The following includes a short extract from my book How to Have a Baby and Not Lose Your Shit and gives you a taste of what to expect. Mainly swearing.
One of the best things about starting a family is the amount of unwarranted advice people give you. Seriously, it’s worth getting pregnant just so you can experience the joy of complete strangers telling you what you’re doing wrong with your life. Usually everything.
Add to that the terrifying newspaper coverage of new things parents need to worry about and bringing a baby into the world can become very stressful. The big secret behind all the horror stories is this: Most parents are doing a pretty good job of raising their children.
But when I became a mum I realised that no one ever tells you this, or maybe they did but I was too stressed and tired to notice. Telling mums they’re doing fine doesn’t sell antibacterial nappy sacks or hands-free pumping bustiers or books about how to have a baby and not lose your shit.
The honest truth is that as a parent you will lose your shit, and when that happens you can either laugh or cry. I’ve done both and that’s what I’ve written about, I’ve found there are very few parenting problems that can’t be improved by a lovely cup of tea, a nice sit down and a bit of a laugh.
Because you really are doing a brilliant job.
I spent my first morning posing with my daughter in front of the bathroom mirror like she was an expensive new dress. I practised introducing myself to people as a mum – ‘What this thing in the pram? IT’S A BABY! I’M A MUM! I MADE A BABY! LOOK AT IT! SHE’S PERFECT!’ Thankfully, I was home alone so no one knows I did this because that would be totally embarrassing.
Fortunately, most mums are too busy to waste too much time making a tit of themselves. But busy doing what? Seriously, what the hell do new mums get up to all day? We’ve all read a million magazine articles following A Day In The Life Of… I’d read about CEOs, designers, human rights lawyers, environmental activists and award-winning physicists but I didn’t have a bloody clue what a mum with a new baby did all day. No one does. Until they do it and even then you’re still a bit unsure of where the day went.
Before children, a typical day might look like this: a session at the gym, followed by a morning in meetings and debriefs, grabbing lunch at your desk then catching up with a few friends for dinner after work. Somewhere amongst all this you dropped off your dry cleaning, picked up some shopping, booked a hotel for your friend’s birthday weekend away and argued with your boyfriend by email and phone.
Go you! Now you’re at home, alone with a baby – let’s start by making a sandwich or having a shower. I’d love to tell you that I’m exaggerating for comic effect but I once ate dry bread, a whole tomato and nibbled a block of cheese straight from the fridge because I hadn’t mastered the art of preparing food with one hand whilst feeding a baby. If you really want to do something practical to prepare for starting a family try learning to get through the day with one hand tied behind your back and someone crying and puking into your face.
In those early weeks at home with a new baby, time slows down. Suddenly it’s the end of the day and your partner is home and you appear to have achieved nothing. Over the next few weeks you will slowly build up your skill set, and work out how to have a shower, how to dress yourself, you might even manage to brush your hair and put on some mascara (stick to waterproof mascara while the hormones are still high). At some point, you will eventually make it out of the house. It will take you for ever.
Your partner will come home and you’ll proudly announce that you managed to get yourself and the baby washed and dressed and out to the doctors on time without crying and he’ll shrug his shoulders as though it’s no big deal. Try not to punch him in the face when he does this. Because it is a big deal. Everything you do as a new parent is hard work. Even the most basic of tasks are being done whilst feeding, cleaning and nurturing a whole other person. Every day you make it through with or without crying you are winning.
For more inspirational stuff like the classic ‘try not to punch your partner in the face’ buy the bloody book or vote for me as Best Comic Writer in the Mumsnet Blogger awards. The lovely people on the Mumsnet chat boards have described my writing as ‘ like a pompously delivered lecture that we didn’t ask to attend but are being forced to listen to anyway’ and a ‘load of dull shit’ so I reckon I’m a shoo in to win!