Five common mistakes made by new parents

Okay. Let’s clear the air before we start, because I can feel the heckles rising on the necks of every new and expectant mother reading this article. “What does Louise know about modern parenting?” I hear you saying. “She’s a grandmother! Things have changed. They’re different now.”

I’ll make two points in my defence.

First, 28 years experience in the in-home care industry means I have seen a lot of parents grappling with the challenges of a new baby, in all sorts of situations. Twenty-eight years. That’s an entire generation, and a lot of parents making the same mistakes over and over.

Second, things aren’t so different today, no matter how much today’s generation like to think otherwise. (Believe me, my generation thought we were different too, as did every generation before us.) Another lesson of my 28 years in this business is that the basics remain the much the same regardless of what is going on in the wider world.

So here’s my entirely non-scientific list of five common mistakes made by new parents.

1. Not setting a routine

Most people love the free-and-easy life they lead ‘before children’. Sleeping late, rising later on the weekend, eating at whatever hour the urge strikes, eating out on a whim. And many parents believe that they’ll be able to maintain that lifestyle once the baby arrives. The baby will just have to fit in. Unfortunately the reality is not like that. Babies are creatures of habit. In order to feel safe they need to have some rhythm in their young lives. Not rock-solid rhythm like the four-hourly feeds that were trendy in the sixties, but a reasonably robust routine around sleep times and, as they grow, meal times. Don’t worry, you will be able to revert to your laissez faire lifestyle again. It just might take a decade or two.

2. Underestimating how tired both parents will be

To some extent there is no point in writing this, because it is almost impossible to understand how tiring parenting is until you are a parent. Every expectant parent is told this, and few of them really understand. So if you are a parent-to-be, just take it as read: you will be constantly tired, and a lot more tired than you ever thought it was possible to be.

3. Not organising a help roster before the birth

In the first 12 weeks in particular, you will need all the help you can get. Particularly if one of you is working, you’ll want as many pre-made meals as you can get your hands on. You’ll need your baby watched by someone else for an hour here or there in order to get some cleaning done and to fold the endless – endless – pile of washing. However once the baby arrives you won’t have time to plan any of this, so create a roster and delegate as many tasks as you can to helpful family and friends before the big day.

4. Not accepting help at all

Worse than not planning for help is failing to accept offers of help at all. Everyone who has had a child knows how crazy the first few months are going to be, and many will offer help in various forms. Yes, I know you want to be independent and self-sufficient and I know you think you can pull it off, but when offers of help come, accept them. Don’t argue. Just say, “Yes, thank you.” It’s not that hard.

5. Being too hard on yourselves

Give yourselves a break. Seriously. I don’t know how many times I’ve met new parents who feel they are failing. They had grand plans before their baby’s birth. They weren’t going to be like the other parents they knew – the ones they saw struggling to cope, whose once-tidy homes had become bomb sites and for whom going out for a meal just got too hard. Then when they become exactly those parents they beat themselves up about it. Don’t. Being a parent is hard work and no-one ever gets it completely right, so just do the best you can and your baby will love you for it.

If you think something else should have made this list, let us know in the comments below.

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