First Time Mother, my beautiful daughter 'Quinn' born in September 2019.
Becoming a parent is an amazing accomplishment and a total life changer. Whether you're a new mother or father or significant other of any kind, I hope you can find some peace in this article's advice and especially if you're a first time parent, find that calm factor that second and third time parents seem to possess.
Being a 'first time parent' is just a completely different experience to having multiple children. I am a first time parent. And unless I have another child, I always will be. I will have the privilege of experiencing all of her memories and milestones as a 'first'. And it's extra special. Would my subsequent children be just as important if I had them? Sure. But would I do just as good as I did the first time? Maybe not. Actually, I don't think so. Why? Because it was too dam hard!
And that's the basis of this article today. Dropping that first time parent, 'everything has to be perfect', drive yourself crazy, obsessive-compulsive desire to make every moment special and every thing about your child perfect... And trade it in for a more relaxed, more manageable 'she'll be right' kind of attitude.
Now I know this instinctive nature is built into our physiology and can't just be simply 'traded in'. As mother's in particular, we are guilty of over thinking certain elements of our child's lives to an intense degree and it typically starts immediately, after discovering you're expecting. For example, the little one's not even earth side yet but we want the perfect nursery, gender reveal, baby shower. In fact, a friend of mine that does maternity and newborn photography, claims all of her newborn shoots are booked whilst babes still in the womb. Some having to reschedule because they're pregnancy went passed their due date. And is a photoshoot an imperative part of the child's life? Gosh, no. In fact, you'll probably frame one photo out of the lot and never look at it again.
There's nothing wrong with spoiling a child with love. In fact, you can't spoil a child with love. But you can damage your finances, stress yourself right out unnecessarily and even create rifts between yourself and your partner or co-parent, if they don't agree with your level of enthusiasm or expenditure. For example, spending $800 on a photo shoot when your a newly single income family might not be ideal and could create friction. And this could be after already spending a small fortune on 4D and bonding scans!
It's all well and good to go 110% on creating a perfect childhood if you have the means. And by that I mean, all of it. The physical and mental energy, the motivation, the patience and most importantly the money. If you are on a budget, I can't express this enough, but just come to terms with it.
Babies do not need designer clothes! The shock, the horror, right? Babies are beautiful, squishy lumps of perfection as they are yet for some reason we love to decorate them further with gorgeous outfits, probably big bows and bonnets. While these things are super adorable and I'm probably not going to talk you out of them, they are not necessary. Obviously, I mean they aren't likely comfortable for an infant, usually expensive, difficult to get on and probably not doing anything to keep the child warm or safe from the elements.
Now I'm not knocking it altogether. I used plenty of gorgeous outfits on my daughter that were useful solely for a few happy snap pictures and then put away never to be worn by her again. But of course held on to because they're too precious to give away either. I know, I'm a giant hypocrite. But I'm not lying about it at least.
What I do recommend now, given that hindsight is such a wonderful thing... is that you will have enough of these outfits and beautiful clothes given to you by loving friends and family. Save yourselves the money on anything fancy and instead invest in the practical, comfortable clothes your child will wear day in, day out to the point of being worn and stained and well, well used.
Expensive Toys and Accessories
I don't know who raised the bar so high for parents. But it's certainly not their babies. Children of any age require our love and connection more than elaborate possessions. But we feel as though providing nice things is an imperative reflection of our parenting. The more we splurge on our kids, the more we must love them. And this is a backwards notion. Often we buy these things for the wrong reasons. We're usually either aiming to impress other adults or trying to compensate for feelings of guilt about the quantity or quality of time actually spent with the children. Or maybe just to indulge our own egotistical needs. It's important that as parents, we check ourselves occasionally and ask if our motive for spoiling a child with excess material possessions is self driven or sincere.
Professional photographers are usually amazing at collecting the most incredible shots of our babes and save parents a lot of hard work in terms of set up and editing. They also do a wonderful job collecting the money right out of your pocket! A professional shoot can cost as much as a couple hundred dollars and often only get you a few good pictures.
