Wow. A year has passed by incredibly fast and little Kitty Rose has gone from a tiny dot, underweight for her height to a walking, pointing, babbling little character who knows exactly what she wants and is anything but a featherweight. It’s not always been easy, I’ve had my melt-down days and I have learned a tremendous amount. Here are the biggest lessons I have learned, or rather, am still learning because it’s all a process. My advice to all soon to be mummies out there…

  1. Love. Love is far bigger than you think it is. You might think you know how big it is already but when you have a child it reaches a different level. You really do fall in love with your children. You adore every little inch of them, it changes your perspectives on everything. However, that doesn’t mean that motherhood is all roses…
  2. Hard Work. Anyone who has been in a long term relationship knows that love isn’t all hearts and flowers, that it’s work, communication and compromise. Your relationship with your child is very similar, only you are doing ALL of the compromising. You have to work at being a mum, learn from your mistakes and hopefully keep getting better. You will make mistakes but….
  3. You have to be kind to yourself. Nobody is perfect and you’re being asked to take on the toughest job of your life while suffering from sleep deprivation. You won’t always get it right. To make it easier to get it right though, you have to be kind to yourself. Prioritise sleep, prioritise eating well and keeping hydrated when you have the opportunity, you are mummy and mummy has to be as happy and healthy as she can be under the circumstances. While you’re at it…
  4. Have faith in yourself. Mummy is sovereign. Your Mum won’t agree with the experts, the experts don’t agree with each other and you may find yourself feeling very confused. All you can do is go with your gut and do what you think is right. The worst thing you can do is allow anyone else’s opinions get to you because…
  5. Feeling under pressure is the enemy. You will have a lot to fit in. Babies need a lot of attention. If the housework suffers, let it. Your first priorities are your baby’s health and wellbeing and your own health and wellbeing. Everything else will have to take a back seat because….
  6. You have to stay calm at all times if at all possible. If you get stressed, it all falls apart. A baby won’t sleep for a stressed mummy and panicking to avoid one drama may well be the direct cause of another. Keep check lists in your head for how to handle a crisis and, if needs be, take a minute, by yourself, to breathe. This one is a tall order, you won’t always manage it but..
  7. Forgive yourself. Things will go wrong. Your baby will put things in their mouths so unsanitary it will make you fear for their lives, they will fall and they will hurt themselves in spite of all your good intentions. All you can do is your best. Pick your bub up, dust them off, wipe away their tears, learn from your mistakes and move on.
  8. Forgive everyone else too, it might not be them that’s crazy. You are going to be grumpy. Accept it. Your partner might be being an arse, but you might be being an arse too. Men tend to be more relaxed and women do find that infuriating but go easy on him, he’s new to this too. Same goes for everyone else that you’re close to. Missing out on sleep is hard but…
  9. It’s not as bad as it could be. There was an experiment that once proved that just twenty minutes of sleep every four hours was more than sufficient to keep you, not just going, but very productive. I’m not saying that you won’t feel tired and grumpy sometimes, just that it’s much easier to cope with than you think and after a year with a baby who, after a great start, has never slept through the night, I have formed a theory. What makes you grumpy is not sleep deprivation, it’s believing that you are sleep deprived. It’s feeling frustrated that your baby isn’t sleeping through when everyone tells you that they should be. Baby sleep is actually fairly erratic, even according to the experts, a sleep regression, some over-excitement or a change in routine can upset even the most champion sleeper and you will struggle to get eight hours in a row but you don’t necessarily need eight hours in a row. Before electric lights and nine to five, it may actually have been normal for people to sleep in two chunks. So don’t get yourself wound up longing for the day when they finally sleep through…embrace the new normal. Change your habits to fit with your new challenges and keep your chin up. This is a tough one and I’ve had some very tearful tired days but I’m actually feeling fine right now despite getting only five hours of broken sleep most nights for 7 months. It can be done.
  10. You might get lonely. Your health visitor will tell you that feeling isolated is common among new mothers and that it’s important to have a support network. If you are like me you will shrug that off. I’m an independent soul, raised an only child and used to my own company. It has taken me a year to admit that I get lonely. I get grumpy at hubby when he is late home from work, complaining about the uneven burden of parenting, but it’s not the time with Kitty that I want to end. It’s the time on my own. The thing is that when you are on your own usually, you will occupy your mind with solitary pursuits, when you are parenting you can’t do that. You are, in fact, constantly involved in social interaction, it’s just that the social interaction you are involved in is with a small person with whom you cannot be yourself and for whom you must do everything. There is an easy solution for this, seek out company whenever you need it. Reach out. Go on, you know you want to.

So there you have it. The big lessons that I am still learning throughout my experience as a Mum. They are really big, hard, lessons to learn. But I think they are full of transferable skills which mean that, if you do it right, being a Mum CAN actually make you a better person. Watch this space, I hope to be a happier more socially adjusted individual in the very near future.

Bonus lesson…

11) Enjoy every little thing. They grow so fast. They change so rapidly and while you love the little person they are becoming, you also miss the little person they used to be. Don’t look at your phone, don’t waste time, enjoy every moment with them because it is all so fleeting. Don’t set up a conflict you don’t need to have with them, relax and let them be who they are, there will be time for teaching rules and discipline when they are bigger and will actually understand it. Equally, focus on enjoying every little thing you can while you have the time to be just you rather than mummy. When Kitty was first born, I would take every opportunity I had to relax and to enjoy myself. If Pete offered to take her for a bit, I would drink a cup of tea in the garden and listen to the bird song. If she went down for a nap in a bed, rather than in my arms (a rarity until she was six months), I would take a long hot shower and shave my legs, sometimes I would sleep or I would get on the computer and write or read a book. I didn’t worry about anything but the most basic of housework like washing up and the laundry until my mother-in-law came down and then I would leave her in charge and blitz everything. Then I stopped doing that. I thought I had to become more productive (feeling under pressure is the enemy!!). I used every nap to work out, do housework blah, blah, blah….and I wore myself out. It’s taken weeks to begin feel human again (and to start to realise how horribly grumpy I’ve been). In the modern world, we make a virtue of punishing ourselves and pushing ourselves to our limits. Don’t do it.

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