20 rules for parenting in the first year

When you’ve been a parent for nearly three years, have two kids and blog about being a mum that makes you qualified for… absolutely nothing.

I don’t have all the answers but I’m learning new skills every day. Like how to simultaneously clean up vomit and poo. Surely that would look brilliant on my CV?

There are a few rules of parenting we all need to learn fast

I’ve also learned that when it comes to parenting every day is about survival. To survive you need to know the rules.

Here’s a handy reminder of what they are. Print them off for your fridge!

1. Choose sleep

Once your children are asleep and you’re tired, but there’s a mountain of washing to contend with, choose sleep. It’s the option that’s best for you and your kids.

The washing can wait until the morning or later when the children are planted in front of the TV.

2. Never leave a baby bare-bottomed

You will pay dearly for this mistake. The moment you leave the butt uncovered is the moment your baby will decide to unleash an explosive poo. And I know from experience they can shoot it pretty far.

If you want to keep your clothes, the carpet and walls smear-free, treat the nappy changes like a military operation. Have your kit ready, display confidence at all times and contain the situation as quickly as possible.

3. Protect the breakables

You need to start thinking about what’s at eye level for your baby. Once they start reaching stuff they will pull it off every table, shelf and cupboard they can access.

Unfortunately the pretty vases and other fragile decorations need to move.

4. Soft play is a last resort

Do not rush to soft play when you have a spare few hours. Save it for emergencies only, when you really have absolutely no other alternative. At all.

Whatever you do, don’t go during the school holidays under any circumstances.

5. Do not make eye contact

You’ve just gone into your baby’s room to check on them in the middle of the night. They’re sound asleep but as you gaze at them lovingly their eyes suddenly snap open.

Duck to the ground and crawl out of the room. Do not look back.

6. Pretend you don’t notice the smell

The great nappy changing game we play is a bit like Russian roulette. You know your baby or toddler has done a poo. But you’re hoping your other half will notice in a minute and they’ll jump up to change them.

The trouble comes when they’re playing the game too. Then it becomes more of a battle of wits as you both try to pretend there’s nothing to smell here.

Finally it comes down to the toddler’s decision as they can no longer play with a giant turd in their nappy. Sadly for us mums, we’re often first choice.

7. Never read the Daily Mail

The news stories, columns and celebrity gossip posts are crafted to make you react. Most of the time they want a negative reaction, because that induces more readers to actually write in the comments section and share it on social media.

It won’t make you feel good about yourself and it doesn’t present a balanced view, of anything. The answer is to stay away or take it with a fistful of salt.

That story about the mum who lost all of her baby weight the day after birth and now says women who don’t do the same are just lazy? This probably isn’t even what she actually said or she’s been paid handsomely to say this.

The breastfeeding coach who says people who “fail” at breastfeeding because they don’t bond with their baby? An advert designed to provoke shares to get their brand name out there.

Avoid, click the X and tell your friends to do the same.

8. Always go for self-service

When you’re sleep deprived social interaction is a headache you just can’t handle. Also the judgemental stares from the shop assistant can be pretty disheartening.

Always pick self-service. The machine requires no please or thank you nonsense.

9. Unsolicited advice must be ignored

If it’s of no use to you then nod and smile, then forget it immediately.

Getting into a debate about it is no good, as when it comes to babies everyone thinks they’re right. But no one knows your baby better than you do. So tell them “that’s interesting”, then do it your way and delete this conversation from your memory.

10. Guilt is not welcome here

Mummy guilt is a real doozy. We beat ourselves up over the silliest of things. Like when our babies are in the grip of that newborn crying phase, we convince ourselves that it must be all our fault.

As long as you’re keeping your baby safe, warm and fed, you’re doing a brilliant job.

11. It’s ok to be angry

Sometimes you will lose your temper. It’s not ok to take it out on your baby. It is ok to put the baby down and leave the room for a couple of minutes.

Arguments with your other half are likely to become more frequent as you both struggle with sleep deprivation. Find a way through it and remember to go easy on each other.

12. There’s no such thing as too many pictures

Snap away as often as you can. In the digital age there is absolutely no way you can take too many. Capture those precious memories because the early years are gone so quickly.

13. Cuddles are to be treasured

When you’ve been up night after night it can be easy to listen to those books telling you to put the baby down and teach them to self-soothe. Yes at some point they do need to learn this, but treasure the cuddles when you have them. Don’t think of them as something you have to get rid of.

14. Bin the books

Are baby books making you feel like you’re getting everything wrong? Chuck them away immediately. Some babies just don’t conform to routines and strict feeding patterns.

15. Ignore the body-shaming

You’ve had a baby so your body will not go back to what it was immediately, if ever. Don’t let photographs or articles banging on about post-baby bodies make you worry about how you look. You just had a baby, your body is strong and something to be proud of.

16. Mum is the boss

When it comes to who’s in charge of the little person, the person who pushed the little person out into the world has the final say.

17. Visitors have a whole set of rules of their own

Visitors need to adhere to a code of conduct when it comes to meeting newborn babies and their bleary-eyed parents.

Read more about the full terms and conditions for visitors here.

18. There are no right answers

The baby industry is worth big money, sleep deprived parents are desperate for an easy fix. But what works for one person may not work for another.

Do what you think is right, and you can’t go far wrong.

19. Give judgement the middle finger

It can come from many different sources, but judgement is absolutely not what you need in the first year.

I’m not saying you should be flipping the bird at everyone who casts you a sideways glance when your baby is crying. But give them a mental middle finger. If nothing else it will make you feel better.

Don’t worry about what other people think. These are generally people who have either never had a baby or had one so long ago they have forgotten all about what it was like.

Fellow mummies casting judgement your way should be avoided at all cost. We all have bad days. Let she who is the perfect parent change all of the nappies.

20. Trust your instincts

No one knows your baby better than you. If you think something is wrong, then do not ever feel embarrassed to make a phone call or go see a doctor.

If you don’t think a routine will help, then don’t implement one. If you want to keep breastfeeding then do it for as long as you want, you know best.

 

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