First, a confession. Before welcoming our son into the world six months ago, I made a solemn vow to my husband that I would never, ever write about the experience.
It was my firmly-held opinion that the many, many scribes taking to the internet to share their thoughts on the joys and responsibilities of family life were the blogosphere’s equivalent of celebrity cookbooks. The last thing the world needed was another one of the cursed things.
But, as we are so often told, the sacred duty of raising an infant changes us in myriad, unpredictable ways. So, dear reader, allow me to present to you my top 10 pieces of advice for those of you about to embark on the wild ride that is parenthood – because, hell, I’ve come a long way since the days when I used to take a bottle of vodka to my friends’ baby showers.
1. You will have to expect the unexpected
It is a universal truth that the postman will ALWAYS visit at 2pm when you are emptying the dishwasher in your pyjamas and dancing wildly to MC Hammer in an attempt to placate your irritable baby.
2. Your voice will change
You will find yourself talking to your infant in a really excited tone! All the time! Even about really boring stuff! Like nappy changes! Speaking of which…
3. You will never look at dijon mustard in the same way again
Or pesto. The good news, however, is that all new parents – no matter how squeamish – will astound themselves with their ability to handle their offsprings’ fecal matter. Over. And over. And over again.
4. You will redefine your sartorial standards
Becoming a parent will lead you to discover new levels of sartorial excellence. (For “new”, read “much, much lower”.) I, for one, have taken to venturing out of the house clad in tracksuit pants and ugg boots for the first time in my life.
In addition, I’ve wholeheartedly embraced what I like to describe as my Saga Noren look, in honour of the Asperger’s-afflicted, crime-fighting heroine of the Nordic noir TV series, The Bridge. For the uninitiated, that means unbrushed hair and no make-up (minus the Scandinavian bone structure, sadly). And, boy, does it feel great. Viva la revolucion!
5. Babies don’t do trendy
Our midcentury/minimalist/Danish-inspired warehouse conversion, so painstakingly decorated in Depressed Hipster shades of off-white and blond wood, is midcentury/minimalist/Danish-inspired no longer.
In truth, our dwelling now resembles what it would look like if you were to feed red cordial to a bunch of children before letting them loose at the local Toys’R’Us outlet.
6. Getting ready to go anywhere will take a really, really long time
I felt like Scott of the Antarctic when preparing for my first journey into the CBD, on public transport, with the baby, unaccompanied by another adult – and I can assure you that I was carrying nearly as much kit as him, too.
7. Strangers will try to give you advice
It takes a village to raise a child, as the old saying goes – and, gee, is this a maxim that the village takes to heart. New mothers, in particular, should ready themselves for a continual barrage of strangers accosting them in the street to inform them that their baby is too hot/too cold/hungry/tired/at risk of permanent psycholgical scars from the occasional use of a dummy.
8. Babies smell great
Despite their total inability to self-clean, babies smell unexpectedly great. My husband and I often take it in turns to sniff our son’s head and marvel at the delicious bouquet of hot buttered popcorn, freshly-laundered linen and warm spring breeze.
9. The first few weeks are the hardest
In those initial, crazy days after bringing the baby home from the hospital, I began to worry I’d been wearing the same clothes for so long that they would start fusing to my body, just as Michelangelo’s garments were reputed to have done while he was painting the Sistine Chapel. Happily, things do get easier, as difficult as that may be to believe when you’re in the thick of it.
10. It’s all worth it
It has been repeated so often that it is at risk of losing all resonance, but the sturm und drang of bringing up baby is repaid a hundredfold by the frequent moments of pure, unalloyed joy. All those nights when your child howls like a samurai whose honour has been impugned will be worth it the moment you find yourself on the receiving end of that first, fleeting smile. And there really is no sound in the world sweeter than your little scrap of humanity giggling with delight.
Yep, it’s true what they say – your life will be immeasurably richer once you become a parent.