I’m not going to mince my words. Being a parent is hard. And being a good parent is really hard.
That’s not to say there aren’t countless happy moment, and life is quickly filled with laughter, smiling, fun and games. But sleep will quickly become the most precious thing in your life, time to yourself will be mostly spent dreaming, and your entire focus will short onto your child.
The thing to avoid at all costs is to let the challenges of becoming a parent subsume you. It is all too easy to be overawed by the responsibility and bamboozled by the advice being throw at you by anyone and everyone.
The most important tip I was ever given (by a complete stranger as it happens rather than family or friends) is to do it your way. Don’t bow to pressure from family, or follow the rules in some guidebook on how to be the perfect parent. Be true to what you think is right. I quickly found that was the only way to be happy with the development of your child and to stay guilt-free when things go wrong.
Because things do go wrong. And that I something else you have to prepared for. You will make mistakes. So will your partner. You must be ready for that and have the emotional strength to deal with it and bounce back.
But of course, you want to keep mistakes to a minimum, and that is the purpose of this article. Because for all the books and articles telling you how to do this or that, the few pieces that actually gave personal experiences were the ones that were the most useful to me as a new parent.
And I wanted to share my experiences of things that went wrong with you too. So this article details my 3 mistakes I made as a parent (so you don’t have to):
- Don’t Worry:
I am a natural worrier. It’s in my blood and in all likelihood my kid will be as well. But it was only when I took a step back and looked at my own parenting that I realized the negative impact my worrying was having on my kids.
A few examples. While other children were running amok in the playground and having a fantastic time, I found that I was marshaled my child, constantly telling them to be careful, and stopping them playing on the bigger toys because I was worried she would hurt herself.
When I relented, it quickly became clear that she enjoyed running amok just like all the others. And my worrying was misplaced. Yes, she did fall of a few things. Yes, there were tears, and a few bruises and grazes.
But the smiles and laughter as she played more than compensated and, of course, falling over is part of being a kid. It’s how they learn. I have now applied this rule to all aspects of my parenting and it has made my child and me much happier.
- Make your child a priority
I accept that modern life is hectic. Work demands are many and varied and a good career is essential if you are going to give your child all the things they want and need.
But it is very easy to slip back into your old work-focused habits after the birth of your child and then quickly find yourself out of the house all day and missing out on your child’s development. A quick example of this being when I myself attempted to “bite off more than I could chew” when my wife was pregnant with our first kid — I doubled down on my startup workload, began a new venture and even attempted to ‘vlog’ my life while doing so. Way too much!
This will be something you will regret for the rest of your life. And it is something that no amount of career progression, salary hike, or bonus payment can compensate for. It is also something that is totally unnecessary.
It is perfectly possible for most professionals to work at least part of the time from home these days. The benefits of such an arrangement are clear. For the employee, they can shape their working day around their family needs, allowing them to enjoy precious family time and still meet all those deadlines.
How is this done? Well, modern technology is a wonderful thing. Online communication tools like Slack allow you to engage with colleagues in the office; work management tools help you to keep on top of things; and a VPN lets you access all sensitive corporate data, and send emails and documents safely and securely no matter where you are (even countries which have intrusive online surveillance and censorship regimes like China)
It is simple and cheap to take advantage of these tools, and the benefits to both you and your child will be instantly noticeable.
- Ask for help
Last, but by no means least, I urge you, I implore you, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
It is all too easy as a parent to let pride take over and think you have to manage everything on your own. You don’t. You can do parenting your own way and still take help from family, friends, and professionals too.
If you feel you need some time out, find someone to babysit and take a few hours to clear your head, or do something just for you. Be carefully not to feel guilty about doing this. You deserve it and you have left your child in capable hands.
If you have problems with your child’s health or behavior, again don’t be afraid to go to a professional and ask for help. There is no shortage of experts in all manner of child development problems out there who can often help you to make a few very simple changes to help make your life better.
As I said at the beginning, raising a child is hard. But it is not a burden you have to bear alone. There are lots of people willing to help you, from family and friends, to trained professionals. Don’t be too proud to use them!