Parenting hindsight is a wonderful thing. If your befuddled baby brain can think back far enough to those nerve-wracking early days as a newbie mum or dad you might recall scrabbling around for any 'golden nuggets' of information likely to help with the panic gripping you on a daily basis.
When is it OK to admit that you're squeamish about breastfeeding?
Does baby led weaning actually just translate to 'please trash my kitchen, child'?
And, why the hell will they not stop screaming?!
It's amazing how much your perspective on all things child changes with your second or (gulp) third baby. But what comes with hard-earned and sleep deprived experience is often little help by then.
The one fact of parenting that seems to apply to all is that you have to experience it for yourself to really cotton on to just how tough, and amazing, the journey ahead is going to be.
But in case it may be of help, here's what I wish I'd known from the outset...
1. You can leave a crying baby
Not totally to his or her own devices you understand, but babies sometimes cry for no reason and you're allowed to finish that cuppa – or more likely finish stacking the dishwasher – before turning all your attention to the reasons for the latest grumble.
Your baby is not going to break into pieces if you leave him for a few minutes – plus you're actually doing him a favour. Wait until there's a sobbing sibling to compete with...
2. Thank god for Steve Jobs!
The inventor of the iPad didn't just create a technological buzz – he unwittingly earned himself the slavish gratitude of parents everywhere. Tablets = precious toddler entertainment and a bit of peace for you! Besides she'll need to use use one at school so if you think about it it's really an 'educational' tool...(The same can also be said of 'Beebies')
3. Parenting bibles can harm as much as they help
It might taking flicking through a few, but most parents reach the conclusion that trying to slot your child into some expert's 'fool-proof' routine is flirting with disaster from day one.
And obviously burn any books that condemn the use of disposable nappies or declare you to be a slack parent if you're not showered and breakfasted by 8am.
4. Beans on toast is a balanced meal
It's sod's law that any meal lovingly prepared organically and from scratch will be flung at the wall in favour of fish fingers and frozen peas, again. And surely skinning and de-seeding tomatoes for someone under one is just bonkers!
5. Comparison is the root of all evil
Don't line up your own children against their friends or your friends' children – they're all different. If your baby goes to bed at 10pm and wakes at 9am it's fine, so long as it works for you. There's no such thing as the 'right' way and all children get there, wherever that is, in the end.
6. Don't rate yourself against other parents (for similar reasons to above)
So you give your toddler chocolate when others don't? So what! Is it really going to lead to morbid obesity?
And those immaculately dressed mums with pristinely painted toenails who seem to be coping brilliantly, probably aren't behind closed doors.
7. Never ever check under your sofa cushions
You don't want to know what's lurking there...
8. Prepare to do things in public you never thought you would
This includes whipping out the potty in John Lewis, raising your voice in front of a large audience and using all manner of treats and IOUs to bribe your child.
9. Watch your standards slip
All parents start out with high hopes for the meticulous meal plans and lack of TV time in favour of museum outings they plan to lavish on their offspring. Then they give birth.
And then there's having more than one...
10. Don't get too comfortable
Everything is a phase – the good, the bad and the downright ugly. They all pass eventually
11. You are no longer in control – they are
While you used to choose when you ate, bathed, slept and socialised, those days are gone – at least for a while. So try not to beat yourself up about not showering, still being in grubby PJs at 7pm and feeling like you never get anything done except feeds and changes. Don't expect too much of yourself for a while – keeping a small person alive is achievement enough after all!
12. A packed schedule doesn't always mean a happy child
Don't feel you have to devise a packed social calendar for your child from their day of birth. Attending numerous classes might run you ragged when kids can be just as stimulated playing at home or tagging along on the weekly supermarket shop.
13. You aren't a 'bad mum' if you...
Let your baby fall asleep on you, feed your toddler cheese on toast two days in a row, lose your temper, have been known to use kid's TV as a 'babysitter', use treats as a way to get them to behave, haven't cracked toilet training by the time your friends have and on and on
14. Trust your gut instinct
Parental intuition is nearly always right...