If I have learnt anything during my time as a parent, it’s that children have a way of confounding our expectations, and that I have no idea what I am doing most of the time. I am the first to admit that I made lots of rookie mistakes when I had my first baby, and I know that I’m not alone.
I mean, babies don’t come with an instruction manual, right? Wrong. They come with hundreds – if not thousands – of instruction manuals, and you will be bamboozled at every turn with unnecessary complexity. First-time parents can’t help but go a little crazy.
Here is a small selection of the stupid stuff I did…
1. Treating my baby like a science experiment
There is nothing like that feeling of sheer terror when you finally bring baby number one home for the very first time. What the HELL do I do with this thing? It stands to reason that we do what all rational human beings do: we seek to study the great mystery, to wrest back control from the brink of chaos. Bust out those spreadsheets, baby-tracking apps and Year 8 science skills, we’ve got detailed poo-reporting to do. What better way to get to know your child than to turn them into a human experiment?
10:02am: Baby wakes from nap.
10:16am: Baby feeds from left breast.
10:19am: Baby passes explosive pumpkin-coloured stool.
2. Buying stupid amounts of inappropriate clothing
I hate clothes shopping with a passion and am completely disinterested in fashion but the compulsion to style my unborn child was a powerful addiction. Like all good shopaholics, my baby ended up with an extensive wardrobe of totally inappropriate clothes he never wore. I’m not sure what possessed me to think that size 00 skinny jeans and Nike high-tops were a good combination for a three month old baby with zero muscle tone, and boy did I feel stupid when the kid lived in shit-stained onesies for the first 12 months anyway.
3. Washing the baby’s clothes in special laundry detergent
Like any diligent mum-to-be I hand-washed all my baby’s clothing in enzyme-free laundry detergent and carefully line-dried them using unvarnished wooden pegs on days where the UV index maxed out at moderate. Baby number two I fished a bunch of stinky hand-me downs out of garbage bags from the roof and blasted them with industrial-grade bleach to try and remove stubborn yellow spew and poo stains. Anything that passed the sniff-test was fair game.
4. Buying a padded highchair
These things need to come with a Level 4 bio-hazard warning. What I didn’t know was that padded highchairs are an excellent depository for hidden stores of rotting food, forming a perfect symbiotic relationship with sticky-fingered infants. Moist crevices of vinyl create the ideal environment for rampant bacterial colonisation, and they are resistant to all kinds of cleaning agents. Don’t be fooled by shiny floor stock: you won’t recognise that highchair ten months after your baby has lived with it. Actually, you will recognise it. By smell. From the next room. Because you’ve never smelt anything like it.
5. Needing a sherpa to leave the house
When I had my first baby I insisted on carrying multiple changes of weather-sensitive outfits, a week’s worth of nappies, fresh water, a selection of healthy home-made snacks, several packets of wipes, sunscreen, baby Panadol, flannels, a manual breast pump and enough contingency items to survive a mid-week zombie apocalypse. With baby number two I’d happily leave the house with a packet of wipes, a couple of nappies stuffed in the boot of the car and a nipple shield stuffed down my bra. Everyone survived. There was no zombie apocalypse.
6. Stocking the playroom with wooden toys
My kids were only going to play with gender-neutral wooden toys made from eco-sustainable plantations, and I refused to furnish my home with rooms full of hideous plastic toys. Until I discovered that my kids loved hideous plastic toys. Shiny plastic in rainbows of gaudy colour. Noisy plastic with nerve-shredding sound effects. Sexist plastic in broad hues of pink and blue. Those austere wooden toys were left unloved and unplayed with, collecting a thin layer of organic dust and serving as makeshift homes for politically-correct tiny spiders.
7. Buying a Massive Pram
Buying a pram is like buying a new car; it invariably comes after months of online research, weeks spent studying different models and hours of test-driving prams around baby shops. Wracked with indecision, my search for the “perfect” pram culminated in a mid-store pregnancy meltdown and the impulsive decision to walk off with the biggest $#%#ing pram I could find. I would spend years regretting that decision as I pushed my tank-sized Baby Hummer around, collecting hateful glares from the general public, retail staff and several small canines who stood down the tank and came off second best.
What rookie mistakes did you make as a new mum? Can you relate to any of these?