“Parenting isn’t hard at all,” said no parent EVER! It is a hard gig at every stage, because the goal posts keep shifting. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the baby stuff, they turn into toddlers and then it’s a mere a hop, skip and a jump to the tween years!
Motherhood involves many changes. Right now I am adjusting to life with four kids, including a baby with a chronic allergy to sleep. It has thrust me back to newborn days (read: daze) and I am reminded of how gruelling and unrelenting motherhood can be in the early years. But with the benefit of hindsight I know how to make it easier. Here are my top ten survival tips.
1. Sense of humour
Humour is crucial to motherhood survival. Most new parents smile a lot in the early weeks. Babies are fascinating subjects and provide endless amusement. But such postnatal bliss can be hard to maintain. Life stresses invariably get in the way and, after the honeymoon period is over, that explosive nappy at exactly the wrong time doesn’t seem very funny any more. Try to maintain a sense of humour amidst the chaos. Just like the alleged ‘Sleep promotes sleep’ theory (logic lost on my baby) laughter is contagious – laugh often and you’ll laugh lots.
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Today was supposed to be a "productive" day. You know one of those days where you "get shit done". Well, it didn't go to plan. First, I woke up tired and sick. My 5 yo and baby are also sick. My 5yo had a raging temperature and so I kept her home from kinder. Which means I lost those 5 hours to get shit done. Speaking of shit, my baby pooed all over me today, then proceed to crawl in her exploding nappy, spreading it all over the carpet. Charming. While I was cleaning up the poo, I left her sans nappy in her room and she took that as license to wee all over that floor. I am up to my eyeballs in snot and i've got hay fever going on as well so I can't stop sneezing. It's testing my pelvic floor. My baby has also developed quite the taste for nipple biting. Man those two bottom teeth hurt like hell. Oh, and to top it off, I have a blocked milk duct so my left boob is in agony. I was supposed to be going out with the kinder mums for dinner, but those plans also got kicked to the curb. So now I am about to get that pump out and relieve this duct and then I plan on collapsing in a heap. The life of a mum is so glamorous hey? Tell me it's not just me having "one of THOSE days!!!". ??#gotnoshitdone #justgotcoveredinshit
2. Find your tribe
Early motherhood can be lonely, especially if you’ve gone from full-time work to full-time mothering. It’s a massive adjustment and can feel tedious and monotonous. Every mum needs a Mum Squad – essential for exchanging war stories. When things go pear shaped, phone a friend or meet a local during witching hour. Find someone who shares the same interests, like an afternoon walk or wine (personally I prefer the latter) and kill those last two hours of the day together.
3. Play to your strengths
While it’s true that children don’t come with instruction manuals, mothers are born with instincts. Learn to trust your gut and play to your strengths. When you feel good at something, you feel valued and it reinforces you’re contribution and importance. Everyone has an Achilles heel (mine is night-time settling – lucky my hubby is good at this!) but focus less on your weaknesses and more on your strengths.
4. Shake it off
Gotta love Tay Tay for reinforcing this mantra, which can be applied to all sorts of scenarios. My advice to anyone dealing with unsolicited advice (read: unwarranted criticism) is to smile politely and say: “Thank you for your advice, I’ll keep it in mind”. Then blast Tay Tay through your speakers and, quite literally, shake it off!
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Breastfeeding has not always come easily to me. And this time it has been particularly hard. We have struggled with SO many issues since she was born. Reflux, undiagnosed tongue ties, attachment problems, supply issues, elimination diets, and the sheer exhaustion that comes with these obstacles. But we have battled on and here we are, 8 months and still breastfeeding. It has been hard going. And I know I am not alone. So many women face obstacles and without the right support it can be a barrier to breastfeeding. It won’t always work for everyone. It almost didn’t work for us. But, with support, determination and a bucket load of stubborn resolve, we have made it this far. And I am pretty darn pleased. It’s world breastfeeding week so I am sharing this beautiful photo of me feeding Miss I when she was less than 72 hours old. ❤️#worldbreastfeedingweek #normalizebreastfeeding #babiesofinstagram
5. Ditch the guilt
Kick “Mummy Guilt” to the curb. It’s unhelpful and toxic. Every mother has different skills and approaches to mothering; there is no single right way. We need to trust our instincts more and listen to others less. Whilst a pang of guilt here and there is inevitable, don’t be weighed down by it. Please don’t fall victim to Guilty Mum Syndrome.
6. Celebrate the victories
Free of guilt you can now replace self-blame with self-praise. Too often we are clouded by what seems to be going wrong. It’s important to acknowledge the progress that is being made, even the small stuff. And remember that a small victory equals big impact. So cheer yourself along and do a happy dance when your child sleeps through the night, learns to wipe their own bottom, or eats your dinner blissfully unaware of the vegetables you cleverly disguised.
7. Be kind to yourself
Give back to yourself for a change and have a mental health day. Write it on the calendar, set a reminder on your iPhone, and sync it to all your gadgets. Make it HAPPEN! Sometimes we need to schedule something in order for it to happen. You need a day of self-replenishment every month, so no more excuses. You deserve it.
8. A good dose of Vitamin D
Rays of sunshine are the perfect antidote to mothering stress and fatigue. It’s amazing how something so simple as a walk, be it alone, or strolling with your pram, can enhance your mood instantly. Make it a regular part of your day. Vitamin D is gold.
9. Don’t try to be the perfect mum
The myth that a mother needs to be everything for their child to flourish is simply that – a myth. It’s a natural and healthy instinct to want to do the best for your kids. But it becomes unhealthy when you strive to live up to an ideal that doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as a perfect mum. Instead, aim for “Good-Enough”. Don’t let social media sell you a lie.
10. Set your own standards
Finally, don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t measure your happiness against what you think you see. Perception and reality are different things. This quote by Theodore Roosevelt sums it up beautifully. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” There is no perfect person. No perfect parent. No perfect child. And, definitely no perfect family. Move to the beat of your own family drum.
Michaela Fox is a freelance writer, blogger and mother of three. She muses on the ups and downs of motherhood on her blog Not Another Slippery Dip, and believes in ‘good-enough’ parenting. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.