parent opinion

'After 4 kids, this is what I've learnt to accept about being the "other" parent.'

In the world of newborn parenting, there is a lot you can read about being that baby’s mother. There’s a lot less if you’re the other parent. 

Or, as I like to think of it, the Second-Favourite Parent.

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Video via Mamamia.

We’ve just had our fourth child. Our little bub is seven weeks old and we adore her.

Once again, we’re navigating the massive life change that welcoming a baby into our home is for everyone. Each time it’s different, however with each child, I am even more convinced that being a good Second-Favourite Parent is my primary task. 

It took a little while to realise that, and a little longer to accept it, but in the end, I’ve found it quite freeing and joyful.

Image: Supplied.

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It isn’t until our baby is seven months old that she will realise she and mummy are not actually the same person. 

In the meantime, baby and I are definitely building our connection, but to her, the most secure place right now is with mummy.

So if baby settles better with mummy, that’s ok. If baby doesn’t want to be held by me, that’s normal. If I cannot meet my baby’s need, that makes perfect sense. 

But it’s difficult. Of course it is. If you didn’t think you could feel the pang of rejection from someone so small, well you can, you do and you will. 

However, once I began to understand that I did have a vitally important role to play as Second-Favourite Parent, it did become easier. I realised I’m not first reserve. I’m very much on the team.

My job is to support the nest.

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The nest is the place where mummy and baby bond. It is the safest place baby can be and where she is secure enough to begin to understand this new world she finds herself in. These first months are the steepest learning curve, the biggest adjustment baby will ever have in her life.

As Second-Favourite Parent, I can’t breastfeed but I can feed mummy. I can help mummy stay hydrated and create opportunities for her to rest where possible. This supports the nest.

I may not always be the best one to comfort baby. Often, I hold her and she won’t find stop crying. I can’t do it. Not because I’m not 'doing it right' but because I’m not her top choice. And that’s okay.

What I can do is ensure that the home functions well, so that mummy is free to comfort. I can work to reduce my partner’s stress to release her from one of the many pressures that she is experiencing. This supports the nest.

Image: Supplied.

The Second-Favourite Parent is the person who knows the Favourite Parent best. I can read mummy’s tone when she says she’s fine and understand that she’s actually being brave. I’m the one who’s going to understand the nuance in her expression that means no more visitors today. It’s my job to know when mummy needs to talk and when mummy needs to watch funny videos with someone. This supports the nest.

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And as for me and baby? 

I’ve learned to 1) take every opportunity to bond, and 2) be patient. Change every nappy you can because it’s a great time to talk with your baby. Hold them while they nap, kiss them, smell them and don’t worry if you don’t get their first smiles. There are thousands to come for both you and baby. There is time. So much time.

Image: Supplied.

So when at home, slow down. Be present. Look after the nest. 

And don’t forget about yourself. You are vital. 

After all, your baby needs (and loves) their Second-Favourite Parent.

Matt Stanton is a bestselling children's author and illustrator who has sold more than one million books worldwide. The first two books in his new Self-Help for Babies series (co-written with his wife Beck), Sleep 101: How to Sleep Like a Baby and Whine Guide: Find Your Voice and Start Sweating the Small Stuff, are available now. The next two books, Dummies for Suckers: A Comprehensive User Guide and One-Ingredient Cookbook: The Start of a Zero-Waste Life, will hit stores on 2 December 2020. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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