I’ve been a Mum now for 18 years.
In any other job I’d have been promoted to a senior position by now and have started to coast and feel confident that I’d got every aspect of the role nailed down.
As it happens, there are still days where I feel like I’m a complete novice and a bit of a failure as a parent. But there are also many pearls of wisdom that I have learned in my 18 years of parenting.
I want to share these hard learned parenting lessons with you.
There’s no such thing as a perfect parent
You might believe there is and that you’ve even met a few. But no parent is perfect.
We all screw up from time to time. We’re all just doing our best. And that’s OK. It’s more than OK.
So, cut yourself some slack and revel in being a great parent.
Your body is amazing. Feel good about it.
Sure your body has changed since giving birth. You might have stretch marks or a mum tum, saggy boobs or thicker thighs. But your body also grew and gave birth to your beautiful child.
It would be madness to presume that it would not change your appearance. You are strong and powerful and beautiful. Embrace your new body. Tiger stripes and all.
Lack of sleep is like torture
It’s just-so-hard! It makes you feel like you’re going insane. But it doesn’t last forever.
If you’re in the trenches then get sleep whenever and wherever you can. Snap up any vague offer of help and hand over your baby and just sleep.
Nap when your baby naps. Even if there are 101 chores piling up. If you can’t sleep then lie down and rest whenever you can.
Tea can cure almost anything
It’s a magical substance. It can make almost anything a little bit better.
It’s best when you drink it from your favourite mug (preferably while it is still hot!)
So can a hug
The best medicine there is. Make sure you get plenty.
Being a parent can feel pretty lonely
You’re never alone but you can feel very very lonely.
What makes things better is being brave and heading out into the big wide world to meet other parents.
You might have to drink lots of cups of tepid tea in dusty church halls to meet those you connect with and who become lifelong friends but it’s worth it.
Parenting is not a competition
You don’t have to be the best.
Your children don’t have to be the best.
You don’t have to flick through Instagram feeling like you’re a bit crap because every other parent looks like they are winning at parenting.
Parenting is not a competition. Just don’t compare. And you’ll feel a lot happier.
This too shall pass
When you’re in the thick of a tricky bit it’s hard to believe things will ever get better.
But they will.
Keep in mind the mantra ‘This too shall pass’ and hold onto it. It’s true.
Time is the best gift of all for children
What your children want more than anything is your time.
It’s more valuable than any present.
Leave work on time, put down your phone, forget the chores and give your children your attention and your time.
Focus on the positives
It’s all too easy to feel despondent but try to focus on the positives whenever you can.
Whenever you feel down, turn things on their head and try to see the bright side.
It’s OK to let our kids fail
It’s perhaps the biggest lesson of all.
We only learn when we get things wrong and try again. It’s a hard lesson but an important one.
It’s OK to let yourself fail
You will have days when you get things wrong. When you are tired and worn and lose your patience. When you do or say the wrong thing.
But that’s OK. Failure is just an opportunity to learn.
Tomorrow is another day.
Guilt is a horrible thing. Banish it.
Parents are programmed to feel guilty about everything.
But it’s a horrible thing to feel and totally not justified.
We’re doing our best and that’s doing great.
Parenting advice is not always helpful
You’ll get it in spades.
From your mother-in-law, from your friends, from strangers you meet at a bus stop.
Some of it is worth listening to. A lot of it you should just brush off. You know your baby. You’re the expert.
It really does take a village to raise your child
If you don’t have close family nearby then your village could include friends, sports coaches, teachers, neighbours.
Good role models are vital for your child. And good friends are vital for your wellbeing.
Gather as many as you can around you.
You can’t always make things better
In the early years there’s not much you can’t cure with a hug but as your children grow so do their stresses and problems.
Sometimes you can’t magic things better.
But you can be the support and loving guide they need to find their own way through.
Be in the photos
So very often you take snaps of your children on your phone to capture the memories. But so so often you are not in the picture.
You are the centre of your kid’s world. Be in those photos.
Take group selfies, ask random strangers to take a photo.
Be there as part of the photographic memories they can look back upon.
The days are long but the years are short
When you first have a baby everyone tells you to enjoy every minute because in the blink of the eye it will all go by so fast. But you don’t believe them.
And yet there is truth to it. One moment you’ll be waving your child proudly off on their first day of school and in the next they’ll be filling in forms to apply for college or university and getting ready to fly the nest.
So, hold onto the magic moments and savour the good bits.
What parenting lessons have you learnt as a parent? Join in the chat over on our Facebook page.