It’s just been Parenting Advice Week, everyone! What’s that, you have never heard of Parenting Advice Week? OK, neither had I.
Do we really need Parenting Advice Week, one wonders? Surely the one thing most parents are not short on is advice. Everyone loves sharing their wisdom with wide-eyed new parents. The internet is actually made of parenting advice. There is so much out there, it’s pretty much impossible to make your own decisions about anything these days.
Even more silly: when recently Hippychick asked parents for their best piece of advice, the most common answer was: ‘trust your instincts.’ Which, when loosely translated means: don’t listen to advice.
So, inspired by the sheer futility of both giving and receiving parenting advice, during this most auspicious Parenting Advice Week, here’s some of my best parenting advice. I hope you won’t take any of it:
1. Don’t write a birth plan ( if your midwife forces you, keep it very vague, just do some doodles or something). You will only be disappointed when your hopes for a drug-free water birth with scented candles and an Enya CD don’t work out. If you need a vision to cling to, aim low: plan the type of biscuits you might like to eat afterwards, or what nightie you want to wear in your new-baby Facebook picture. Planning for anything else is futile.
2. Don’t listen to your parents. Or indeed, anyone who did it ages ago. They will tell you not to use dummies, to put whisky on teething gums and that babies can sleep in a drawer. Well meaning they may be, but they are also frequently wrong.
3. Take full advantage of your parents, or indeed anyone else who is willing to do your housework for free. One of the many wondrous things about having a baby, is how someone so small, who can’t yet move, can take up so much of your time and create so much chaos in your home. Receive all the help you can get with humility and gratitude.
4. Try to find the energy not to hate your partner because he gets to go to work and relax at the office all day. It is not his fault. Well, technically it is, but it’s just too exhausting to be in a mood all the time and this sort of positioning early on rarely ends well. Let him have his job with its salary and sociable hours and wait: your time at home is all credit in the bank for that trip to New York with your friends (that you’ll get to take in 2027. Maybe.)
5. Remember that Baz Luhrmann song, Sunscreen? He said: ‘do not buy beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.’ Parenting books are the same. Do not buy them, they will only make you feel like you’re failing. If you feel the need to buy a book, invest in some erotic fiction instead – you’re going to want the help on that front, too.
6. Fancy yourself as a mumpreneur? Think long and hard before setting up your own business when you have small children. Your life is stressful enough right now. And that whole ‘working around the children’ thing is nonsense. No work ever got done with a toddler in the house. Ever.
7. That said, you are pretty awesome and should totally set up your own business. If you think you’ve got a winning idea, that is. Just be honest about whether you really want to run that pub-with-soft-play/mums-and-wine-cafe/sleep-for-mums-with-wine-service you and your friends keep inventing, when you’re drinking lots of wine.
8. Go easy on the wine. It starts off being a reward after a long day, but before you know it, a day without it is too long.
9. People will tell you not to reward good behaviour with food, and not to describe sweets as a treat because this sets them up with a sugar addiction for life. They are right of course, but also entirely unrealistic. Sometimes you have to give them a lollipop, just to get some peace.
10. When your children start school, it is easy to get caught up in the academic stuff: which maths group they are in and what Biff and Chip book they are reading. In the end this is all pretty useless – the skills they really need are resilience and curiosity, an ability to make friends and plenty of energy so they can rip it up outside at playtime. Get that stuff right and the rest will fall into place.