The best advice for new parents? Keep it to yourself
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Apparently, new parents feel 'completely overwhelmed' by the advice they are given by well-meaning friends and family and struggle to see the wood for the trees when it comes to raising the tiny human they've just brought home from hospital.
I remember the tsunami of advice I received and that the best bit I was ever given, by a fellow new mother, was 'ignore everyone, just do whatever it takes to get them to go to sleep'. I think she meant the babies, I don't think she was suggesting some kind of euthanasia for advice givers (although that's how you feel towards some of them at the time).
My mother, who took on the child care when I got back to work and did the most incredible job, used the Dr Spock method with me.
Spock babies are fed on demand, sleep in the parent's room in a Moses basket and basically rule the roost like miniature dictators without the facial hair (some even have the facial hair – there were some monsters born when I was in hospital, you'd have needed to shave them before photographs).
As a Spock baby, I am still feeding on demand, although I am making a concerted effort to cut out the 11pm and 5am bottles thanks to continuing support from my sponsor – I can no longer fit in the Moses basket, but still rule the roost.
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With my own children, I decided that I could either study baby manuals and equip myself with as much information about child-rearing as possible so that I could make an informed choice about which technique to use, or I could spend the time I'd have wasted reading claptrap sitting on the sofa watching Hollyoaks and eating chipsticks.
By the time I gave birth, I knew nothing about child-rearing but a great deal about Chester teenagers and the differing quality of own-brand chipsticks from several leading supermarkets.
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As a result, I made it all up as I went along. We quickly established who was boss in the house (the babies) and what kind of routine would work for us (one that involved me not getting dressed for days on end and looking as if I'd recently escaped from an asylum).
Instead of trifling matters like routines and consistency, I concentrated on far more important issues, such as buying really nice babygrows, identifying which jars of baby food caused the much-feared 'up the back and into the hair' nappies and honing my withering put-downs for non-parents who dared complain about feeling tired in my ear-shot.
There's nothing that irritates a parent more than a non-parent telling them how tired they are. Even if the non-parent has plenty of good reason for being tired, parents never accept that it can be the same kind of 'I just washed up the margarine and put a hair brush in the fridge' tired that we suffer from.
In turn, non-parents feel patronised when new mums and dads claim to have the monopoly on being knackered.
Of course, both camps have valid points, although you'd think those disposable-income spending, mini-break taking, tidy house owning, wide-awake, well-rested childless ingrates could have cut us a bit of slack now and again.
Yes, you've just climbed Mount Everest with a fridge freezer on your back for charity and you're moving house again, but I haven't had a decent night's sleep since 1997.
I see your stress at work and I raise you impetigo, head-lice, threadworms, children's entertainers and teenagers who tell you they'll be home by 3am and roll in at 7.30am. Now tell me you're bloody tired again and I'll brain you – or rather I would, if I had the energy: I'm 22 years into this parenting lark and I can barely stay awake past 7pm.
The moral of this tale? Keep your parenting advice to yourself unless you're asked for it. Trust me, it's the best gift you can give a new parent - that and lots and lots of offers to babysit. Overnight.