When I was offered the role of parenting editor at Mamamia, my first question was, "Are you ok with the fact that I'm not a... mum?"
My job was to commission parenting stories, giving a voice to as many parents as possible (you can send yours in by emailing [email protected]).
I had years of experience commissioning articles, but would it be a challenge to sift through hundreds of submissions a week about parenting when I myself didn't have a baby? I'd only ever held one, and I thought a Snoo was a type of Swedish scarf.
Now it's been almost two years, and I've had a veritable crash course in what it takes to be a parent. I've read your opinions, chatted to hundreds of mums and know more intimate details about childbirth than anyone, save for maybe a midwife, should know.
I still don't know what it is to have a child, but here are nine observations I've made about parenthood - from the outside.
Before I get into it, here's some of the Mamamia team's pressing questions about childbirth, answered by mums.
1. There's a lot of stuff you don't need. You're still going to get the stuff.
Everyone says babies don't come with a manual and while that's anecdotally true, I seem to receive a heck of a lot of books and resources moonlighting as baby manuals. Anyway, what they DO come with is instructions to buy stuff. So much stuff. Bouncing seats and rockers and wraps and white noise machines and burping cloths and zipsuits and breast pumps and quaint wooden toys.
Every mum will tell you that most of it, you don't need. But that doesn't mean that as a first time mum, you won't buy it. Thank god for Facebook Marketplace, amirite? If it's going to sit in the spare room that used to be an office, it may as well be second hand.
2. No one is ever really ready. Really.
While parenting seems like a terrible endeavour to jump into ill-prepared, you can also be over-prepared. I've observed that there's a healthy threshold of mildly-terrified-yet-accepting that most of my parent friends seemed to teeter
on before their babies arrived and
blew up changed their worlds as they knew them.
3. There's always a 'but'.
I get sent a lot of submissions from mums. Almost all of them speak to the universal but not as well publicised aspects of being a parent - the hard stuff. The crushing fatigue, the unfair ratio of the mental load, loss of identity, loss of career, loss of ownership over your body/personal space - and still, somehow, none of the stories are the same. It blows my mind.
If there's one thing they all have in common, though, it's the but.