Don’t struggle to get your baby to self settle and sleep alone in his moses basket.

There is a reason he sleeps better in bed next to you, you’re not committing some heinous sin by letting him stay with you and admit it, you rather like it too! Refer back to point number 9!

12) Learn about Baby Led Weaning

End of. Throw away the steamer, the funny little pots, the ice cube trays, the Annabel Karmel book, the carefully crafted and expensive organic recipes. In 10yrs you will have the pickiest eater on the planet and having BLW two subsequent babies you won’t be able to understand why you were a slave to the kitchen and made train noises with spoonfuls of pureed butternut squash and sweet potato for so long.

13) The birth was not your fault – forgive yourself

Your “failure to progress”? was really their “failure to wait”. In time you will understand this and forgive yourself and gain the confidence and wisdom you need to have amazing births that settle the demons of this one. For now be gentle on yourself, you should not “feel lucky because you have a healthy baby and that’s all that matters”. It is not wrong to feel jealous of other women’s births and it is not wrong to dwell on how traumatised you felt about yours.

14) Potty Train when he is ready, not when your Health visitor, friend or latest book tells you

Believe me it will be so much easier to do when he’s ready and no, I can guarantee you he won’t be in nappies forever!

15) Health visitors do not know everything

Especially when it goes against what you feel. Controlled crying will not make you all more happy (you will regret that awful night for the rest of your life), weaning at 16wks will not make him gain weight or sleep more (but may well have contributed to his Coeliac disease he was diagnosed with at age 7), he does not need vitamins to supplement your breastmilk – it’s great as it is.


16) Don’t buy the bumbo, doorway bouncer and exersaucer

He doesn’t need them, they place lots of strain on his hips and legs and might even have contributed to his hip and leg issues  that you had to see paediatricians for for a year.

17) Read and sing to your baby

No matter how silly you feel, he might not understand the words but reading is so important as is the time you give him when the two of you are together with a book and regarding singing he won’t care if you sing off pitch, music is so important, to you and to him – don’t lose it.

18) Take lots of video

Photos are great, but videos are so much better and in years to come you will lament that you didn’t take more.


19) Don’t keep wishing for him to do things more quickly.

It will come, soon enough he’ll be crawling, pulling up, rolling over, walking……..enjoy him as he is now, for when you try to speed up his development you miss out on so much in the moment!

20) Enjoy every minute – they grow too quickly!

Yes it’s a cliche, yes you were sick of hearing it as a new mum, but it’s oh so true, treasure every single second – because in 10yrs you’ll wonder where that time has gone and be desperate to do it all over again.

What would you say to yourself?

Sarah

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About SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.
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