Spectacularly Bad Parenting Advice

Spectacularly Bad Parenting Advice Blog Post - Buffet

Buffet Parenting

The amount of spectacularly bad parenting advice out there is astonishing. When I was pregnant with my first child and then a mother of a tiny baby, I would carefully gobble up any morsel of parenting advice. A lot of the time, I would greedily devour most of what I read or was told as I was mostly floundering in bewilderment and needed all the help I could get.

Now, five years on, I am not as judicious. I readily dismiss opinion masquerading as fact, parenting articles that exude too much confidence, and advice that is, quite simply, terrible.

This is actually an essential part of the parenting journey. Rejecting the vast majority of parenting advice attunes you to what is right and essential for your family. If you don’t hone this skill you will sink in a sort of guidance quicksand, overwhelmed with conflicting and confusing advice.

Of course, some recommendations are excellent and I still love reading the odd parenting manual. Now I know when to apply it and when to laugh at it. Here are three types of advice I especially dislike…

 

The Impossible

Spectacularly bad parenting advice includes instructions that are impossible to follow, as they are too general. For instance, that you should only have a handful of rules for your kids, such as don’t hurt other people or things. Period. This is supposed to be helpful as it is less to remember but sweeping policy like this goes out the window when you find your toddler jumping on your bed with muddy shoes on. Which rule have they broken? The answer is who cares! JUST GET OFF THE BED!

Sometimes what you are told is impossible due to its impracticality. ‘Show integrity to your kids at all times’ sounds great in theory, but I don’t return the supermarket trolley to the right place if it is raining, and I certainly don’t floss every night, so that advice loses its credibility as soon as it is uttered.

Once you work out and embrace who you are as a parent, some advice, although sound, is impossible to adhere to. I am unapologetically a ‘helicopter’ parent. This is purported as bad but I don’t care. I would rather hover and jump in when needed than step away and not be there to catch them when they fall.

 

My Way or the Highway

Another subset of spectacularly bad parenting advice is in the form of ‘this is the ONLY method or the BEST way. I don’t know about you, but if someone tells me that what I am doing is wrong, then I will dig my heels in and firmly maintain my position.

There is almost nothing in raising children that could be considered the only, right way and thinking there is only creates a lot of guilt. I think some of this guilt stems from the fact that what may be good for our situation – using disposable diapers for instance – may not be good for the world at large.

The next time someone tells you something that starts with ‘you must’ or ‘the best way is’ ignore it straight away. Crying, sleeping, feeding, carrying, disciplining and playing all have a myriad of good options. Choose one you like. Change it as required. Try not to feel too guilty.

 

Good Enough Parenting

The last item of spectacularly bad parenting advice is that good enough parenting, is, well, good enough. I know that this advice is supposed to help busy, tired, stressed out parents feel better. But we are all busy, tired and stressed on a daily basis! Sure, sometimes ‘good enough’ is fine, but we need to try and live to a higher standard. My fear is that ‘good enough parenting’ will become the norm all of the time.

I want my kids to be great, strive to be the best they can be, fail and get back up and then grow some more and contribute to the world. I want them to be remarkable, courageous, resilient. And to do that, I can’t be merely ‘good enough’. I need to push myself to be great person AND parent. After all, how will my children reach their potential if they don’t see me trying to reach mine?

Good enough parenting is the bottom rung of the ladder, it is treading water, it is only getting to the half way line. It is an excuse. A story we tell ourselves that allows us to live in our comfort zone when inside all of us is a desire to be amazing.

How this looks will be different for all of us, but we all know deep down when we reside in ‘good enough’. Yes, pushing ourselves is exhausting, but it is the good type of tired where we have used our strengths reach for the stars and maybe, just maybe, touched the moon instead.

 

Fine Dining Parenting

Having kids has given me a huge gift of knowing myself better as a parent and a person. I can now easily discern when parenting advice resonates with me and when it is spectacularly bad. You may or may not agree with me on the above points, but that you have a strong opinion about what is right for you and your family is what is important. Now, taking parenting advice becomes more like fine dining than eating at a buffet.

Spectacularly Bad Parenting Advice Blog Post - Fine Dining

 

Parenting Clichés are SO Irritating!

Parenting Cliches Blog Post - Baby Dylan

The Days are Long But the Years are Short

Tomorrow, my gorgeous son Dylan will turn five years old. Where have the past five years gone? He has grown up before my eyes. I can’t believe how fast time has flown. I can’t believe my first-born baby is five years old already. I can’t believe I am stating all the parenting clichés to explain my incredulity at how fast time seems to pass.

Aren’t parenting clichés annoying? Lets take a look at some of these old chestnuts. Then tell me if you don’t find them irritating. And true. And irritating because they are true.

 

The ‘Life Will Never Be the Same’ Cliché

When you are about to have a baby you get a lot of statements along the lines that ‘life will never be the same again’. Well no shizzle, Sherlock, another entire human being is going to enter this world. Then somehow I will have to keep him or her fed, warm and dry. That is epitome of a description of a life that is about to change.

