When you decide to have kids, you read a lot of books – especially if you are a woman. You read books on getting pregnant. You read books on childbirth and what to expect during the throes of labour. You read books on sleep training, weaning, tantrums and tall tales and while you’re reading and comparing the children in the books to the ones you have, you miss one very valid point. Children do not come with instructions. The idea that you can expect anything when it comes to raising children is enough to top up that glass of wine and toast yourself for thinking it at all! Not one of those self-help-baby-training magic books mean a thing when your own little screamer slides into the world. Your life is about to be turned upside down in ways you couldn’t imagine and there is not a book in the world that can prepare you for that. The irony? 90% of the authors of those baby books don’t have children.
You could read every book in the world to educate yourself on raising children, and still find that your experience differs from anything they tell you. Children are a marvellous blessing – but an unpredictable one nonetheless – and so to be truly ready for children, all you need to know is how to trust your instincts. Expecting the unexpected is the only way to truly prepare yourself for parenthood and that sounds like the biggest load of rubbish ever, doesn’t it? The thing is, kids wreak absolute havoc in our lives from the first day they make their presence known. They take your definition of normal and they turn it inside out to give it a good shake, while smiling gummily and telling you they love you.
Things change when you have a child. The disposable income you once used to enjoy seems to slip through your fingers at a rate you didn’t expect and before you know it you find yourself knee-deep in filthy diapers with the car broken on the driveway and the boiler on the way out. Your money is dwindling due to the single income and when you need a loan fast to replace the many things that decided to bust at the same time, you can be left panicking and wondering what to do. It’s not just money that seems to run away with you, leaving you feeling poor and stressed out – it’s sleep. Sleep! The magical land between the children going to bed and having breakfast is suddenly snatched away from you and it takes years to get it back. Once you do, you find you’ve forgotten how to sleep soundly, because a part of you is always listening for a cry or a shout.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Parenthood is so full of the unexpected that it helps you to learn to let go of the serious things in life and embrace a little surprise every now and then. Those of you out there reading this who spend most of their time putting their life into organised little boxes will be the ones with the biggest shock. Children smash those boxes down and teach you how to relax and enjoy going with the flow. It may sound like an alien concept, but women have been birthing children for thousands of years and all the “experts” who write parenting books on what you can expect are still rewriting them. All you have to do is love the little sleep thieves that come into your life. Trust your instincts are correct in how you raise them. Learn to save some money so that when the boiler inevitably does blow up…in the middle of winter…during a vomiting bug…you are covered – and not with puke.
There will come a point that you will figure out that you’re already an expert when it comes to your children. No one will know their quirks and differences as well as you and when you are in the supermarket dealing with tiny terror tantrums, or laughing so hard your stomach hurts because of the little skits your children are putting on for you, you’ll finally realise what the truth is. You’ll finally see why that book-burning evening you had after the third night of failed sleep training was right. You are a parent, and your parenting style is more than enough for your children. For the nights that it isn’t? Well, that’s why chocolate and wine were invented.