Before I had kids I was the best parent in the world. I had raising children totally sussed. I would NEVER let my little ones share a bed with me. Oh, and that mama who was yelling at her toddler in the supermarket? Clearly the meanest and worst mum ever. Fast forward a few years and 3 kids later and yeah, I eat my words (with a big side helping of sugary treats – another thing I said my children would never be allowed) as everything I thought I knew went right out of the window. What did you convince yourselves you’d never do mamas?!
1. Dress baby boys in blue and baby girls in pink
It sounds crazy now but I was adamant that my babies wouldn’t be subjected to any kind of gender stereotyping. While pregnant with my first, I packed up a hospital bag and filled a nursery with all shades of whites and neutrals – not only because I hadn’t chosen to find out what sex the baby was (although the hospital staff were completely unsubtle every time I went in for an appointment) – but also because I loved the idea of a little bundle wrapped up in white, pure and innocent like a little angelic ball of fluff. Yeah, well, I caved into all those gorgeous kiddie clothes pretty darn fast. My eldest – a boy – was very soon sporting the cutest White Company blue and white striped sleepsuits that were, dare I say it, very much like a little sailors outfit while my youngest, a girl, came home from hospital in a Cath Kidston floral number to which I very nearly added the sweetest pink crochet headband.
2. Resort to bribery under any circumstances
Oh, how foolish I was. These little people are clever and they know just how to play us – but equally we know how to get them to do what we want too. The answer? Bribery. So I’ve tried negotiation (doesn’t work), the battle of wills (toddler wins every time) or just pretending that I’m such a relaxed mama that it doesn’t really matter if my kids aren’t eating/clothed/obeying.
In reality, I don’t have the time and I’m really not all that chilled about that stuff. And when you’re faced with 3 kids hiding at the top of a soft play area, refusing to come down, the promise of a treat works every time (plus I’ve tried to climb up those things myself to get them out – it wasn’t pretty). Bribery has worked wonders in our household, from potty training to staying in their beds, eating all the broccoli to practicing their writing (and frankly everything in between). The kids respond to it and that’s good enough for me!
3. Let them eat any form of junk food
My children will be pure and wholesome and they will only eat organic fruit and vegetables, or family meals cooked by my own fair hand. OOPS! Number 1 child got a good run at this – his purees were prepared using only organic ingredients (at the time there was only one organic store in Dubai and I’d subject my poor little car-seat hating infant to a mammoth journey just to buy some pretty inferior looking carrots or apples). His first birthday cake was baked without any sugar and piled with fruit.
Fast forward a few years and my youngest – aged almost 2 – is merrily tucking into a chocolate ice-cream bigger than her head. I do make sure that my kids get their 5 a day, supplemented by ya-ya vitamins each morning and I definitely don’t stop at the golden arches every week, but the littles are far from sugar and fast-food free. My mission is just to make sure that they get enough to eat – a balance of good and bad – because hungry children are miserable and won’t sleep well!
4. Yell and shout and get annoyed
I’d like to say a big fat sorry to all those mamas I judged pre-kids, snapping at their kids in the grocery store, shouting at junior for running away and manhandling their offspring kicking and screaming in a public space. Firstly, I was convinced that my kids would always behave and the sort of stuff I was witnessing was clearly down to bad parenting (OMG I AM SO SORRY!).
And now, as a mama of three under 5 who regularly throw those full on tantrums that leave me completely helpless and hopeless, I understand that this behaviour has zero to do with parenting skills and is just part of toddlerhood. And I’m not proud of it but just occasionally, when all my buttons have been pushed and I’ve reached my limits, I’ll yell and shout and lose it a little bit. It never works, and it makes me feel bad and the situation worse – but never say never mamas.
5. Share my bed
Ha! My daughter has just discovered a love for mamas bed and joins me and my husband half way through the night about 5 times out of 7. She’s still in a cot and isn’t able to climb out yet, but at the first hint at a cry I scoop her up and sandwich her between us – and you know why? Because it works. She sleeps, we sleep, we all sleep (until the other two wake up and a game of musical beds ensues). I don’t care who sleeps where, as long as we all get the shuteye we need.
6. Allow my kids to watch TV
So my eldest son was occasionally – and strategically – put in front of Baby Einstein for a few minutes if I needed to buy some time. And then a second and third baby came along and I became far more lenient about turning on that magical box in the living room (and funnily enough it’s my eldest who’s now the TV addict – his brother and sister could take it or leave it).
I have read all sorts of horror stories about the effects of too much screen time on our precious darlings, such as the boy who could only speak like Thomas the Tank Engine after watching so many episodes. But actually if you regulate it, the TV can really teach your kids a lot. During the hot summer months when everyone is climbing the walls or when lunchtime naps are being negotiated, the television has been my life saver and is often the only way that the kids will sit down and be motionless for a few magical minutes.