When I was living in Sydney, I would go to the Archibald exhibition every year and gaze into the minds of brilliant artists through their portraiture. I will never forget one year I stumbled across a forlorn teenage girl on a school art excursion. It conjured memories of my own high school years. I approached her in all my adult glory and said reassuringly, “I promise you it gets better.” She looked up at me, appalled that I had the audacity to approach her and said, “Piss off.”
I recently remembered that encounter and it got me thinking about the wisdom I have acquired through the years which compelled me to pen a letter to my childless-self addressing some of the opinions I held and things I said. So here it is:
1. My child will not watch TV or any screen until they are at least 5 years of age.
You know how you glare down at those parents from your really high horse that give iPads to their kids? Best get down from that horse now. In fact, you may want to put the horse down. Because here's what, your first-born will be about eight months when she starts watching cartoons. And your second kid… he’s watching from birth. Before your daughter turns two, you will have watched Frozen that many times, that you contemplate writing a dissertation on in-depth character analyses of the entire cast. You wont know all the words to the songs but that’s so much more fun as it pisses your child off no end when you sing incorrectly and with such gusto. Embrace the screen; it’s your friend.
2. I will never lose my patience with my children. Being a parent is such a blessing and I will cherish every moment.
Ok, so you really struggle to conceive the first kid. As such, you do judge those who are super fertile that may not be the ideal parent, mostly out of jealousy that they can have kids and you can’t. Then you paint this picture in your mind that you will have these gloriously well-behaved children and it will be all smiles and fun food fights and play dates on the beach. Great news is, that will happen. But when you’re a stay at home mum, you spend every waking moment with these kids and at the best of times, they will be assholes. They will push your buttons, break you down, stay awake, have tantrums, throw food, shit on the floor, breakdown in public, pull your hair, throw up in your mouth and a whole bunch of stuff that will push you to your very limits. So yeah, you’re gonna lose it every now and then. That mum you see at the supermarket screaming at her kids pushing the trolley, that’s probably what’s happened to her. So quit judging and brace yourself for what’s to come.
3. I want to have a natural birth with absolutely no intervention in a birthing pool and the soft sounds of the ocean playing in the background. I will refuse any medical assistance and the offer of any drugs.
To be fair, you weren’t far off this happening. You planned it all right down to the battery operated tea light candles to create ambience for your perfectly planned birth. Then you got induced. Then everything went to shit real quick. You will have gas, an epidural and before you know it, they’re tearing your first born from an emergency caesarean. For a long time you beat yourself up about it. The fact is, you and baby are both healthy and that is way more important then anything else so you need to let that shit go. Besides, you get your awesome natural birth with your second baby and you love it. Just don’t be so hard and fast with your non-negotiable terms and conditions for childbirth. It’s complicated and the more open minded you are about the possibilities, the less disappointed you are with the outcomes. You later learn to appreciate that the birth of the child is a mere blip on the radar when it comes to the parenting bit.
4. I don’t know how I will get along with other mum’s. All my mates are guys and I don’t really enjoy the company of women.
Not going to lie, this one was a bit of a struggle initially. A few of the mums you meet in the beginning are slightly neurotic, obscenely wholesome or just really dull. But don’t despair. Eventually you will meet a bunch of mums that absolutely get you. And they will be your tribe. They will be there to pick you up, deliver you coffee, they will listen and let you cry. They will whole-heartedly understand exactly what you are feeling because they get it. And they get it so much more than any male in your life. These women are your super heroes and play an integral part in keeping you sane. They will get through the tough times and the hurt. They will offer sound advice and come to your aid. You will have a newfound appreciation for the solidarity and strength that comes from being a woman. You thought you were a feminist before? You will be preaching the awesomeness of woman-kind as loud as you can to anyone who will listen post babies. Quite possibly, the best thing to come from this parenting caper.
If I can give you just one bit of advice, back yourself. Quit giving yourself such a hard time. The more confidence you have in what you do, the stronger you are. The stronger you are, the happier your kids are. Enjoy them. All said and done; they’re both great kids.
From older, mama you.
P.S. Eventually, you give in and get a soccer mum car. Your osteopath will thank you.