Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Warning: may contain unsolicited parenting advice

Today I found myself handing out some unsolicited parenting advice (UPA). This is not my normal modus operandi. Like most mums-to-be, I was on the receiving end of so much UPA before the birth of Mr7 (and afterwards, often in the queue at the supermarket checkout, I found) that I swore I'd never dispense it myself. I've slipped up over the years, of course - there are moments when a person finds herself saying things before she even realises her mouth is open - but for the most part, I wait until I'm asked.


Not only was today's UPA out of the ordinary, it was also out of the blue. I was doing an interview. I know. Professional and all. With a mum to be, who was sharing some of her thoughts and fears about the impending birth. I asked all my questions, took due note of all her answers and got us unscathed to the end of the interview. She was, like all first-time mums to be, full of what ifs and hows and maybes and shoulds and coulds and... in other words, no clue. "I'm just not sure what it's going to be like," she finished up. "I've been asking everyone. People at work, my friends, my family, the lady at the fruit shop..."

I couldn't help myself. "Can I just say something?" I asked. What was she going to say? No?

 "Of course," she said.

 "It's going to be just like your life, but with an added, new, and wonderful dimension," I said. "Your life goes on. It doesn't suddenly all come to a crashing halt. It's different. But it's still your life."

"Oh," she breathed. "I'm so happy to hear that."

I was emboldened. "Here's the thing," I continued. "I remember feeling exactly as you do before the birth of my first child..."

And I told her about how I'd rung a friend up one day, just before I was due to give birth. My friend F's first baby was five months old by then, fat, happy, gurgly.

"I'm just wondering what you actually do when you take the baby home," I said.

Silence. "What do you mean?" F asked. "Like when you get home from hospital."

Yes, then. When you arrive in your same house, through your same front door, bringing that little person with you that, somehow, they've let you take home with you. Despite the fact that you have not one clue what to do with said little person. What exactly do you do?

"Well," she said, giving the matter careful and considerable thought. "We had a kebab. You could do that."

I'm not sure what I expected, but it was not something as pedestrian as a kebab. "Really?"

"Yes, really. I'd suggest you do that, Al. Put the baby to bed and have a kebab."

See what I mean. Your life goes on, with a whole new dimension in the next room. One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever received. And I was happy to pass it on. Solicited or not.

What's the best piece of parenting advice you've ever received, solicited or otherwise?

[image: thedesigninspiration.com]


  1. The best advice I got was to not put too much emphasis on the parenting books. The person giving it to me pointed out that the problem with the books was the baby hadn't read them. Very true.

  2. My mum told me that it goes so fast. That all the sleepless nights & baby days (daze) might seem like they will never end and then that baby will be 15. Just like that. She told me not to wish those years away.

    I so love this post. I remember my husband & I looking at our firstborn asleep in the bassinet at home & I said "what now?

  3. I think I got so much UPA in the years leading up to the small boy actually arriving that my ears and brain found a way to actually block all of it. But if someone had told me it was all about a kebab I'm sure I would have heard. (Although a big block of chocolate would be a better suggestion for me.)

  4. we left the hospital and said 'ohhhhhhh shit'. Nervous as anything. By the time I bought baby #3 home I had a whole lot of washing up on the sink to do (nice).

    The kebab. Perfect.

    My best bit of advice from my grand mother is 'stay at home and dont force yourself to go out if you really aren't up for it'. should follow that a whole lot more!

  5. We had KFC. Lol- it was good advice!

  6. My mother said sometimes babies just cry. It isn't necessarily an indication of a problem or a fault with your parenting. It's much more stressful for you than it is for them so try and relax because eventually it will just stop and you won't be able to remember what all the fuss was about. This has got me through many a long night when my two were newborns.

  7. Actually when I brought my first one home I put her down and had a cup tea and carried on like normal and actually thought to myself "is that it?" I had already altered my social life because of my pregnancy so this wasn't a complete shock.

    It was when I brought my second baby home that I thought "holy hell, what have I done?"

    I have 4 kids now.

    Love the kebab advice.

