My husband and I have adopted two amazing children. They have been with us for nine months and are a joy (most of the time!)
Before the children moved in, lots of parents we know told us that nothing prepares you for parenting. If I'm honest, I listened and nodded but felt slightly smug because I've worked with children for 10 years, so surely that would have prepared me.
My smugness quickly slapped me on the butt after a few days of them moving in.
Because it turns out, NOTHING PREPARES YOU FOR PARENTING!
So here are ten things I realised in the first few weeks of becoming a parent.
1) It's continuous.
That sounds harsh but you just can't imagine how continuous it is until you experience it. You no longer have free time, to do what you want, when you want. My husband summed it up pretty accurately. After one day of looking after the kids by himself I asked him which was easier work or looking after the children, he responded "Work" promptly and then said "at work I can pee on my own and take breaks when I want to".
2) I must have come across extremely patronising.
I'm a nursery manager and I now cringe at some of the conversations I've had with parents. I'd always start by saying "now I don't have any children of my own" then continue to advise on a range of topics. It came from a good place, but if I sounded in anyway patronising, I apologise!
3) Never say "I'll never do that" before you become a parent because you will, in fact probably on the 2nd or 3rd day.
Television for example. Professionally I advised parents on how much TV children should watch and said that I'll never use TV as a calming mechanism! Well let me hang my head in shame because when you have one child screaming and the other one wanting your undivided attention and you know that 10 minutes of TV will bring back some calm to your hectic day the TV will be on before you can say Paw Patrol.
4) That Michael McIntyre sketch is so accurate!
Watch it before you have kids and then again afterwards!
5) That a support network is so important.
My mum lives with us. We were all worried how the children would change the dynamics of us living together but she has been a godsend. The rest of our family and friends have also been such a support. As for my husband, I'm so lucky. The kids adore him and he is fantastic with them.
6) That I found it easier than I thought I would to switch from being an Early Years worker to a mum!
I thought I'd struggle with this and might be too nursery nurse with them! Apart from instinctively wanting to record their temperatures and medication doses in the first few weeks. I am definitely their mum and not their nursery nurse although the repertoire of nursery rhymes and messy play recipes has come in extremely useful!
7) That they can change their minds at any given moment about the simplest of things!
In a scenario I now call "tomato gate", Big Pig had agreed to eat something new for lunch! A pizza wrap.
I felt so proud that I was mixing up their diet of sandwiches and yoghurts. I added some tomatoes (which he eats regularly) and offered the dish to him. "Are those tomatoes?" He asked in disgust, "yes sweetheart, you like tomatoes", he then turned the colour of a tomato and screamed "I don't like tomatoes".
Very calmly I said, "well you do, because you eat them all the time". He then repeated in a slightly more screaming tone, "I don't like tomatoes!"
Now hindsight is a wonderful thing and I should have just cut my losses then, but I knew that he liked them, the wrap was all toasted together nicely, I'd made a lot of effort, so I continued to explain my evidence for the case that, yes, he did like tomatoes! "But you eat tomatoes all the time in pasta sauce, chilli and beef burgers."
To this statement I actually started to think that human combustion might indeed be possible, he sank to the floor and screamed. I suddenly realised, I'd gone too far. So, defeated, I removed the tomatoes, he without words communicated further disgust by pointing at some pips I'd missed and he watched on as I ensured every trace of tomato was gone.
He returned (mightily quickly I might add) to his usual colour, and as he settled to eat his pizza wrap, I went in to the kitchen to take a deep breath as I counted down from 10 I got to 8 and he called out "Mummy" he said; "can I have some tomato sauce please?"
8) That you will spend all of your time talking about your children.
I said before that I didn't want to be one of those parents that only talk about their kids! Well it's pretty difficult not to, because you spend all your time with them and have no time to do anything else!! Also you want to talk about them all the time because of the pride you feel in everything they do!
9) That you need the patience of a saint.
A saintly saint actually. I've lost mine on numerous occasions. Normally in the morning - I'm not a morning person. I must attempt to boil a kettle 20 times in the attempt to down a strong cup of coffee, but each time I try It's like they have an alarm set to go off every time you move out of sight and the sound is "Maam". At first, the way they called out I thought they must be bleeding but no, they didn't have matching spoons!
10) That despite all my moaning being a parent is the most rewarding and beautiful thing I have ever done.
It is also by far the hardest thing I've ever done. But the bond we have already is unbreakable. I love them more than I ever knew my heart could be capable of. They are my chaos and my calm. They can push me to tears of frustration and joy. They're resilience astounds me daily and they are making me a better person as I definitely feel more at peace with the world, because things just make a little bit more sense with them in it.