As she gears up to her little boy’s first birthday, Caroline Corcoran shares her mum wisdom (then falls about laughing at the idea that she has mum wisdom)…
People talking about how fast time goes is up there for me with conversations so blah, you might as well tell me about last night’s dream, AKA the ultimate blah. It’s time! It goes at the same pace! That’s the definition of time! But there we have it. I had a baby and it went fast and now he has teeth and a personality and we are talking about how to mark his first birthday and HOW THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN (next week tune in for a riveting piece about my dreams). Here are some of the lessons I learnt along the way.
1. It’s ok to skive the yoga class
Early on, I went full throttle going to postnatal pilates, joining a netball team and, erm, sometimes straying within a six foot radius of the juicer with a bag of spinach in my hand. Not to get my body back to its pre-baby state particularly, but more to get life back to normal and feel a bit in control.
And then I had this deep, existential realisation: I could not be bothered. In the calm evening moments when my baby boy went to bed, I didn’t want to run around with strangers or work on my downward dog; I wanted to hang out with my partner like we used to or watch Made in Chelsea in bed and that was actually alright. You’re recovering from something pretty mammoth. Go easy on yourself, your stomach muscles and your usual high standards and deal with exercise routines - and the bloody juicer - next year.
2. Related to that, this is not a time to feel guilt over sugar
I don’t drink coffee so for me, sugar was part comfort when everything was new and unknown and part caffeine replacement fuel when I’d had five hours’ sleep. I’m trying to ease back now because I know it’s not great for me but in that first year, if half a sugar in your tea or a couple of Hobnobs after lunch makes it better, do it.
3. You won’t automatically be comfortable sitting on a floor singing Wheels On The Bus
Over time you will become more comfortable sitting on a floor singing Wheels On The Bus but you’re a grown woman, you’re used to meetings and Excel spreadsheets and writing passive-aggressive emails to the electricity company, so the whole thing with the farmyard puppets is a bit awkward. You are unlikely to ever be fully comfortable on that floor. Literally, if you’ve got postpartum arthritis. Oh! Just me? Which brings me to…
4. There are about 4789 post-pregnancy complications that you don’t know about
Seriously, every mum I’ve met had a different one. My own was a relatively not-bad one mentioned above which involves me walking like a robot when I get out of bed in the morning and leaving all baby groups about ten minutes after they end because it takes me so long to get up off the floor but the doctor tells me it’ll abate when my hormones get back to normal after a year. Sure! A YEAR. That’s no problem. I refer you to my earlier point about sugar.
5. It’s ok not to be Head Mum on the baby group scene
At times, I’ve had guilt that my boy and me don’t have a jam-packed schedule of baby meditation, deep sea diving for babies and the early years skydiving programme or whatever the Ultra Mums have booked in for Tuesday. Yep, we go to baby groups some days but on others our plan concludes at ‘go to Aldi for rice cakes’ and that’s ok too. Your six month-old will not fall behind because he didn’t see someone blow bubbles at him in seven different formats at a fiver a pop this week.
6. Do not compare
Here is a warning if you’ve just had a baby: if you spend your whole time worrying about what he/ she is doing when and panicking if he/ she doesn’t do it at exactly the same time as Horatio from baby massage then you will drive yourself insane. The babies are about as likely to crawl on the same day as you and your mate are to drive a car into a wall on the same day because, like you, they are individual humans. Unless your baby isn’t doing something that’s a red flag to health visitors then chill out about it and enjoy them as they bleedin’ are.
7. Even if you were never a canceller, you’re now a canceller
Date nights, play dates, baby group attendances, park trips, even dinner at my mum and dad’s, I am always cancelling. I’m officially now a canceller. I don’t even know why! It’s just that my boy needs a nap, or a potato, and then he’s got a cold, and then I’ve got a cold - probably because I eat biscuits instead of spinach now - and somehow, we miss a lot of stuff. It’s why hanging out with other mums is a good plan because they’re the only people who are just as rubbish.
8. You will still read and you will still travel
.. or whatever it is that’s important to you. I, for example, still make time to watch an inordinate amount of crap scripted reality shows set in locales around the country. Aim for the stars, guys, aim for the stars.
9...But you probably won’t get drunk as much as you think you will
Seriously, nine months - actually, about 11 with IVF months - of not drinking to make up for and now I can, I generally don’t bother because a hangover in charge of a baby is so very grim and also, I go to bed early a lot. Practically, there isn’t much time to get drunk. I plan to make up for this in a few years with a 40th birthday party that’s so debauched the Daily Mail write about it though so watch out for that, please.