Parenting doesn't come naturally

A few days after the birth of our son, I ran into another new mommy in the maternity ward of the hospital. Anxious to compare notes, I asked her how it was going. "Just wonderfully," she beamed at me. Her baby had latched on straight away and was breastfeeding without any problems.

"Oh," I responded, rather deflated. I was having all sorts of problems in those departments. Then her face clouded over. "Now I just have to remember to change her nappies." 

It sounds like a joke, but first-time parents everywhere are in the same, rather leaky, boat. No matter if you are a doctor, a farmer, a single parent or a couple raising a child. We don't know what we are doing. No matter how many books you've read or how much advice you've gathered; your child will probably behave differently and you will have to figure out the way for yourself. Sticking with the nautical metaphor, most new parents have to learn how to sink or swim. And sinking is not an option. I have found that laughing helps though.

Dr Simon Strachan in The Irreverent Mothers' Handbook explains: "The idea that we are expected to look after these little beings with no training and no manual – but rather heaps of doubt and despair – is ridiculous. And yet we survive, as do our children."

A friend and new dad recently had to bath his one-year-old son while mom went to book club. When the baby exhibited a rather ugly rash a few hours after her return and they went over the evening to establish what had caused it, it transpired that dad had washed the baby with the lotion and had afterwards unwittingly rubbed soap onto his body.

Parenting just doesn't come naturally, apparently. When our son was a few weeks old, I had to fetch my car from the garage. My husband had to look after the baby for only 45 minutes. On my return, it looked like Hurricane Katrina had hit the baby room. Clothes, towels, nappies and tissues littered the floor. He sat on the rocker, without his shirt on, holding the baby, who was also wearing only a nappy. There was a wild look in his eyes. The baby's nappy had been put on back to front. In my husband's defence, however, it held well enough.

One woman told me how she had struggled to put on even the easy-to-use disposable nappies. Her baby was very small at birth and the nappies were so very big… she was busy tying the nappy around the poor thing's neck when someone intervened.

Another mom laughingly told me recently that she was "toe soos tupperware" about raising children when she became a mom. Yet moms across the board agree, by the time the second one comes along, it is all so much easier. Plain sailing, apparently.

Putting it all into perspective, The Irreverent Mothers' Handbook co-author Lee van Loggerenberg says: "Babies and toddlers are like goldfish – they pooh a lot and have very bad memories. Most people don't remember anything before the age of three, which is a mixed blessing for us parents. Not only are our early mistakes erased, but most of our efforts are too."

So it seems we have at least three years to try to get it right, Parents! Practice, practice, practice!

How did you find your first experience as a parent? Do you agree with Andrea?
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24