With my eldest son turning 12 this week (!) and both of my sons’ teachers having just had their first babies, I have had cause to reflect on where the time has gone. I wrote this for them, but it is possibly a little bit for me too…………..
Twelve years ago when I stepped out of my classroom for the last time, and took a giant leap into motherhood, I had no idea what to expect. My friends and colleagues hugged me and wished me well, many giving all sorts of advice. I thought I would share with you some of the advice I wish I was given.
5 things I wish I had been told before my first baby:
1. It’s ok to be terrified
I was never ready for children, until one day my good friend – who was 6 months pregnant – confided in me that she was terrified. This secret was the best gift I was given. It gave me the permission to try for a baby, even though I was terrified too.
When my boys were born, I was terrified about a million things: what if someone hurts them, what if I hurt them, what if they are not getting enough milk, what if they are too hot, too cold, what if they stop breathing when they are asleep, what if they don’t get enough sleep, what if they get germs from the shopping trolley, what if they won’t eat, what if they eat too much…………………………. aaaaggghhhh!!
My boys are now 12 and 9 and I am still terrified of a million things. It never goes away. Terrified is your new normal. But that’s ok. At some point along the way your heart reaches out and wraps up all of your worries and anxieties (and sheer terror) in love and while these things do bubble to the surface every now and then, the joy of the love you feel for this being you grew inside of you, always overrides your fears.
2. Babies don’t care about birth plans, or lesson plans, or any plans
As a teacher, you make lists. You make plans. You cross off items on your list and feel accomplished. You reflect on your lessons and evaluate them based on how well they followed your plan. You measure the success of your students against key outcomes. When your students achieve, you also feel that achievement. Sometimes, your students thank you for the lessons you prepared and planned and delivered. This makes you feel great.
Your baby does not know – or care – how much planning and preparation has gone into their arrival. Your baby does not know that you need sleep to function and be the best mum you can be. They don’t know that it has taken you half an hour of preparation just to leave the house and be in clean clothes and when they projectile vomit all over your clean clothes and their clean clothes and your face and hair and sometimes even a little bit ends up in your mouth, that this was not how you planned it! They won’t care that you have planned their Christening Day for weeks and that 3 seconds of explosive diarrhoea they have in the car on the way to the church is going to take you 3 hours to properly clean the baby seat, 3 packs of nappy wipes to clean off the baby and that in the photos your hands still smell like baby poo and you are holding the baby so the camera angle won’t pick up that small yellowy brown tell-tale mark of the earlier incident.
Unlike your students, your baby won’t thank you (at least, not for a few years). But they will smile at you, and that smile will be the benchmark against which you measure your success.
3. Your baby has never done this before either (so they don’t know when you stuff it up)
You are a wonderful teacher. Were you wonderful on your first day of teaching? Probably not. None of us were. It takes years to become proficient at a skill, many more to become an expert. So don’t expect to be an expert at all of this “mum stuff” from day one. Just because you are female and are growing this baby and will give birth to it, doesn’t mean you will know exactly what to do with it once it’s here!
This “Mother knows best” crap is wrong on so many levels. (Except your gut instinct. Always trust that. Even on days when you have had 5 minutes of broken sleep and you feel like you are stumbling through fog, your Mama bear instinct will still be with you). Most mums don’t “know” best. We simply make decisions based on what we think is best. Every day, we make decisions for our kids and often we make the wrong ones. That is parenthood. With this in mind, whenever you hear an opinion from a so called “parenting expert”, take it with a grain of salt. Think about how many years a person would have to be a parent to become proficient at it, let alone an expert. Then ask yourself how many kids of their own they have. I’m guessing you would need at least 20 kids of your own to come close to being an expert, and those poor women who have that many children are too bloody tired to share any opinion!
4. Some days are just shit
They are. But there is always tomorrow.
5. You are enough
From the day this beautiful tiny human being began growing inside of you, you have been everything it needs. This won’t change once they are born. You will have days when you feel like you are doing it all wrong. Try not to let it overwhelm you. Your baby loves you. Your baby will always love you. You are their world. Every day, in every way, You. Are. Enough.