From Teacher to Parent.
I come to you, fellow educators, parents, friends & family, from the rocking chair, where I frequently nurse and rock to sleep our beautiful baby girl Ruby. We're now 14 weeks in, 14 weeks on this huge learning journey as a first time mum. This reflection of what I hope to continue to add to, will give some insight into my experience of the shift from the profession as an Early Childhood Educator (ECE) to a First Time Mum (FTM).
First and foremost I want to set the tone, that this comes from the heart and a place of deep love, appreciation and gratitude for our little girl and the honor it is to be her mum. I also acknowledge those who are at whatever stage of their journey to becoming a mum, if that path is possible or even desired.
12 years teaching under 5's, overseas teaching and travel, confidence, creativity, and adaptability... this is what I thought would have set me up for a smooth transition into parenthood. Yes, it probably did, all those experiences and others from childhood shape who I am today but nothing could prepare me for "what to expect" from our beautiful new born. In fact, many people believe that because you're a teacher, that you have an advantage and have "got this"... False!, and I probably speak on behalf of many teachers, nurses, doctors, health professionals and others that have a career with children, that sometimes our prior knowledge and experience can actually add a whole other layer of pressure, self inflicted or societal, to transition from career to parenthood.
Miss Ruby and I have spent the past 14 weeks getting to know each other. As each day unfolds, I see the little bits of myself and my partner as her personality presents itself. She's a little fire cracker, full of energy, wide awake, alert and curious about the world around her. She needs lots of sensory input (rocking, bouncing, swaying and carrying) to get to sleep, lights and reflection capture her attention and she speaks up and lets you know when something is up... if only we knew what exactly!
Learn their cues, hunger cues, sleepy cues, their different cries. Wake windows, sleep associations, routines. Wake, eat, play, sleep? Sleep cycles, awake but drowsy, linking sleep cycles. Dream feeds, fast let down and nursing strikes - what!? you don't want to eat? but you must be starving!? and then there's catnapping... hours spent assisting to sleep, to get 20 mins? Barely enough time to shower and refresh yourself after a night of broken sleep. You can see how overwhelming and exhausting the entry into motherhood/parenthood can be... antenatal classes didn't even scratch the surface on the 4th trimester.
Let's now add that layer from a professional background, one that equips you with knowledge of child
development, parenting & communication styles, learning styles, educational theories & philosophies. All of this should give you the advantage, right? Yes, maybe in the long run, but as a Teacher becoming a First Time Mum, this can and certainly for me, adds to the challenges of new born life. All that I have learnt and practiced as a teacher should come naturally right? They say "knowledge is power", but I found the prior knowledge, new information & various advice to be totally overwhelming at times...
Freedom of movement vs tummy time, is the dummy bad for speech development? Tongue tie, to snip or not? Reusable vs Disposable nappies, co-regulation vs self-soothing/settling, nurse to sleep & bed sharing, safe sleep vs any way to sleep possible!? Oh and the crying = stress = serotonin = poor brain development. THIS was and still is a trigger for me as I wonder what am I missing? Also note; it's not the crying that's affects the growing brain, it's not responding to the cry with comfort, cuddles, your voice, care.
Anyone who knows me can confirm that I am a bit of perfectionist, a creative, a problem solver and I've been quite independent since a young teen (with a supportive and loving family). Knowledge, experience and these traits have lead me to finding the following truths and lessons.
10 truths & lessons
1. YOUR life is now rushed so that you can be present in THEIRS. Forget routine and relish in love filled rituals.
2. Over-thinking and self doubt is your number 1 enemy. Reflect and celebrate on how far you've come and what good times are still to come.
3. We are living in a world saturated with information and advice. Gut feeling is everything. Listen to it!
4. Parenting brings BIG emotions, in your baby and yourself. Take time to regulate yourself so you can co-regulate, bringing calm & compassion.
5. Relationships change! Take time with friends, welcome support from family and nurture your relationship with your partner, life's different now as you build a relationship with your little one.
6. Baby sleep is unpredictable. Expect to invest time into learning what works for your baby. There is no one size fits all approach, although there are many for sale on the internet. @heysleepybaby keeps it real over on Instagram. I'm still learning this!
7. The female body is INCREDIBLE! Be kind to yourself & drink plenty of water. Our bodies go through ALOT during pregnancy, birth and ongoing as we nurture our wee babes to grow.
8. Take care of your mental health too. Post Natal Depression and Anxiety don't discriminate and may come and go in waves.
9. Get out of the house. Get some fresh air, go for a walk, meet friends for a coffee, go to that parent group.
10. Lap up the smiles, giggles, milestones and growth.
The past 14 weeks with Miss Ruby, have been like no other, and nothing, no amount of advice could have
prepared me for the journey of personal growth of becoming a mum. My life now has a new purpose. Although there have been tough times, there have been plenty of magical moments too. I look forward to her growing and becoming more independent but at the same time I want to pause time, snuggle, and revel in the moments where she fits so perfectly in my arms. I know that each day she grows and becomes heavier to hold, heavier to rock and heavier to carry, my arms get stronger and I know that one day she wont need that anymore. Our days are spent finding various ways to help her slumber and although I look forward to a full nights sleep at some point, our night wakes are moments I treasure, with simple feeds and sometimes longer than she needs snuggles. The moments filled with smiles, giggles and our little chats. The discovery of her hands and her growing strength with little attempts to roll. The contact naps and morning snuggles. These precious moments make all of those tough times disappear and our connection grow deeper by the day.
Yes, I have experience working with young children and yes early childhood education is my profession. But its true that myself and others that work with children face the same challenges as other first time mums. There will come a time where my experience (mainly with preschool aged children) will be able to shine and then there will become a time after that where I will be "winging it" again. For now I appreciate the gift and honor of being Ruby's mum and I look forward to igniting love, connection and appreciation for the natural world within her through exploration and play outdoors. And when the time comes to return to teaching, I will bring new skills, greater patience, inner strength, and an greater understanding of parenting.
P.S It's literally taken me ALL day to write this #mumlife