It’s no secret – parenting is hard! Whether you’re a brand new parent trying to cope with the struggles of a whole new world of sleep deprivation, sore nipples and trying to understand the needs of this tiny dependent being that doesn’t yet speak your language, or an experienced parent trying to juggle life with teenagers and toddlers. Parenting always brings its own challenges. As parents we are often searching for things to help or reassure us. We are offered words of encouragement and advice – whether we ask for it or not! Some of these words may not resonate with us or might even be downright contrary to our fundamental parenting ethos. But sometimes we might come across some helpful words that really mean something to us, and that can help us on our journey.
This Too Shall Pass
One thing I have learned since becoming a parent myself is that the challenges are always changing. When a new challenge arises it can feel all-consuming. It’s easy to forget that whatever it is, it is almost certainly temporary. When your new baby starts cluster feeding and becoming fussy in the evenings it can feel so intense and overwhelming. You start to question everything – is he getting enough milk? Is he unwell? Am I doing something wrong? Is this normal? It can be very easy to forget amidst the tired, anxious baby haze that although this feels really tough right now, this won’t go on forever.
This is where my first favourite phrase comes in – ‘this too shall pass’. Amidst all the words of encouragement and advice I have been given since becoming a Mum, this is a phrase that really stood out to me. I have said this to myself so many times in the middle of the night when I have had an unsettled baby and felt like I was being totally overwhelmed with the intensity of the situation. It’s such a simple phrase, but reminding myself that this incredibly hard moment is only temporary can be so helpful in surviving that moment and reminding myself that tomorrow is a new day.
The Nights Are Long But The Years Are Short
Another phrase that I have found resonated with me is ‘the nights are long but the years are short’. Again this can be helpful to remember in that moment when baby won’t settle in the middle of the night. This night feels like it is lasting forever, will I ever have a good night’s sleep again…!? These early years are such a short period of time. Lots of parents miss these nights when their babies no longer need them.
That’s not to say it’s not OK to feel overwhelmed in the moment and want this difficult moment to pass. I personally don’t believe it’s possible to ‘cherish every moment’ as a parent because there are always going to be hard times. In fact I think that phrases like that can actually put unnecessary pressure on parents. It was certainly something that made me feel under pressure as a new parent when I was finding it tough. Remember that although this night feels like it’s lasting forever, it’s actually only a very tiny part of our journey, helped me to see the bigger picture and remember that things are always changing.
Know better, Do Better
The last of my favourite phrases is ‘know better, do better’. This is slightly different from the others. It is not one that I say to myself to get me through difficult times, but something I have found very useful to say to others!
As parents we are often open to a lot of unsolicited advice. When you’ve spent time researching something such as co-sleeping or transitioning to solid foods and someone offers some really unhelpful input such as ‘we didn’t do that in my day, you’ll make a rod for your own back!’ or ‘I gave you baby rice at four months and you turned out fine!’ it can be hard not to doubt yourself or know what to say in response. I find that ‘know better, do better’ can be helpful because you’re not saying what they did was wrong. It was probably in line with the advice at the time. But now that there is a lot more research into child development we can use that evidence to make a more informed choice as to how we parent our babies.
We now know that you can’t spoil a baby with too many cuddles, that safe co-sleeping isn’t ‘making a rod for your own back’, and that babies shouldn’t be offered solid foods until they reach 6 months of age and show the signs of readiness, because this is what extensive research has shown. Some people would have no knowledge of new evidence and might need to be gently reminded that times change. Informed decisions can only happen where there is knowledge.
Words can have such a powerful effect on how we feel, sometimes positive and sometimes negative. When I find something that has helped me I try to share it with those who might need to hear it. Which quotes or phrases have you found helpful as a parent? Which have you found particularly unhelpful?