It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a pregnant woman in possession of a good sized bump, must be in want of some sage advice. At least, that seems to be the prevailing assumption, given that as soon as you announce your pregnant status the entire world and their mother-in-law seem hell bent on imparting their wonderful knowledge on to you. Most of the advice given is well meaning, and some of it is actually helpful, but a significant proportion of it is about as useful as a waterproof towel. Here are some of the classic pieces of such advice, and if you happen to find yourself on the receiving end, try to smile and nod politely, as your advisor probably has the best intentions.
1. Enjoy It Now Because When The Baby Arrives You Won’t Be Able To
Enjoy going to the cinema now, because when your child arrives you won’t have the time. Enjoy eating at a fancy restaurant now, because when your child arrives, you will be limited to family friendly pubs and soft play centres. Etc. Etc. Although this advice is generally meant kindly, and intended to convey the idea that becoming a parent is utterly life-changing, it’s really not that helpful. For one thing, babysitters do exist. It’s true, I’ve seen one. And secondly, in my pregnant state, I’m already aware that this is going to be a major upheaval, and I’m pretty petrified of the prospect, so reminding me of that isn’t going to help.
2. Sleep When The Baby Sleeps
This is one that is repeated time and time again, and it does seem logical at first. But what do I do if the baby will only sleep when I’m holding her? Or will only sleep when I’m pushing her in a pram? Or driving a car? I’m pretty sure that my falling asleep in any of those situations would be frowned upon. And even if I do win the genetic lottery and get a child who will sleep happily in her cot, am I supposed to then leap into bed and instantly fall asleep? The chances are this will get me a 30-minute nap at the most, not the usual 8 hours I had before the baby arrived. Plus I have other things that I need to do when the baby sleeps, like having a shower (important), feeding myself (very important), and catching up on the season finale of Broadchurch (extremely important).
3. Don’t Spoil Your Child By Holding Him Too Much
Your baby has just been evicted from a nice, warm, safe environment where they have been happily growing for nine months. Their new home is cold, loud, full of bright colours and strange smells. The only thing familiar is the sound of your voice and your smell. You cannot spoil a newborn baby by holding them. Your baby doesn’t think, “Ha, if I cry Mummy will pick me up and give me attention!” because, in the nicest possible way, your baby isn’t that clever yet and not capable of thinking like that. Your baby just wants to feel safe, and they feel safest with you.
4. Cherish Every Moment, They Grow Up So Fast
This one is partially true, children do grow up fast. They also give you some amazing memories. However, that time when my daughter escaped mid-nappy change and left a trail of poo all over my cream coloured carpet, or that time when I picked up my son and he vomited in my hair, I think I’m going to try and wipe them from my memory.
5. Leave The Housework, Concentrate On Your Baby
OK, as someone who detests housework this sounds like a good plan to me. Except now I have run out of clean knickers. My kitchen is now an affront to public health and there is no way I am letting my baby crawl around on the carpet in the living room when it hasn’t been vacuumed in several weeks and is full of biscuit crumbs and mud from my husband’s shoes. It might be the case that no one ever died from not doing enough dusting, but when ants start setting up home around your fridge, it’s probably time to take a bit of action.
6. It Gets Easier As They Get Older
It doesn’t get easier. It gets different. When your child is a toddler you might not have to worry about a lack of sleep, but you do have to worry about your child killing themselves by using baby walker as a stepping stool to reach the biscuits on the kitchen side. When your child starts school you have to juggle swimming lessons, scout meetings and homework and you worry about bullying and stress from exams. When they become teenagers you have to overcome your innate British awkwardness to talk about sex and then hope that they don’t get pregnant, get someone else pregnant, or end up on a bench somewhere blitzed on cider. Instead of focusing on the idea that it will magically get easier, it is better to remember that it’s just another phase, and that “this too shall pass.”