My First Five Years

It's not all bad - why we need to balance the narrative around pregnancy and new parenthood

Becoming a parent is a truly life-changing experience.  There are very few people who would deny this fact. That the world, as you know it, is turned completely upside down.   

Perhaps because of this, that it is something for which you can’t prepare or possibly even imagine (even if you have been around a lot of children), some people like to pass on their wisdom once they reach the other side. You say that you’re potty training – they tell you a horror story of a wee in a department store. You mention that you’re a bit tired in your second trimester – they chuckle about how the third is FAR worse. Leaking breast pads, attempts to avoid glue and glitter, swollen ankles, the tales of pregnancy and parenting trials come thick and fast. They (we) can’t help it. We want to share every single detail, the good, the bad and the totally unbelievable.   

You see, parenting really does contain the good, the bad and the totally unbelievable. The magic is just that, magic. The way you feel when your child smiles for the first time, the smell of their head, the feel of their tiny, curled-up toes, addictively good. The sound of their cry, the fear of something ever happening to them, the first time you leave them in childcare, tests your limits, truly. That, suddenly you are going out to the shop at 11pm to buy chocolate in your jammies, when previously you didn’t leave the house without a full face of makeup, pretty unbelievable. But this sort of thing will probably happen.   

All the stories and the advice giving can be useful. Knowing that you’re not alone in finding some days boring and hard can be such a relief. That you’re not the only one to hate baby groups or struggle to breastfeed, can make a big difference. The idolisation of motherhood can be problematic. The concept of a, ‘good mother’ can leave women feeling inadequate and like they are failing if they’re not enjoying every last second and whipping up scones every afternoon (see our post on Realistic Parenting).   

The honest parenting blogs and funny memes can come as a welcome tonic. Those who share a realistic picture of daily life with children encourage connection, and highlight that it’s okay to ask for help and get stuff wrong. They help to dispel the many, many unrealistic expectations that can be unknowingly carried when entering into parenthood. Parenting is indeed incredibly messy and hard. It can only be a positive thing that this has become spoken about more openly, and that women (in particular) are now more able to do so without feeling ungrateful or judged.   

But, likewise, at the other end of the spectrum, parenting is incredibly rewarding and wonderful. And this should definitely be recognised too, without the fear of sounding smug or inauthentic.   

We shouldn’t leave pregnant women terrified of birth, fearful of the impending exhaustion and desperate not to lose their entire social lives. For some, becoming a family will have been a difficult dream to realise, so why not celebrate every step?  

The days of raising a tiny human being are incredibly special, despite the sleepless nights. Those of us who are moving beyond them, feel a huge sadness that they are over. And we don’t think we’ll be alone in this. A new-born baby in a pram still brings a leap of the heart. Then they become a toddler and the fun just continues. “I love this age,” is something we’ve been saying for most of the ages we’ve been lucky enough to experience so far (not all of the days, but all of the ages).  

The way they force you to slow down, the way they view the world and take you with them on their adventures. Just so good. Yes, our bodies have aged by about 20 years, no, we’re not out every weekend anymore, but when your child gets to the age where you can watch Bake Off (or whatever you both enjoy) together snuggled up on the sofa, there is a whole new set of magical moments to share; the friends we make through my kids are, we think, some of the strongest friendships of our entire lives. In our bid to be honest, let’s not lose sight of the reason why we keep wiping noses and singing nursery rhymes – there is a lot of love going on.   

The truth is, it’s not all good and it’s not all bad. As with most of parenthood, we think, it’s important to balance the narrative and recognise that the advice you take will ultimately need to be your own. There will be those who are willing to share the drama and the negatives, but also those who will happily remind you of the daily positives, and both have their place.   

Parenting is a life-changing experience and who wouldn’t want to talk about something that is life-changing. So when someone is a bit too keen to tell you their interesting labour story three weeks before you are due to give birth (why do people do this?), then try to remember that everyone’s lives will change in their own unique ways. It is here that adventures happen and many wildly different stories are written. Including yours.   

And that hopefully in celebrating every single aspect of parenthood, we can finally give it the credit, the attention and the support it deserves. After all, it is the hardest and the most rewarding job in the world.  

We’re here to support you through the first five years of your little one’s life, with information you can trust and realistic tips and ideas to help you navigate parenthood.  

My First Five Years