Updated: Jun 27
Someone asked me today whether I ever had any rules for being a Mum. It was in the context of a discussion about how the rules change as your children grow up and also how I feel myself at present - away from the confines of a regular day job - a bit like the rule book has been thrown out of the window. His question made me pause to think and I wonder what rules I did have as a Mum and what rules any of us really follow? Thinking back the golden rule in those manic initial months - the baptism of fire into motherhood - is of course to grab any rest you can as soon as you have an opportunity to do so. That pearl of wisdom from an older, seen-it-all-before relative "When baby sleeps, you sleep." In practical terms it doesn't work out that way as I remember trying to keep on top of the rest of life when baby slept, but the theory is sound. An image of scraping together something that vaguely resembles lunch from the previous night's dinner and hastily grabbing a moment in the shower, without baby in the bathroom with you, is the sort of thing I did in a dazed stupor at baby's nap time. I am finding it hard to remember specific rules for managing as a parent, though I guess if you were to ask my children they would probably reel off several. I think we had more of a set of expectations rather than hard and fast rules. We expected our children to listen to others and in turn, we would listen to them. My dear friend and Godmother to both of my children has noted in the past that my eldest always expected to be included in the conversation and saw no distinction between himself and the adults in the room, taking his turn to speak alongside them. My daughter then followed suit from the example set. We expected that our children would sit down for mealtime, particularly if in a public place - no crawling or running around restaurants, no 'helicopter grazing' at home, picking at bits as they fancied rather than joining a mealtime. I guess then that social etiquette was taught by that example. As for other rules, they would have centred around personal safety and respect for each other. That umbrella covers all of the daily necessities like "Don't touch the hob, wait at the kerb, put your toys back in the box when you've finished playing with them" and a whole host of similar statements. What rules do you have for your children? If you're not a parent, what rules do you remember from your own childhood? I wonder if you think they were fair or if with hindsight, you would change them. Keeping up with today's fast-paced life we probably need a fast-paced rule book, one that changes and adapts as issues arise. There's a lot that we needed to consider rules for that didn't exist when we were children. Screen time, internet access, gaming restrictions are just a few that come to mind. I still feel like I am playing catch-up in these areas and actually I have now run out of scope to be setting rules, as both of my children are now adults. Four adults, one dog and a guinea-pig all living in one space - there may not be rules but there needs to be a respect for each other's space and wishes. It won't be of any surprise to you to learn that it doesn't always work.
Looking back, I am sure that it didn't work for a lot of the time. There are so many parenting manuals available and a plethora of programmes to watch in the style of 'Super Nanny.' Yet it doesn't really matter how much research you do, I still think that there are no real rules and no elusive magic way to be a parent. In danger of being called a hippy perhaps, I am not advocating having no rules for I firmly believe that children need boundaries and to know what they are. However, I think we all just do the best that we can, sometimes one day at a time, but the best that we can with the skills that we have and we keep our fingers crossed that somewhere along the line, it turns out okay.