Parenting is probably the only job you can have for over a decade and still not really know what you’re doing. I’ve been a mum for ten-and-a-half years now, and I can honestly say I’m just muddling through.
Emma has been pestering me to join a couple of social networks and I had no idea what to say. I eventually relented because she said all her friends were on them and she was left out. I felt that because all these other parents thought it was okay for their kids, they probably know what they’re doing so I’ll just copy. I’m always copying other parents.
An unsolvable puzzle
The trouble with the job of child-raising is that once you think you’ve cracked it, it all gets flip-turned upside down again and you’re back to being clueless. I let Emma watch Mean Girls when she was eight. Mean Girls isn’t suitable for eight-year-olds but she really loved it and has seen it several times in the past two years. I’m definitely doing all sorts of things wrong.
Like in a real job, if you’re struggling, you’re upline (aka your parents) might step in and help you out. They’ll even tell you when you’re doing things wrong and advise you not to make the same mistakes as them.
From what I can tell, most grandparents’ biggest regret is that they never fed their own kids enough cake or ice cream (and they certainly won’t be letting history repeat itself!)
It doesn’t get easier with the more you have
Occasionally, when you think you’ve got everything sussed, nature chucks another child into the equation – a promotion, of sorts – and you’re back to being totally clueless even though you’ve done it all before.
When my second came along, I was really surprised to discover that I had no idea what I was doing, despite making a good go of it the first time around. Luckily, the early days come easily to me, it’s the rest of their lives I have trouble with.
The easy bit passes quickly
I’m not one to brag, but I’m an absolute boss at the first few months of parenthood. Sleep deprivation isn’t all that bad if you’re repaid by hours of cuddling a gorgeous baby and watching bad TV. I breastfed both of mine, and since they were born gigantic (10lb8 and 10lb9, if you’re asking), they were ravenous from day one, which meant long stretches of sitting down with baby attached to me.
The endless hours of feeding that ensued gave me a very credible excuse to watch really TV shows. I’d pretend I had no choice. I absolutely loved it.
“I’ve been up a thousand hours, I’ve watched everything else!” I’d exclaim, glued to Teen Mom, while simultaneously setting a series link for My Extreme Excess Skin. The early days were the easiest, I don’t know what I’m doing the rest of the time.
But then they turn into proper people
I seem to struggle with the non-baby stuff. The areas that are specific to your own child. The bit where there’s no consensus.
If there’s a general consensus then I’m fine. I know that kids shouldn’t play with fire, there’s a consensus on that so I didn’t have to worry about giving it a go in case it’s right for my children.
There’s no real consensus on social media, or how old your child should be before you let them walk to the shop alone, or if really short crop tops are rude or not (are they? Emma keeps trying to turn all her tops into crop tops and I think it’s too old for her, how do you know these things? Who decides?)
Greg has a phone. He’s four. Of course, he doesn’t ring anybody, and we didn’t actually buy him a phone, but he has one and he plays on it every day. I reassure myself that it’s fine because he mostly uses it to spell three and four letter words on letter scramble apps (and I think that means on some level, that I’m a semi-decent parent) but he also spends plenty of time on Crossy Road which probably adds up to an unhealthy amount of screen-time.
How do you know the right answers if there are no right answers?
Parenthood is insanely mind-boggling and I’m pretty sure I’m not doing it the best way most of the time. I’d love to know how you you measure whether you’re doing a good job?
I’m always stressed, but my kids are fed, their clothes are clean and I sometime manage to wrestle them into the bath; is that how you tell?
Are any of us doing this job right?