Yesterday, I was chatting to Alessandra Steinherr (friend, ex-colleague, brilliant woman, beauty guru – there is nothing, but nothing she doesn’t know about beauty. Follow her on Instagram (@alexsteinerr) right now) – and amidst the chat, she talked about her adored niece and nephews. You laugh – she pointed out – differently with children. It comes from right down deep inside. It is pure, simple joy.
She’s completely right. My children have opened my eyes to the delight of uncomplicated happiness, because they live in the moment, especially when they’re little. On the way home, I got to thinking (in the manner of Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City, but far from perching winsomely at my desk wearing something scanty but expensive , I was bundled up like the Michelin man) what else my children have taught me.
To take delight in the little things.
That will never conquer the washing basket. That sucker always wins.
I can’t do it all and I really shouldn’t try to.
There is no ‘right way’ to parent. Everyone (and I really do mean everyone) has advice from the moment you are visibly pregnant. My favourite is probably woman who told me that I needed to treat my children like dogs. “What you need, my gel,” (yes, she really did speak like this), “is a whistle. When you whistle, they stop. Or come.” To heel, presumably. Other people will do it different ways. You may waiver, and question your judgement, but you really are the one person who knows what’s best for you and you family.
On which note, there is no ‘right way’ to work. Or not work. Or work part-time. Or be at stay at home mum. My friends span the spectrum. They are all bloody amazing. End of. I’ve tried all three – and am currently trying another way (part-time, freelance – to give my family the benefit of my flexibility). What works at one time might not work at another. You do what have to do.
Please note re the above: there is no easy option, either.
There is so much fun to be had – and it’s incredibly cathartic to be silly. There is an unfettered joy in playing Musical Statues wearing a tutu meant for a five-year-old. (We often end the day this way. Or with the Sofa Olympics.)
Children need you more as they grow.
To slow down.
It’s possible to repeat things. Over and over and over…. Books. Questions. The converation, “Mummy?” “Yes darling.” “Mummy?” And set to repeat. See also: “And what do you say?”
Children love picking their noses.
That at first you have these grand plans – and you think it’s all about your parenting; that you’re building this little person. The more I see, the more I think that children are born their own little person: you’re just there to guide the the best you can, and offer cuddles and food at regular intervals.
That my life pre-children was so easy and how I failed to appreciate it at the time. Imagine, only having to suit yourself?
Now, you will hardly ever have time for yourself. Which is why I like to cook supper with a glass of wine of my hand.
How much I faffed at work. Zheesh, but you become ultra-effective when you have kids. You can squeeze a lot into an hour.
It is possible to function on almost no sleep. (First month back at work after baby 1. New job. Husband away. Baby up all night with croup. 20 minutes sleep. Survived.)
But tired can become a default setting when you have small children and are trying to do it all (see above). On the up side, this means it is perfectly permissible to be found hiding your head in the cupboard, stuffing a chocolate digestive in your mouth to get through bath and bedtime.
That you need a support network. It can make or break you.
8am is now a lie-in. (And even when you are child-free, you will still wake early.)
Everything is A Phase.
You will never love your children more than when you watch them sleep.
You will never get bored of kissing them. Smooching takes on a whole new meaning.
That this, too, shall pass. So enjoy the moments.