What I've learned as a parent

EIMEAR HUTCHINSON reflects on the lesser-recognised lessons we learn as parents in her weekly column for WOW!
What I've learned as a parent

As a parent we learn about communication, trust, instinct and empathy more than we do at any other stage in our lives, says Eimear. Picture: Stock

SINCE becoming a parent just over nine years ago now, it has most definitely been the one period in my life where I have learned the most — and I have completed a PhD so there is a comparison for you.

Obviously, I have learned a lot about the practical elements of keeping a child fed, safe and happy, but outside of that there is a lot of learning we do in terms of us as human beings that are not so well- documented. We learn about communication, trust, instinct and empathy more than we do at any other stage in our lives.

I remember sitting with a midwife before our first lady arrived and I was saying something to the effect of ‘Oh yes, it said that in the book’ and the midwife, so kindly took my hand and told me to put the book away because the book wasn’t written about my baby and every baby is different. She told me I had to trust my gut and at the time I panicked: what did I know about babies or gut feelings, and my poor husband sitting there having never held a baby in his life.

But looking back, that midwife was right and many times over the course of the past nine years that very conversation has come back to me. Especially when the girls have been sick or unwell, it is often my gut instinct that tells me when they need the doctor as opposed to other times when you just know it’s a passing virus or teething.

There are lots of things that are important when you have a baby or a child, but probably one of the most important is communication.

It goes without saying that communication between parent and child is hugely important but communication between the parents themselves is incredibly important too.

That might seem a very straightforward statement, but with babies brings tiredness, hormones, and heightened emotions.

Many of us bury things or turn the other way for the sake of an easy life, but does it really lead to an easy life in the long run, or does it result in a build up of pent up emotions that would have been better addressed sooner?

In my experience, it is always best to speak up, don’t let things lie, the actual outcome often provides more relief in the long term than stewing over potential outcomes does in the short term.

As a mother, sometimes it is easy to feel like we have the inside track with our children, especially with babies, we grew them and birthed them after all. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we feel it would be easier to do things for ourselves rather than asking for help. It might be easier than letting someone else do it their own way, which might differ to your way, but that doesn’t make it any less right.

In business, to be a good manager you delegate work and parenting can be much the same, we need to be able to ask for and accept help.

It is so important to let your husband/partner/other parent take the lead sometimes, to walk away even when you think you may know best, so that in the long term there are two confident parents working as a team instead of one who leads and one who does what they are told. We know instinctively that other person is going to do their best, we just need to trust them.

We all parent differently, we all make our own choices for our own children based on our own gut feelings. It is easy to hand out advice based on your own experiences, and I am not saying you shouldn’t do that, but just make sure the recipient of the advice wants it.

There are times as parents we can all feel vulnerable, you never know what might be going on with someone or why they make the choices they do so it’s good to be mindful of how we speak to other parents.

Between friends, advice can be a great thing, a way to reassure new mum’s and to help them build their confidence.

But it is the passing comments we need to mind, just a few short words that can have a big effect. I was out recently with the girls for a walk one, taking advantage of a rare blue sky in January. We passed a lady on the walk and all she said to us was ‘shouldn’t you be home schooling?’ a harmless but pointless comment that stuck with me for many days — it wasn’t her business when we set our times for home schooling and I had no opportunity to defend myself.

However, my gut instinct in that moment was to point my head towards the blue sky, take a deep breath and listen to the sound of my four ladies laughing, happy despite the world around them.

It goes without saying that communication between the parent and child is hugely important, but communication between the parents themselves is incredibly important too.

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