Monday, November 8, 2010

10 Things I Have Learned From Being A Mum

1. There is no 'right way' to parent, there is only the 'right way for you'.  Every baby is different.  No matter how brilliant the advice, there will always be at least one baby who it doesn't work for.  Defend your way, but don't go so far as to tell other mothers they're useless and don't really love their babies.

2. Being a mum is like doing a PhD.  No one quite understands what you do all day, you get excited about obscure things, it's never finished, and you have to live off someone else's money.

3. You have to make big choices with no idea whether they're ultimately going to be the best thing for your baby. There is so much conflicting information for parents that even if you were superwoman, you couldn't follow all the professional recommendations you are given. It is excruciating.

4. I have a much better appreciation of my own mum, and my nanna and grandma must have been absolute legends to raise several kids without modern appliances and in an era where dads thought that once work finished it was time to bugger off and do their own thing.

5. The best thing you can say to a new mum is that she's doing a good job - because nothing takes a beating with motherhood like your self-confidence.  Mum's don't get excited about milestones because they are competitive - they get excited because each milestone seems like such a gigantic leap that it seems like your baby's never going to do it, and you half think that you must be doing something wrong and your baby is still going to be lying on her back, gurgling at the ceiling when she's supposed to start primary school.  They get excited because they are so relieved to have some kind of external validation that they are doing ok.

6.  The best thing you can give a new mum (apart from doing the housework) is your time and patience - to let her know when you catch up that you don't mind if the occasion gets hijacked by the baby, and that you can entertain yourself if and when that happens, and still want to talk when she gets back.  The last thing she wants to do is feel she has to choose between you and the baby.

7.  Never wake the baby.  Sleeping babies are not boring.  They are awesome.

8.  You might have chosen to have a baby but you can't really know what it's like until you do it for yourself.  It doesn't matter how many kids you've been around, you've never been the person ultimately responsible for another person's life.  You've never felt that fear and anxiety that makes you get up every 10 minutes to check the baby's still breathing, even when you're completely exhausted - but you've also never been so in love.

9.  Feminism feels hypothetical.  It doesn't matter what you did or who you were before the baby, somehow you have ended up at home, doing endless loads of unpaid laundry, cooking, cleaning, and childwrangling.  Cause someone has to do it, and you're the person who's there.

10.  There is a fine line between sympathy and pity.  Stay at home mums want you to understand that what they do takes skill and patience, and it's hard work - but they don't want your pity, they want your respect.


  1. This sounds so very familiar.... As I have already vocalised I strongly support number 9. It is a very different feminism now... it has to be; there is no true equality in this role, because a person must take on the responsibility of being the primary care-giver.

    But I also really think that 5 and 2 are incredibly true. People (I didn't expect) said to me I was a good mum and it really boosted how I felt I was doing this very important job.
    Keep up the writing!

  2. So true! I felt exactly the way you did when I had my first child. I was just getting contradictory information from everywhere.

    Interestingly, when my second was having trouble sleeping at one point, one of the girls I blog with (who is childless) went and looked on the internet to try and help me. She came back with the cry of "Oh my god there's a bunch of contradictory guilt-inducing bullsh*t out there! Geez you've done well to navigate through it." It was so nice to hear.

    And yes, I reckon YOU'RE doing a great job too. :)