We thought we knew it all about raising our kids but Fisher-Price parenting expert Fiona Baker shares her smart tips on being a modern day mum (and yes, it’s totally ok to feel overwhelmed and exhausted!).
1. This too will pass
Parents can feel trapped in this fog of sleep deprivation and food refusal for what seems like years. But the vast, vast majority of children WILL end up sleeping all night, even if takes a few years, and one day they won’t spit their food back at you.
2. Trust in your instincts
Every health expert I’ve spoken to over the years, whether it be a paediatrician specialising in development or a psychologist who diagnoses autism spectrum disorders, they all say that it’s uncanny how intuitive parents can be. If you have a gut feeling about something, don’t be afraid to be persistent.
3. Exploit the digital world – but sensibly
The internet can be a parent’s best friend providing reassurance, support and advice. It’s not surprising that the Fisher-Price survey found that more mums (33%) looked to the ‘net when they felt overwhelmed than their friends (31%) or even mother’s group (21%). But while the internet can be a fabulous resource, not every site is factually correct or has a parent’s best interest at heart. Choose reliable sites for information and never use Google to diagnose.
4. Your kids won’t remember if your floor was swept
But they will hopefully have lots of lovely memories of spending time with you. Because kids prefer nothing more than hanging with their parents, doing activities together and getting a parent or two’s undivided attention. And if you can’t relax until the floor is clean or the washing folded, share the task with your partner, or if you can manage it, outsource your cleaning every fortnight or so.
5. Don’t forget your relationship
For many of you, this bub may have sprung out of love but it’s amazing what stress this little being can place on a relationship. There’s quite a lot of research now that shows that the vast majority of parents say their relationship suffers in that first couple of years of being a parent. Be aware of this and try to build into your daily and weekly life time to be with your partner – even if it’s only 10 minutes on the back deck after the tots are in bed having a cuppa together.
6. Build in “me” time
Just because you’re a parent, doesn’t mean you have to give up all your hobbies, interests and occasional pampering. It’s been scientifically shown that babies are known to be very good at reading moods and sensing if mum and dad are happy or not , so if taking some time out to go for a bike ride, visit a book shop or have a facial makes you happy, make the time to do it – everyone’s a winner.
7. Have flexible schedules and routines
Children love a routine. It makes them feel secure and allows them to be independent within it. That routine may be as basic as knowing that after dinner they have a bath, then there’s some book reading, a kiss from mum and dad then bed time. Getting into the habit of a routine can reap great rewards when you’re all trying to get out the door for work and school, etc, as kids will know exactly what they’re meant to be doing when which can – occasionally, if you’re lucky – remove the element of rush.
8. Start a family dinner ritual
It’s amazing how something as simple – even if not always enjoyable – as sitting down as a family to eat can have so many benefits. Every expert I seem to speak to recommends this practice, and recent US research showed it has numerous benefits to children including increased intake nutritious foods as well as the the more a family ate together, the less children consumed dietary nasties. Another study, from Canada, has found that teenagers who regularly eat with their parents were more self-confident, helpful, trusting and more satisfied with life than those who tended to dine alone.
9. You can and will feel overwhelmed
The Fisher-Price survey found that many mums can feel overwhelmed with 24% of struggling with the constant juggling of activities, 23% having no time to themselves and 21% being overtired. It’s a given that there will be times and days where it all seems too much. Engaging with online communities, have some “me” time strategies already in place with your partner or even being able to take time out to call a close friend or your mum can work wonders in helping parents see the wood for the trees.
10. Foster your child’s independence
It’s okay to give kids a big safe paddock (with an electric fence) to roam in, which comes with some fairly firm rules. It can be easy to fall into the trap of doing everything for your child – it’s quicker and there’s less nagging involved – but then children don’t work out how to problem-solve for themselves. It can be hard to sit back and watch your child (safely) fail, but it’s true what is said about learning through mistakes.