    Love & stuff
    Mrs M

  8. That is a good piece of advice. I think we had Chinese.

    The best piece of parenting advice I ever had was to only buy baby socks from a certain store - as they were the only ones to stay on. They were right.

  9. Best advice was in regards to teenagers:

    "Give them just enough rope not to hang themselves!"

    Cranky Old Man

  10. this is really good advice, i was terrified bringing the baby home. best advice my mom gave me was whatever you do will be okay, even if you make a mistake it will be okay.

  11. I brought my baby home and was completely shell-shocked by the crying and screaming (reflux, allergies, colic). I was at insanity's door. The best advice I got was one of my first days at home when my best friend told me basically, "Who cares what people or books say is right or wrong. You do what you know is right based on your instincts. If it feels right, do it. Just survive right now. That is all you are expected to do. The rest will come and you'll be ok." (with some of that she was referring to me worrying about how much to feed him when and if it was too much and if it was ok to have him sleep with me etc.)

  12. I wish someone had told me that, it might have stopped me sobbing and worrying until the midwife arrive in the morning.

    I have never been so glad to see anyone, ever.

  13. being 16 ive never really dished out or recieved any parenting advice but i have to say going home and having a kebab really did make me chuckle!


  14. "Trust your instincts" I have a sister 8 yrs younger than I(two little ones), she needs to share sometimes, I listen. Sometimes she asks for affirmation. My response is "trust your instincts, your journey is not mine, personality different, own family culture, so discuss with husband and trust instincts. " Oh and I also say, "If mama aren't happy then neither are kids, so nurture mama." Different things work for diff folks there.

  15. The best advice I was given was to trust my instincts.
    But I do wish I'd had a kebab rather than sitting there wondering 'What the hell?'!

  16. A midwife told me to stare at my baby's face because it will change in a heartbeat. Not very practical, but I did spend hours just staring at her.

  17. Well, did you have a kebab? I can't say that I did. Might have meant I actually got a meal the first day that Nugget came home. All I remember is changing his bassinet sheets 100 times because his cloth nappies kept leaking...What can I say? The boy can wee! Best advice? Toilet train them when they are ready. You can't make them do it! x

  18. Like Green Mama says, I stared and stared, but that was because I had no f^$*ing idea what to do next.

    Anyhoo. (Love that!)

    My daughter's 16, my son's 11. I still feel like I'm making it up as I go along, but I haven't turned either of them into a kabob (yet) so I guess I'm doing okay so far.

    Oh, and I don't think you gave UPA, as much as I love your acronym. She was soliciting it, so I'd call it SPA.

  19. They're only little for a little while. Don't force them or yourself into making them grow up (feed less, sleep more, sleep by themselves, put themselves to sleep etc). One day they won't want or need you any more, suck up every single second of them needing you while you can.

  20. Haha I just love the "UPA". The other day I actually got asked to write about some of the best parenting advice I've received, what has changed about the advice given from ten years ago when I had my first child to most recently when I had the twins, and what wacky advice turned out to be really useful. This left me scratching my head as to what to write about, as I normally dont find UPA helpful. Just love the kebab bit! I've definitely never gotten advice like that :-)

  21. Any advice including kebabs is welcome in my book.
    Best advice:
    No baby has ever died from crying.
    When your children are young the days are long but the years are short.
    Great post.

  22. That bit of advice should be in all the baby books.

    I think that bringing the baby home is like coming back from the honeymoon after the wedding. There's been so much hoopla. Now what?

    A kebab is the perfect answer!

  23. A kebab! That would have fixed everything ...
    Truthfully? That when babies are tired, they cry. And It's okay to let them cry for a minute or two why they let off steam and go to sleep. Because if you keep going in and trying to feed them, change their nappy etc, you're going to make them even more tired.
    Best advice ever.

  24. The kebab is particularly funny because in the early days we called Max 'The Kebab' because he was wrapped up like one and, like the best kinds if kebabs, he fired up at night. x

  25. I remember asking a friend exactly the same thing "what do you do with them with when you get home"! Her response was "they tell you what they want" ... which I went with for about 3 days before resorting to 'the book'.
    Babies may not read 'the book(s)' ... but mine sure as hell seemed to love the routine and common sense dispensed by 'the book'!


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