Why parenting advice needs a disclaimer

Nothing else gets you unsolicited advice like having a baby.

Everyone has a little pearl of wisdom to share. Even people who don’t have children like to wade in and give their two pennies’ worth of advice.

“Best get that routine in place now so she knows who’s boss.”

“Whatever you do, don’t give them a dummy.”

“A rusk in the bottle will stop that crying.”

Any parent knows this is all well-intentioned. The best way to deal with it is to nod as if you haven’t already Googled all baby-related matters to death and are therefore a walking encyclopaedia of knowledge, and change the subject. You can bitch about it later with your friends.

But my all-time favourite nugget of advice is: “Enjoy every minute.”

We’ve all said it, even me. It’s like a reflex action, saying this sentence to a mum and dad-to-be.

You’ve said “congratulations”. You’ve made the standard joke about getting sleep in while they can because soon they won’t be having any, hahaha. Actually, I say this one deadly seriously since having my own kids but everyone still laughs. Oh well, they’ll understand that s**t just got real when they’re four weeks in and averaging 30 minutes’ sleep a night.

After this what else is there to say to spread the love at this joyous news? The advice vomit rises up, none of us can resist it. We try to resist the bulls**t about to come out of our mouths but we can’t.

“Enjoy every minute!”

Argh, no! We’ve become what we hate!

You might think this is a really nice thing to say. A positive and life-affirming thing is happening. A new baby is coming into this world.

While there is no doubt this is a beautiful thing, it won’t be pretty all of the time.

Telling a parent to “enjoy every minute” of parenting is frankly like telling a starving woman to enjoy every bite of a plain salad. She’s glad to be eating, but it’s not satisfying.

The fact is you won’t enjoy every minute of being a parent. You will enjoy huge chunks of it. There’s the first time you hold your little one in your arms and gaze at them trying to memorise every bit of their face. There’s the first time your little one grabs your finger and squeezes tight. The first time you got a big, beautiful smile, and then a gorgeous giggle too.

There are moments that take your breath away for sure and they truly do make it all worthwhile.

But these moments don’t fill every minute of parenthood. There are moments when, frankly, you’ll be considering selling the little s**ts. Or at least leasing them to their grandparents for a fortnight.

There’s that time your baby threw up all over itself and you and then just as you got them naked, they fired poop in your direction, so now everything in the room is covered in poop and vomit.

Or the other time when you realised it’s been six months since you got more than two hours of unbroken sleep.

Being a parent isn’t all nursery rhymes and rainbows. It’s a challenge. Some days it is hard as f**k just to motivate yourself to get out of bed. Telling people to enjoy it all is a lovely sentiment, but it’s not realistic. If you take this notion too seriously you can end up feeling terrible for not loving life as a parent.

I have felt guilty for clock-watching some days. Being desperate for it to be bedtime. It’s when you accept that some days will be hard and you will struggle that you appreciate the amazing moments even more. When it’s tough we just need to plough on through the darker days, because with parenting there is one certainty: It does get better.

So please, continue to tell expectant parents to “enjoy every minute”. Just be sure to add a disclaimer at the end.


Why parenting advice needs a disclaimer

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