Is it a waste? No, not entirely. I absolutely can appreciate a good thing. But am cautioning others that you can have too much of it. I already have probably a million happy snaps on my phone and spread out across several hard drives and SD cards. How many professional pictures could I possibly need.
So far, my daughter's only 'professional photo's' are those annual pictures with Santa Clause at the local shopping centre. Everything else that resembles professional shots were done at home. Because I had trouble affording a professional. I just invested in a bloody good camera phone, a backdrop or two and some lights. We always have so much fun, taking beautiful shots at home. I feel like the memories made are better just us at home than if we went to someone. I edit them myself. And I always get a lot of compliments and a lot of disbelief that I took them myself.
Honestly if you have the money laying around, go for it. But if like me, you just don't. Then be creative and get your own. Do not waste what little money you have on an ultimately unnecessary venture like professional photography for your kids.
Lessons or Classes for Your Infant
I have mixed feelings on this one but the state of my savings account indicates that classes of any kind for my baby might have been a bit of a waste of money. I'm not entirely sure on it because I do believe we benefitted in some ways but not those that I truly desired. I'll explain why.
Postpartum had kicked my butt. When my daughter was only six months old or more, I started getting frustrated with having no routine, no where to be, no goals. I had been used to working multiple jobs and being very busy, and seeing lots of people everyday. I was down and desperate for social interaction and more structure in our life. So I started looking into extra curricular activities for my daughter and I to add some essence to our days.
I started with a program called 'Gymbaroo'. It was a bit of a mum and me class with other mums and their babes, with a focus on sensory and motor skills development. The class was heavily structured and my little one hated having to participate, let alone stay still and pay attention. Because the staff weren't overly friendly and we weren't really getting the opportunity to make friends in the process, we quit after one term. So this lasted for a total of 10 weeks.
I deviated to a similar program nearby called 'Hive Creative Play'. This was a vastly more comfortable, more friendly atmosphere and included a cup of coffee for me each lesson so I felt like it was better value for money at least. My daughter still hated the structured portion of the class but was allowed a half hour of free play with the other children. We did this for the next two years. It gave me the opportunity to chat and relate to the other parents which was good for me but Quinn didn't interact with the other children, and was more interested in playing next to them. Given I was hoping this experience would help develop her social skills, this was disappointing. I had spent thousands at this point and felt like it hadn't helped my daughter to assimilate with other kids at all. I take her to the park a lot and wish I'd just done more of that! It's free, not time restricted and has nothing but opportunity for kids to interact in their own way. Which is probably the best way!
Swimming was a whole different thing. My parents have a swimming pool so it was super important to us that my girl developed some survival skills in the water. At about the same time that we started the hive program, we signed up for swim lessons. The water familiarisation classes were a lot of fun for me and my girl. We had a lovely time splashing in the water and I honestly thought she'd be a fantastic swimmer by the age of four. However, after a year of lessons, she had only improved a little bit in developing skills like holding her breath and kicking her legs. She was moved up a class and progressed to the stage of parents getting out of the pool and being in a small class of three toddlers to one teacher. This was where we struck trouble and wasted the most money of all! Despite doing the program for so long, my child was fine for a total of two lessons without me. Then she refused to get in without me. It was a big embarrassing waste of time, we had to walk out on lessons before they'd even started and some we didn't even get to in the end. So I was pouring money down the pool drain! We gave up and I started taking my girl to the public pool. For a tiny fraction of the cost of swimming lessons we spend way more time in the pool and have a lot of fun learning how to swim. I highly encourage others to do the same!
Looking back I can't believe I chose to spend 5% of my annual income on extra curricular activities for my baby/toddler. I'm proud that clearly I was very enthusiastic and wanted only good things for my baby girl BUT considering my budget, this was for lack of a better word, a bit stupid!
Spoil Them the Right Way
Give your child all of your love, your support, your encouragement. Spoil them with affection and praise. Shower them with your quality time! Bond with them. Be silly with them. Be creative with them. And be patient with them. If you want to be a great parent and not raise 'spoilt' kids. This is how. Give them all the right stuff and leave behind all the materialistic things they can't and won't appreciate.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.