A list for new parents

It’s important to not spread yourself too thinly. There are only so many hours in the day and so many mental and emotional resources you have to allocate. Here are 10 issues for (healthy) new parents (of healthy children). Choose from this list one to anxiously obsess over, one to feel guilty over, and one to feel smug about. You may choose more than one issue per emotion, but don’t use the whole list. At least three should never enter your mind, in case it explodes. You can express surprise when other parents are anxious/guilty/smug about something you’ve never considered, and then you can feel anxious or guilty about it too, or smug that you’re not.

1. Feeding. (Are my boobs making enough milk? Will my formula fed baby end up an asthmatic moron? When should I introduce solids? Should I give my baby peanut butter in the hospital carpark in case of anaphylactic shock? Should she only eat organic food? How much sugar/salt/sulfates is too much? What are sulfates?)

2. Sleeping. (How many naps? How long? Do I believe in set bedtimes? Is the cot going to fall apart? Is the room warm enough? Too warm? How often should I check on my baby to ensure she doesn’t die of SIDS? How bad is it too co-sleep, really?)

3. Health and safety. (What’s the safety rating on this car seat? Should I sanitise the dummy every time it falls on the floor? Do we need to put foam covers on the corners of everything or just the coffee table? Does she need special baby laundry powder? What’s that rash?)

4. Physical development. (Is my baby too short/long/fat/skinny? Is her head too big/small/round/pointy? Is she growing too fast or not enough? Are her hips wonky? Are her eyes wonky? Is she smiling yet? Can she roll over? What about rolling over the other way? When will she sit/crawl/stand/walk? Is that too late? How important is the crawling, really? How many teeth does she have? What if she has no teeth? When should we start swimming lessons? How can you teach a baby to swim anyway and why does it cost $20 a lesson?)

5. Mental development. (Should we be reading to her more? What does it mean when she laughs at nothing? Is she bored? Is she smart? Is she smarter than the other babies? Can you google “Baby IQ test” and just see what it says? Is she watching too much TV? What if she only watched ABC 4 Kids, is it okay then? Should we be playing her Mozart?)

6. Social and emotional development. (Does she recognise us? Was that a smile or just gas? Is that a hungry cry or a tired cry? Is she babbling? Should she play with other babies more? Are we worried enough about gender roles and messages? Why is she scared of men with beards but not enormous dogs? Is she happy? How  can you tell?)

7. Child care. (Montessori, not-for-profit-, for-profit, family day care? Are we ruining her for life? Will they stick to the schedule they made us give them, or not? Will they feed her lamingtons for every meal? Does she have friends? Can babies have friends?)

8. Bodily fluids. (Colour? Frequency? Texture? Can I use the same kind of wipes on both ends or does the face need some kind of fancy wipe? Is it okay that it’s been a week between poos? Why does she always vomit as soon as she has new clothes on?)

9. Parenting philosophy. (Do I believe in attachment parenting? Tiger parenting? Authoritative 1940s style parenting? Hands off 1970s style parenting? Trying to be super-parents 2000s style parenting? What if one day I’m an earth mother and the next I’m something else? Should we have a schedule? How long can I let her cry before I stunt her development and she ends up no better off than a Romanian orphan? Should we co-sleep, feed on demand, use a sling, do controlled crying, do elimination communication, start with Baby Einstein DVDs?)

10. Having a second baby. (How long until people start asking about #2? Not very long at all. Less than 24 hours, if they’re a doctor.)

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