When baby arrives, you get on the cliché bandwagon and state the obvious like ‘I can’t imagine life without him’, or the slightly more surprising observation ‘It is like she has always been here’. Thus perpetuating the ‘life will never be the same’ cliché.

Before baby arrives, and you get told that you life is likely to change, it is often followed up with some advice along the lines of ‘do stuff now that you won’t do with a baby’ – like travel or go to a movie or sleep.

Gah, irritating advice clichés – lets tackle these next.

 

Unhelpful Advice Clichés

‘There is never a right time to have a baby’. Whoa that is a real zinger that one. What am I supposed to do with that? What am I supposed to do with that when told it while I am trying to get pregnant? What am I supposed to do with that when I am eight and half months pregnant?

‘Parenting is the hardest job in the world’. Oh really. I had no idea. I thought I signed up to sunbathing and cocktails at the pool every day when I pushed two babies out of my body.

‘You have to work on your marriage’. What does this even mean?

And my personal favorite, in terms of most irritating and clichéd advice: ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’. That is dependent on a number of factors like is there dinner to be made, washing to hang out, shopping to do, Facebook to catch up on, or simply whether I feel too frazzled to rest. It assumes that the baby sleeps quietly or for periods longer than ten minutes or in his own cot and not on me. It assumes the baby sleeps.

Does anyone in the whole world get his or her baby to sleep and immediately fall into instant slumber? ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ should be banished, relegated to a far off land of outdated clichés like ‘a woman’s place is in the home’. Never. Uttered. Again.

 

Simplicity is Key

So if clichés about time, change and advice are all unwarranted and irritating, where does that leave us? What parenting clichés can we still find an ounce of wisdom in?

Take kids birthday stressors. When I am looking at Lego sets for birthday presents and trying to remember which ones Dylan doesn’t already own, or working out how much snack food we will need for the birthday party or worrying if we bought enough balloons, then remembering this parenting cliché often helps: ‘Its the simple things in life that matter’. He is my son, I am his Mama, I love him. Not much else matters, except maybe cake.

So to my darling, delightful, dazzling boy, Dylan, happy fifth birthday. It is so clichéd, but that is what makes it true – I love you to the moon and back and always will.

 

Parenting Cliches Blog Post - Nearly Five Dylan

 

Having Kids Turns EVERYTHING on its Head

Turns Everything Blog Post - Shopping Trolley 

The ‘Now Scary’ List

A couple of months ago, my four-year old, Dylan and I were in the car and just about to back out of the garage to go for a quick trip to the supermarket. My almost two-year old was all the way upstairs, with her Daddy.

Except she wasn’t.

I don’t know why I got out of the car before I backed out. But there was Eloise, just standing on the driveway, directly behind my car. Maybe I saw her out of the corner of my eye as she sidled past my car and didn’t quite register it consciously but it was enough to get my body to move. Or maybe it was the universe whispering to me that we should shut (and even lock) the internal door from the house to the garage when we go out. Or maybe it was dumb luck.

I will never know but I am beyond grateful that a tragic accident did not occur that day. We immediately put in place more safety procedures around leaving the house. I know that driveway accidents do happen, but when it is that close to home, it scares you. A lot.

Having kids turns EVERYTHING on its head. Now things that I had never thought of as harmful are to be feared. Add to the ‘now scary’ list – mall escalators, TV’s (that are not attached to the wall) and anything that can hold an inch of water.

 

The ‘Now Not Fun’ List

On top of that, things that were fun are now not fun at all. Have young children? Cross going to a restaurant off your list of enjoyable activities for the foreseeable future (unless it is on a rare date night, just the two of you). Actually, visiting people, vacations and simply leaving the house to go anywhere is often less fun.

 

The ‘Now Difficult’ List

So as parents of small children we get a dose of more scary and less fun. What else? Oh, things that didn’t used to be hard are now extremely difficult. As noted above, going out is challenging, even to something you go to every day, like kindergarten. Where do kids shoes disappear to overnight?

But beyond that, all basic day-to-day activities are now harder. For instance, eating, sleeping and going to the toilet on my own.

 

The ‘Now Fun’ List

However, I have found things that I used to dread or found dull are actually now quite fun and something to look forward to. On my 40th birthday last year, I went to the supermarket on my own to buy party supplies. I can’t tell you how great it was to go grocery shopping by myself, especially for fun birthday party treats. It was a glorious hour. I still think about it.

 

The ‘Now Harder but Better’ List

We all know we don’t sign up to this parenting gig because it is easy. Everything is now scarier, less fun and harder with kids around, but ultimately it is also more rewarding, fulfilling, and worthwhile.

