The internet is full of what are called ‘hacks’; lifestyle hacks, beauty hacks, parenting hacks… for those not au fait with this vernacular, they simply mean tips or tricks to make things a little easier on yourself. I overheard Dan having a conversation with a new parent recently as he talked about the reality of how you end up parenting in comparison to your initial expectations. Not that I’m saying that our standards have slipped after three children…just that we’ve streamlined what we deem to be important and what we’ve realised can be negotiated or ignored. Of course, these things differ from family to family, everyone has their own line of what they deem proper or acceptable.
Rather than detail any specific tricks that I use to make my parenting journey easier, I thought I’d just mention the single biggest approach that I’ve started to employ whilst raising and nurturing (or trying to!) three small people. And that is simply to not care so much. I obviously don’t mean not caring about the children but I mean not caring about mess, about what other people think, about screen time vs structured activities vs autonomous play. This is something I’m still working on but I’ve realised that I’ve wasted far too much time over the last seven years worrying about things that ultimately will have little or no bearing on anything of lasting importance.
In the early months with Sophia I was obsessed with the idea of routine and getting her to sleep a) through the night and b) by herself. After three children I can tell you with certainty that all children are different and will achieve both milestones in their own good time. Sophia was happy by herself at night by 1 and slept through the night not long after, for Isaac it took almost three years for both and Elijah is following in his brothers footsteps. Similarly, with the first two I worried about what they ate, how much they ate, when they ate…Eli is a grazer and prone to phases of eating barely anything alternated with eating like a horse. To be honest, I don’t have the time or energy to be worried about this, I know adults who prefer to graze so I’m assuming that this might just be his preference.
The biggest thing I’ve learnt to relax about though is mess. There are a lot of memes and sayings about the value of spending time with your family and friends over having an immaculate house and although some of them are rather cheesy, I think they are nonethless very true. I’m a clean freak by nature so this is something I still have an internal struggle about but on the whole, I’d rather spend time with the kids or do something I want to do, be that going for a run, baking a cake or doing some writing rather than tidying from dawn to dusk. So my number one parenting hack, advice or tip is just to relax. Stop worrying so much about unimportant things, enjoy the journey and all the mess and variety it brings. Cheesy…but true!
Published in the Exeter Express and Echo on 29th August.