What I’ve learned

6monthsLottie is 6 months old this week and I’ve decided this milestone is a good time to stop blogging. A 6 month boot-camp seems to be a suitable length of time to feel ‘on top’ of this motherhood business. I’ll leave this blog on the internet in case it’s ever useful for mums or soon-to-be mums trawling for advice. Perhaps I’ll come back to it if something baby-related happens which is worth reporting, or maybe for boot-camp baby number two.

This final post is a good chance to summarise some of the things I’ve learned about motherhood during this 6 month journey:

  • There is a lot of advice out there, much of which is useless. I recommend identifying friends, family, experts, authors or even random strangers on the internet (like me!) who you think sound like they share your values and your perspective on the world, or you know they’ve had a good experience in motherhood, and tune into their advice while filtering out anything that contradicts it. Otherwise you’ll constantly be confused about the right thing to do and you’ll always feel judged as there will always be people doing something different who will want to tell you you’re not doing it right. People do have good advice, so use it, but use it wisely. Don’t assume just because someone has good advice about say, feeding, that you’ll also want to take their advice about something else, such as sleeping. Think about your own circumstances and mould advice to make sure it works for you, your baby and your family.
  • Choosing who to tune in to and who to tune out can be as simple as working out your priorities and finding people who share them. For instance, if you know from the outset that you don’t want to suffer from sleep deprivation for the first year of your baby’s life, identify friends who had babies who were ‘great sleepers’ or read up on books that promise to help your baby sleep longer. Then dedicate yourself to learning their secrets. If you meet someone who says ‘my five year old still doesn’t sleep through the night’ and you think this sounds like a nightmare scenario, take this into account when they offer any advice about baby sleep. It’s not to say they don’t know what they’re doing, it’s just that they’re not in a position to offer you advice if you don’t want to end up where they did.
  • Once you decide on a course of action, feel confident in your decision and stick to it. It might not work straight away but eventually you will have success. For instance, if you decide you want to instigate routines, such as ‘eat play sleep’, you don’t have to be 100% strict with it, but you do have to commit to sticking to this method as best you can to actually get any benefit from it. Trying it for two days and then deciding it doesn’t work and trying something different is the reason it didn’t work. Persevere!
  • I have learned that all babies are different, but they are much more of a blank canvas than mothers, who are far more different than babies. You might need to read that sentence again for it to make sense. Basically I’m saying that when you hear other mothers say ‘my baby doesn’t like doing XYZ’ or ‘my baby much prefers ABC’, what they’re really saying is ‘I don’t like XYZ’ or ‘I prefer ABC’. Mothers, hopefully in consultation with fathers, decide how to raise their children. Children don’t decide how they raise themselves.
  • Trust your instincts, but don’t expect your instincts to be more accurate than the knowledge and advice of real experts. For instance, if a doctor diagnoses an illness in your child and your instincts are telling you the doctor is wrong, by all means see another doctor. But never assume your instincts are 100% right and the doctor is 100% wrong, as just being a mother doesn’t qualify you to know better than a trained professional.
  • Babies change every day and so what you were doing yesterday might need to change today. Be nimble, flexible and take the good with the bad. Nothing is horrible for long and nothing is easy for long. I have learned that the love you feel for your baby will make all the hard times worthwhile, and when you’re right in the middle of the hardest times, try to remember this too will pass.
  • Remember you’re never alone. Your family and friends want to help you, so don’t feel you’re a failure if you need someone to put a load of washing on for you or do the shopping or look after your baby while you have some ‘me’ time. Ask for help if you need it. Make sure your partner, if you have one, pulls their weight – they are parents too. Go out for a walk if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Don’t go out at all if this makes life easier. Drink lots of coffee. Cancel plans, be late, don’t turn up if your baby has cracked it in the car and you just can’t face an outing. Your friends will understand and if they don’t understand you’re better off without them. Do something for yourself whenever you get a chance. If you’re so tired you feel like you’re losing your mind, laugh at yourself. It helps, I promise.
  • Once you’re a mother, you are busy all the time. But that doesn’t mean your life from before children is over. Unless of course you want it to be. What I’m meaning to say is that it’s up to you how much motherhood changes your life. If you want it to change, embrace your new identity. If you’re scared it will change you and you love your life and don’t want it to disappear, make sure it doesn’t. You can keep most things you did before parenthood, just maybe not in the same quantities as before. Know what you want from motherhood and go and get it. I’ve done it and 6 months down the track, I couldn’t be happier.

I hope at least something I’ve written at some stage has been useful to someone at some time. Thanks for reading.




Going back to work

Lottie and CousinAs Christmas approaches, and Lottie nears her 6 month birthday, life beyond maternity leave gets closer. The reality that I am going back to work in March became much more of a reality when, last week, I got the very happy news that I have secured a childcare place for Lottie in a centre a few blocks from my house. Because of the single-intake system for childcare, in order to get a place, Lottie will be starting in February and will be attending four days a week, with the fifth day thankfully covered by my mother and sister.

As much as I know I will miss spending almost every waking hour with Lottie, I am also quite looking forward to her starting childcare. Really? Yes, really.

This is because I know Lottie will absolutely love childcare. I’m sure she’s perfectly happy with me at home too – she is content playing with her toys, having visitors, going for walks, visiting family and friends, reading books, singing songs, grocery shopping, going out for coffee and cake (for mum!) and her latest favourite thing is eating food. But there is one major thing missing from her life at home – other babies. Watching her face light up when she sees her cousin, who is 10 weeks older, and seeing her enjoyment at playing with babies and children, shows me just how much she is going to love childcare. And of course, it’s not just about her having fun. Childcare is also good for her development; teaching her how to socialise, how to negotiate, how to be independent from her parents, how to play with others and hopefully, how to be a resilient little person.

I am also looking forward to going back to work. Really? Yes, really.

I know there is no cookie-cutter reaction to the whole ‘going back to work’ thing after having a baby; for each family there are a unique set of circumstances, decisions and resulting emotions. Some new mums swap their careers for full-time parenting when they have children. Some new mums expect to be going back to work when they go on maternity leave, but then after their baby arrives they realise they would much prefer to be stay at home mums, either while their children are small or forever. Some women might like the idea of being stay at home mums, but they might not be in the financial position to make this decision. It is also really common for previously-full-time workers to negotiate part-time positions so that they can keep their foot in the workforce and be at home some of the time too. Then there are people like me who expect to take some time out of the workforce when they have babies, and then go back full time when their maternity leave ends.

I am in the fortunate position that I absolutely love my career, and I have missed working while being at home with Lottie. I can imagine if I didn’t enjoy my job, going back to it would be hard. Either way, whether you like or loathe your work, there is no doubt that being a working mum, part-time or full-time, is a massive juggling act where you’re constantly compromising between your dedication to your job and your parenting responsibilities. I know it’s going to be tough, but I feel ready.

Since Lottie was born, I’ve watched my husband racing home from work to make sure he has time to hang out with Lottie, and to help me with the evening routine, before she goes to bed. If he gets home too late and she’s in bed, he physically looks pained to have missed her. But then I also know that his job, like mine, is very busy and it’s not always possible to leave on time when there are demands on you which are expected as part of your job. With two parents working, and Lottie needing to be dropped at childcare in the mornings, and picked up (on time!), we’re going to be living very hectic lives. But that’s just what reality is like with children and two working parents, no matter what age, so we may as well get used to it while Lottie is still a baby. Between now and then I have a whole Summer to enjoy, so I will make the most of what is left of my maternity leave as my return to work date draws nearer.