Parenthood… Sweet chubby little babies looking angelic as they sleep; giggles and squeals of delight as they play; cuddles and kisses and “I love you” as they get older. Meanwhile you waft about looking calm and collected, serene and confident. Right? No, me neither.
Firstly, the sleep thing is a lie. My eldest child didn’t sleep through the night until she was 2. That’s years, not months. Her younger brother hasn’t figured it out yet either and he’s 18 months. They do look angelic when they’re asleep, but I’ve never been sure how much of that is due to you finally getting a break and feeling more fond of them as a result.
The giggles are cute, sure. As long as you know that they’re caused by a safe, parent-sanctioned toy rather than a fun game of ‘Hide Mummy’s keys’ or ‘What can I smear on the wall today’. Sometimes having children can be rather like starring in a horror film; too many body fluids, torturous practices like sleep deprivation, a sense that any moment now something is going to go horribly wrong. Oh, and hearing a child’s giggles coming from a previously quiet room? Even more chilling when you’re a parent; it’s likely they’re doing something that will take a lot of time, money or both to clean up.
Feeding? Well, feeding a baby is pretty simple for the first few months – you stick a nipple or a bottle in their mouth and bingo! It’s when you start weaning onto solid food that things begin to get complicated. You know those adverts you see for baby foods, with the sparkling kitchen and a smiling parent feeding a clean, happy baby? Yeah, that doesn’t happen. Regardless of whether you’re spoon-feeding purée, handing the child finger foods (that’s food they can eat with their fingers, not food made from fingers – it’s not that much of a horror film) you can pretty much guarantee that the baby’s digestive system will see precious little of it. On the other hand you, the table, walls, floor and cat will have a liberal coating.
(Top tip: never ever feed your child weetabix mixed with breast milk. They may enjoy it and you may congratulate yourself for a job well done but when that stuff dries it sets harder than concrete).
Nappy changes are another key area where new parents rapidly become disillusioned. Advertising would lead you to believe that kissing your child’s peachy little bottom is what every parent does when changing nappies. Not in this house, pal. Before DD was a week old she had mastered both the high-powered liquid poo (her record was about 4 feet) and the dreaded poonami – a tidal wave of poo that can leave you and your child looking as though you’ve been gunged by Noel Edmunds. DS, on the other hand, concentrated his early efforts on learning to wee in his own eye.
There are many other things I wish I’d known before having children (like their unerring ability to wake just as you doze off, and the fact that you won’t go to the toilet on your own for years) but I’ll stop now before I singlehandedly cause the UK conception rate to plummet. Do feel free to add your own suggestions though!