My husband and I have always had a system of folding the clean, dry sheets together as it was quicker with two of us. Our kids decided that sheet folding was an opportunity for a game of ‘parachute’. They stood underneath the sheet with expectant grins and we succumbed to their enthusiasm and fluttered the sheet down on top of their heads as they jumped underneath it. They couldn’t get enough. The ‘game’ could have gone on for hours.

Needless to say the sheet folding took forever and so we moved it to when the kids had gone to bed at night. Then we realised we missed terribly the infectious giggling that occurred during ‘parachute time’.

We switched it to daytime.

The Parachute Game is now a weekly highlight.

 

Extra amusement: Michael McIntyre – People With No Kids Don’t Know https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFQfylQ2Jgg

 

Turns Everything Blog Post - Parachute Game

The Top Seven Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

Pregnant Blog Post - Pregnant - Energy to Glow

Public Service Announcement

It seems that any remnant of tact, delicacy and good sense leaves people when they are faced with someone in the family way. Below are the top seven things not to say a pregnant woman. And yes, all of these things were said to me when I had a bun in the oven, or said to friends when they were expecting. Please treat the following as a light-hearted public service announcement, a helpful guide for the vast majority of the population (including myself) that is not currently pregnant. I have even given alternative conversation starters to help us all out.

 

  1. Are Your Sure / Really?

When on the receiving end of a pregnancy announcement, close your lips and keep your feet out of your mouth. Do not blurt out things like ‘But… how?’ ‘Who’s the father?’ ‘You are not having another one are you?’. Or my personal favourite: ‘You shouldn’t be having children at your age – you should have had them in your twenties’.

What to say instead – ‘Congratulations’ or ‘I am happy for you’. Followed by something dull but safe such as ‘When is the due date?’

 

  1. I Thought You Were Because…

Try to also refrain from saying that you already had your suspicions she was pregnant. Besides the fact that the pregnant woman usually likes to surprise friends with the happy news, any admission of guessing beforehand implies that her teetotalling behaviour was a dead giveaway since she was such a huge lush. Or, even worse, that she already looks bloated, tired or blotchy. A friend of mine said that when she made the announcement at work, a colleague said ‘Yes! I suspected it from the look of your boobs’.

What to say instead – see number 7 above. And please avoid discussing boobs. At least in the workplace.

 

  1. Have You Thought of Any Names?

I am as guilty as the next person of asking this question so I do understand that this seems like a gentle topic to discuss with an expecting parent. However, after being asked this a million times in nine months, what I wanted to reply was either ‘Oh my goodness, I had completely forgotten about the whole name thing.’ Or simply ‘Yes but I am not telling you’.

What to say instead – ‘You must have some favourite names picked out?’ or ‘Have you and your partner agreed on names?’. A subtle but gracious alternative.

 

  1. You Look Tired

Never, ever, ever tell a pregnant woman that she looks tired. There are no exceptions to this one. On top of working, home life and being a great friend, she is aiding in the construction of a tiny human, right down to his eyelashes. It is taxing.

What to say instead – anything, anything at all. Tell her she looks glowing. Pregnant woman love that. If you cannot manage it, engage in some light banter about the weather.

 

  1. Are You Sure There Are Not Two in There?

Now this question is just plain rude. The quick reply is ‘There is only one baby’. But when I was pregnant with baby number two I would have loved to respond with ‘I have had scans and tests and there is absolutely no indication of another baby, a second heartbeat or anything else, yet you have had a cursory glance at my belly and have decided that I must be big enough to be carrying multiple children inside of me. Thank you for insinuating that I look enormous’.

What to say instead – nothing.

 

  1. Have You Had Your Baby Yet?

This is without doubt, the worst question to ask an overdue pregnant woman. It makes expectant mamas feel like a baby-making machine that has been relegated down to one purpose – produce baby now. Talk about pressure! At 41 weeks, I was getting asked this so often, that I dreamt about replying with this: ‘Actually, yes, just like a cat, I had the baby in secret a couple of weeks ago and have not told anyone. Instead I have decided to play an elaborate hoax and am now carrying around a basketball under my top’.

What to say instead – simply ask her how she is. Ask her something that is not baby or pregnancy related. Better yet, visit her at home with frozen lasagna, tell her to put her feet up and offer to fold some washing.

 

  1. Hands Off!

This is not so much what not to say, but what not to do. The number one thing on this list of seven is do not touch a pregnant woman’s bump, especially without asking. I know, you are drawn to the round belly; it has an irresistible aura that compels you to give it a gentle rub. But hands off – and ask first.

This applies in particular if you are a male co-worker of the pregnant woman. And you barely know her as you work in another department. And she has only just announced her pregnancy. And there is no visible bump. Yes, this did happen to a friend of mine. Awwwwkward.

What to say instead – ‘Please can I touch your bump?’ (It is OK if the answer is ‘No’).

 

No Thanks Necessary

My public service announcement is now over. You may go about your day. If I have missed any other top things not to say to a pregnant woman, please reply in the comments below.

Pregnant Blog Post - Pregnant - No Baby Yet