Looking back, if I could describe the feeling of being a new parent in one word it would be this: OVERWHELMED.
Sure, there were moments of joy, amazement, wonder and all those warm fuzzy feelings but overriding all this was the feeling of being overwhelmed: Overwhelmed by the enormous responsibility of this little life who was completely dependent on me; overwhelmed by the pressure of feeling like I needed to have all the answers and overwhelmed by the disappointment I felt when I thought I was getting it all wrong.
So, like any good student, I armed myself with all the latest ‘parenting textbooks’ and crammed the words into my head so hard that I could memorise the contents off-by-heart – hoping that when the ultimate test arouse i.e. figuring out why the baby was crying, I would be 100% ready with the right answer.
As you can imagine, this is not what happened. Unlike a school exam that you can cram for and be assured to get most answers correct, parenting was nothing vaguely similar. Nobody could tell me what to do and what was best for my baby – although they definitely tried! – because in the end parenting is a learning process and one where the best you can do is use your common-sense and trust your instincts.
So, after that lengthy introduction, I will get to the point. In my mind the must-have item for all new parents is this: EAR-PLUGS!
No, not to drown out the baby’s cries (although this may prove helpful if ‘controlled crying’ is your cup of tea) but instead to block out other people’s opinions!
Yes, I said it! Although often well-meaning, other people’s opinions about your parenting are often more detrimental than helpful to your emotional well-being as a new parent.
I remember being mortified when my milk supply ran out at 6 weeks. I felt like I had a dirty secret that I couldn’t share. I didn’t show up to my Plunket appointment for fear of a lecture, I tried to hide away when feeding my baby a bottle in public and when I asked other mums for advice I just ended up feeling worse. As the kids have got older I have experienced opinions about other aspects of parenting; toilet-training, dummies, sleep habits, speech – the list goes on!
So my advice, if you want to listen (totally your choice) is to grab yourself a pair of ear-plugs. This way if you run out of milk, get mastitis, have had surgery or plain just don’t want to breastfeed you can grab the baby’s bottle and grab your pair of ear-plugs and block out everybody else’s view on the subject!
This goes for any opinions on your parenting style or habits that you don’t need or want to hear – just grab those ear-plugs baby!
I’m not saying there won’t be times in your parenting life where you actually want some good advice, because I’m sure there will be. Just make sure you choose somebody who you trust will give you an un-biased opinion with your best interests at heart.
In my book, if you are doing your best to spend time with your children and providing them with a loving, safe place to grow up then you are doing a GREAT job!
P.S. Have you bought those ear-plugs yet?