What parenting advice would you give your pre-child self? It being half term in our world, this seems the right time to share this letter I wrote to myself as a mama-to-be. (Originally written for Alex & Alexa’s blog.)
I’ve just spent two days in Paris with my little girl (more to come on this) and it was such a delight; and then I came home to my husband and little boy. We’d all missed each other and were so happy to be together that I’ve been doing some serious counting of blessings. Here’s the advice I offered to my (entirely clueless) self from my slightly-less-clueless perspective, nearly six years in…
Congratulations – and welcome to the adventure of a lifetime. As you stand, teetering, on the precipice, please don’t be (too) scared. Yes, the enormity of it – the fact that you are about to have brand new actual human being who is entirely dependent upon you – is bewildering. But you can do this. I promise.
It is impossible to appreciate the enormity of the love you will feel. I won’t even try to explain; you will discover it for yourself. (Do not – however – chastise yourself if you don’t fall in love immediately. Not everyone does. It will come.) You will love with a fierceness that, at times, takes your breath away. Yes, when they are tiny, you will inhale their sweet baby smell ‘til you are dizzy, but as they grow, so too does the love. When they slip their soft, chubby little hands into yours. When they stop to examine a ladybird. When you watch them sleep. When they sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ as they busy themselves with their Important Tasks (e.g. lining up all the cars, end to end). You would face down lions for them. You will want to stuff them with love.
You will also be surprised how it affects your other relationships. Cliché has it that your relationship with your partner comes under strain. (I know you cherish yours and worry about what is to come.) Okay, I admit: you will have less time together. You will dream of the days when you companionably read the paper in bed with a coffee in blissful silence after a lie-in. Even had a conversation without approximately 24 interruptions. (Do this now. Do this a lot.) What cliché doesn’t tell you is that watching him be such a wonderful father to your children; working as a team to raise your children, will make you love him even more. You will also find yourself awed by your own parents, as you watch them fall in love with your children (and become such willing slaves!). You will appreciate as never before how they loved you and the childhood they gave you. You will wonder at their endless reserves of patience.
Ah, patience. You will forever feel you do not have enough. (Let’s face it: it is not your strongest suit.) You will also fret that you do not do enough for your children; question whether or not what you are doing is enough; if the choices you make are the right ones. You will worry you are not good enough. You will set expectations for yourself and then feel guilty when you fall short. Please be kind to yourself. Your best is – probably – good enough (most of the time). Feel you fell short today? Good news: tomorrow is always a new start. Children live in the present – try to do the same.
This brings me to something Very Important Indeed (which took me until baby number two to realise – help yourself out and register it now): comparison is the thief of joy. Comparing yourself – worrying that you fall short or are somehow ‘getting it wrong’ – is the road to ruin: the more you view your life in relative terms, the less likely you are to be happy. The grass is not always greener. Your own little lawn is just fine. Just look at the breakfast picnics and camps and fairy dens it can hold.
You don’t have to do it all. Perfect home, pulled-together and styled at all times, home-cooked meals, soaring career, Instagram-adorable children… The truth is: no one lives like this. No one is good at everything. You are never going to be any other ‘type’ of parent other than the one that you are. So, just trust your instincts; do what makes you happy and what you feel in your heart is best for your family. And it will be enough.
Because of love. (I keep coming back to that, don’t I?) Because your children won’t just be in your heart; they will be your heart.
With all my love,