It is all too easy to feel like you are failing at parenting. Whilst there are hundreds of manuals and books giving you instruction on the best way to do things, at the end of the day it is all down to personal preference and I think we grow and improve with time.
I've been a parent for over 12 years now and if I'm honest it feels like a lifetime (in a good way). I can hardly recall what it was like to have a weekend ahead and no-one else relying on me. Parenting certainly does help you learn to be less self-centered when you have a small person (or three) relying on you for their every need,
But it is scary at first, right? I clearly remember bringing JJ home from the hospital after a traumatic birth and having been in there for four days. We headed straight off to Mothercare to buy some dummies (or soothers as them seem to be called nowadays), have a quick McDonalds so I didn't have to worry about tea and then my husband headed out to lead Cub Scouts and left me at home with this tiny little person with baggy skin and big alien eyes.
I laugh when I think back to myself sat on the sofa with JJ at my shoulder pondering when dh would come home as what did I do if he cried too much? How could it be that the last time I sat on that sofa it was only me and my husband to be concerned about and now we had this special responsibility of parenting a child. Rather than being too worried I did what has now become a habit at times when I need reassurance. I headed to the Internet and more specially at that time to my birth club on Baby Centre.
I don't use Baby Centre anymore but I am still in touch with most of those woman who I first chatted to when pregnant with JJ. We have met many times over the years and this year one of the families even loaned us their house for a summer holiday. I do believe that strong friendships are made through the bond of parenthood and even now we have an Oct 03 group on Facebook and it is where I head to if I need age-appropriate advise or reassurance. I'm not at all alone in this as research by Nurofen for children (*) found that one in five Mums turn to other parents, just as I do.
Why are we not seeking out our doctors or health visitors I wonder, but turning to friends or our own Mums instead (38% turn to their own Mum for advise)? But I think it is simple really, for me it was about availability, I could tap straight into my friends online or call my Mum when I needed to and getting an appointment with a health professional can be tricky and you always have that nagging feeling at the back of your mind that you might be wasting their time.
As a new Mum I very much wanted to do everything 'right' and it took me years to learn that there is no one right when it comes to parenting, it is a very personal thing. I've adopted the phrase good-enough parent over the years and this is what I seek to become, I am not perfect but I am perfect for my kids as I am their only Mum and we have that special bond.
Those interactions with health professionals can't be underestimated though. I remember one health visitor coming to our house to do a development check on JJ and I was bombarding her with questions about how I could help and stimulate JJ more, was I doing enough? She gave me a word of knowledge that I have passed on to dozens of other new mums over the years and I still feel reassured by it now. "If a parent is ever questioning if they are doing enough, then they are. As the parents who are not doing enough, never even give it a seconds thought".
I personally found that being a first time Mum was much more nerve-racking than going on to have more kids, even when my second pregnancy produced twins, I still had that calmness and confidence that came from experience. I think the first few months you are a new mum are possibly the hardest but also the most awe-inspiring, as your child passes through so many major milestones - sleeping through the night, cutting their first tooth, rolling over, sitting up and many more.
About six months into my parenting journey I was introduced to a lady called Sue at church. She was also being confirmed and had a baby a few days younger than mine. We got chatting and arranged to meet as we lived close to each other and I soon discovered this was her fifth baby. Of course by the time you get to baby number five your confidence is fully developed and I loved spending time with Sue at her house drinking in her parenting wisdom and calm, confident way. I would definitely credit her for helping me chill out as a parent and learn to go with the flow a bit more, rather than trying to control every tiny thing.
When JJ had his first fever it was Sue I turned to for advise of how to treat him and she recommended Nurofen for Children to me, as do nine out of ten other parents. It was so good to know I was using something to help ease his discomfort that was tried and tested by my own personal parenting guru.
Many years have passed now since that first fever and we have been lucky not to have too many health incidents and ailments but of course kids do get ill and for no apparent reason often, so it is important to me that my first aid basket always has a bottle of Nurofen for children in it. My kids prefer the strawberry flavour and the little syringe is still a hit but the difference is that the kids can now shoot it into their mouth themselves and this can be the source of great hilarity and frankly when they feel a bit rubbish one of the things you want is to cheer them up, even just a little.
Thanks to all the Mums that have supported me along the way over the last 12 years, you have made such a difference.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Nurofen for Children, however all words and opinions expressed are my own.
* Statistics Sources - Survey of 2,000 mums by One Poll, commissioned by Nurofen for Children (October 2013) and survey of 2,000 parents with a baby under 6 years old, commissioned by Nurofen for Children (May 2014)
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