- 7 months ago
Feed. Change nappies. Coax baby to sleep. Repeat.
One of the great contradictions about the first weeks of being a parent was that while it was one of the most joyful times of my life, it also felt a bit like being on a hamster wheel of routine, with very little chance of taking a break to get some perspective.
So when one of the women from my antenatal class at TheBumpWA encouraged me to sign up for the “Early Days” course, which started when my son was eight weeks old, I thought of it as a way of making sure we got out of the house, got a break, and met a few other mums.
It turned out to be all of that, and more.
On the first day, the facilitator asked us to break into groups and share something about ourselves that in no way related to our babies, pregnancy, or parenting.
I was at a loss. Everything that popped to mind was baby-related. The other women in the group seemed to be having the same problem. We all eventually scrounged up something to share, but it was a good way of jolting us back into ourselves. It was a gentle reminder that while my son was my new top priority, if I was going to be a good parent, I needed to take care of myself too.
This seemingly basic icebreaker was much like the rest of the class– no heavy-handed parenting advice, just a little help in getting conversations started… and once we started talking, it was hard to put on the brakes. Many of the mums often stayed over an hour after the class wrapped up.
With nine mothers whose babies were around the same age, the class was small enough to allow us all to get to know each other well and felt safe enough to be honest about our experiences. It was reassuring to hear that other mothers were having the same struggles as me. Waking up every two hours at night? I wasn’t alone. A baby that hates tummytime? Join the club.
The most valuable part of the course didn’t have to do with what we discussed as much as it did with how we discussed. Conversations about parenting can sometimes feel like navigating a minefield, with deeply held beliefs about what is best for children making it difficult to listen to other points of view.
The ground rule for the class was to be encouraging rather than judgmental– to resist the temptation to be smug when things were going well for us, and to ask for help when there were bumps in the road rather than being insecure and self-pitying.
And perhaps most importantly, to bring a sense of humour and have fun.
Sure, we aired a lot of frustrations– there was a lot of lamenting about sleepless nights!– but we were also able to laugh at our foibles and delight in others’ successes.
During the course of only a few weeks, we watched each others’ children grow bigger, develop the same behaviours, like suddenly discovering that they could roll over, begin to interact with one another, and show us glimpses of their personalities.
Thefacilitators fostered a sense of community that helped me make it every week, when my son was being fussy. It helped that refreshments were served, including the best clotted cream scones I have ever tasted!
Our group represented relatively diverse parenting decisions on everything from whether to use cloth nappies or disposables to co-sleeping to vaccinations, differences that often helped fuel learning rather than tension. One mum was practising “elimination communication”– a form of early toilet training– something that a number of us had been curious about, but didn’t know much about.
The facilitators often had research and anecdotes from years of experiences at the ready, but we also learned to tap into each other’s’ parenting wisdom. As a group, we had a wealth of knowledge on everything from baby swimming classes to chiropractors to how to keep a dummy in a baby’s mouth.
The ground rules for the class have affected the way I approach conversations on parenting generally. It’s helped me with the delicate balance between being secure and confident in my parenting decisions, and being open to new ideas.
Category archives: Parenting
- 2 years ago
So life is pretty great after having a child. You’ve found your routine, learned a ton of new skills, and have finally accepted that sleep-ins will not happen to you again until your blessed little angel hits the teenage years.
So you’re looking for the next challenge; you decide to have baby number two.
But the second time around, things are going to be different. The first time it was just you and your partner, and you had the luxury of time and space to get prepared and organised before the baby arrived. This time, there’s also a little person who is still learning about the world and is used to having mum and dad all to themselves.
It can be a massive change for a child whose life experience is limited to a world where mum and dad are able to attend to his/her needs and wants as soon as they arise. When a new baby arrives requiring a lot of time and attention, it can be difficult for a child to understand why they suddenly have to share mum and dad.
To avoid sibling rivalry and ease the transition for your young family, here are some ways to help your child adjust.
- Let them get used to the idea of having a sibling
Start telling your child what is happening ahead of time. Let them know that mummy and daddy are going to give them a little brother or sister and involve them in the process of letting friends and family know. This makes it exciting for them as well and reinforces what a positive event it will be.
- Explain how the new family structure will work
Let your child know how important their job as an older sibling will be. Use positive language and talk about it regularly leading up to the birth so they can come to understand it for themselves. If you’re having trouble, there are some beautifully illustrated storybooks that can help with this.
- Make other major changes before the baby arrives
If you need to make major changes to your child’s life like move them into another bedroom, do so well before the baby arrives so that your child doesn’t feel displaced by their new sibling. Give them time to settle in before the baby arrives on the scene to allow them to become secure in their new surroundings.
- Get them involved in the baby’s life
Let them help you in preparing for the new baby’s arrival by asking them to pick out a toy for the baby’s cot. When the baby is at home, find ways for them to be involved in caring for the baby as well. Can they fetch wipes for you when your hands are full on the change table? Can they grab a fresh flannel or towel at bath time? Allowing them to do little things to help you can help your older child to feel involved in the family ‘team’. Be sure to thank them sincerely and let them know that their efforts are appreciated.
- Set aside quality time for just you and your older child
Take them to the library, or the park or even just stay at home doing an activity of their choosing. It doesn’t have to be very long, just 15 minutes will do. Use this time to focus on them and listen to their thoughts on the new baby. This will help to alleviate some of those behavioural problems that stem from a sudden lack of attention because of the focus on the new baby.
- Keep as much consistency as you can
Try to keep as much of your child’s routine as consistent as possible. Keeping the same bedtimes will prevent the effects of disruption (and preserve your sanity!).
And finally, don’t hesitate to call in for back up if you need it. Call on the support of your partner or other family members or friends to help you out at home when things get a little crazy. After all, young children use up a lot of energy and even with the best preparations, things can get out of hand very quickly when there is more than one small child begging for more from you. Having someone on standby to help can be a godsend for those days when nothing else will work.