Today I found myself handing out some unsolicited parenting advice (UPA). This is not my normal modus operandi. Like most mums-to-be, I was on the receiving end of so much UPA before the birth of Mr7 (and afterwards, often in the queue at the supermarket checkout, I found) that I swore I’d never dispense it myself.
I’ve slipped up over the years, of course – there are moments when a person finds herself saying things before she even realises her mouth is open – but for the most part, I wait until I’m asked.
Not only was today’s UPA out of the ordinary, it was also out of the blue.
I was doing an interview. I know. Professional and all. With a mum to be, who was sharing some of her thoughts and fears about the impending birth.
I asked all my questions, took due note of all her answers and got us unscathed to the end of the interview. She was, like all first-time mums to be, full of what ifs and hows and maybes and shoulds and coulds and… in other words, no clue.
“I’m just not sure what it’s going to be like,” she finished up. “I’ve been asking everyone. People at work, my friends, my family, the lady at the fruit shop…”
I couldn’t help myself. “Can I just say something?” I asked. What was she going to say? No?
“Of course,” she said.
“It’s going to be just like your life, but with an added, new, and wonderful dimension,” I said. “Your life goes on. It doesn’t suddenly all come to a crashing halt. It’s different. But it’s still your life.”
“Oh,” she breathed. “I’m so happy to hear that.”
I was emboldened. “Here’s the thing,” I continued. “I remember feeling exactly as you do before the birth of my first child…”
And I told her about how I’d rung a friend up one day, just before I was due to give birth. My friend F’s first baby was five months old by then, fat, happy, gurgly.
“I’m just wondering what you actually do when you take the baby home,” I said.
Silence. “What do you mean?” F asked. “Like when you get home from hospital.”
Yes, then. When you arrive in your same house, through your same front door, bringing that little person with you that, somehow, they’ve let you take home with you. Despite the fact that you have not one clue what to do with said little person. What exactly do you do?
“Well,” she said, giving the matter careful and considerable thought. “We had a kebab. You could do that.”
I’m not sure what I expected, but it was not something as pedestrian as a kebab. “Really?”
“Yes, really. I’d suggest you do that, Al. Put the baby to bed and have a kebab.”
See what I mean. Your life goes on, with a whole new dimension in the next room. One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever received. And I was happy to pass it on. Solicited or not.
What’s the best piece of parenting advice you’ve ever received, solicited or otherwise?