Parenting doesn’t always come easy but with these tips and tricks, it can be.
WORDS CHRISTEL GERALYN GOMES
A year ago I was convinced juggling a tidy house, a happy kid, work and family time was manageable. I had thought it through and solved each problem in my head. I was a perfect parent... until I had a baby,” said 28-year-old Tessina De Lille, new mother to 11-month-old Nurit.
“Parenthood is demanding and intense. Sometimes frustration does overwhelm, but mostly it is beautiful, and hilarious, and worth it all,” she adds.
Becoming a first-time parent is quite likely the most demanding thing you’ll ever undertake. Behind the adorable Facebook baby pictures and the “I’m so in love with my baby” status-updates lies a reality that very few people will be able to relate to… until they’ve lived it.
Tessina shares the image of her new life with a child; “I’ve just walked on a piece of half-chewed banana and found some half-eaten grapes on the couch. Our laundry machine can’t keep up with all the clothes changes—the drying rack has become an official piece of furniture. The baby puts sand (from our sand pit) in her mouth as often as she can, as well as stones, sticks, leaves, the dog’s tail and other kids. The dishwasher is dealing with a load of bath toys, sand toys, a kiddy toothbrush and kiddy dishes. There are toys absolutely everywhere. The kitchen is stuffed with half-finished food, dirty dishes, and things that had to be put out of reach quickly. All drawers have been taped shut. The dog has moved to our bed to sleep, as the baby keeps crawling into the dog’s bed. Clean house, happy kid, sanity? Pick two.”
Although parenting will always be demanding, there are a few things you can do to make your life a little easier.
Being Financially Ready
First off, it’s not always a good idea to have a baby immediately after a wedding—unless of course you are wedding debt free and have sizable savings left over. Your pregnancy medical bills will easily be in the thousands, and once your baby arrives, all kinds of surprising, small expenditures very quickly add up.
Start saving before pregnancy
Spend a couple of years saving up together for the start-up costs of bringing a baby into the world. In Singapore, $20,000 might be a good amount to save to cover Mum’s medical needs pre- and post-pregnancy, basic baby furniture and appliances, baby’s medical and upkeep costs (clothes, formula, food, insurance, and diapers) for his first year if you don’t spend extravagantly. This figure only comfortably covers the out-of-pocket costs, assuming Medisave covers a significant amount of your medical expenses.
Besides the $20,000, you’ll need a regular flow of savings after baby arrives that’ll cover childcare, education, pocket money and eventually university tuition fees.
Have an SOS fund
A well-stocked emergency fund is an absolute necessity until your child becomes financially independent. Put in place a budget and savings plan, open a bank account specifically for emergencies, and another just for child-related expenses. Having peace of mind financially will take a big load off your shoulders, especially with everything else going on once your baby arrives.
Raise a Self-sufficient Child
Financial concerns aside, little tweaks to your routine can make all the difference.
Let your baby learn to self-soothe. Establish a fixed pre-bedtime routine like a bath, massage or song, but then put her to bed while she’s drowsy but still awake so she can learn to fall asleep on her own. The earlier you start this the better because older infants have more insistent personalities.
When she’s older, teach her as early as possible to do tasks well
without supervision. Brushing teeth, showering, packing her school bag
and having an established routine for herself are a few things
that’ll give you space to breathe.
Personal Time is Sacred
The old adage goes “It takes a village to raise a child,” and boy isn’t that accurate! Parenting is not a one-man job and if it is, that can’t be healthy for anyone. Know when to let go a bit and let your parents, friends or relatives take over because there’s no other way to replenish your energy.
Couple time is important. If your parents are willing to take the kids once a week, jump at the opportunity. If not, get a babysitter to cover you and go on a date with your spouse or just let someone take the kids while you take a nice long bath and nap.
Even when your child is a little older, letting him spend time with other adults—cousins, uncles, aunts, or grandparents—is a wonderful way to let his mind develop and expand.
Disciplining a child is not too difficult if you’re consistent and clear about how. Children these days like to know why things work a certain way. Gone are the days that parents can get away with saying, “Do this because I say so!”
Instead, have a transparent reward and punishment system and stick to it. Set ground rules, like no tantrums in public, homework before playtime or bedtime is non-negotiable, and give your child logical reasons why that rule exists. Make the punishment for disobedience clear but fair, and always follow through, even when your child’s tears break your heart—you’ll thank yourself later.
Have a reward system in place too like getting to go somewhere fun that weekend, having ice cream at the end of the day or 20 minutes of iPad time if everything was done well that day or that week.
Also, set a fixed bedtime and never deviate, no matter what, until she reaches an age that you deem old enough to make her own bedtime decisions. If you give in a few times, you’ll have to give in again and again. If and when you need to make an exception for an outing or party, make that your idea and decision, not hers.
Consistency is key when it comes to discipline so that your child knows you mean business and you’re true to your word to punish or reward.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
Many parents want to make their little one’s childhood as enjoyable as possible. Sometimes, this means out of love, pity or a sense of wanting to protect their child from the harsh world of adulthood, they put off delegating chores and duties till their child is older. The problem with this is that often, by the time you do want to delegate, your child will be used to having the easy life and you’ll face shoddily done chores and tantrums.
Instead, have your child do what he can as early as possible. Once he can walk, make him put his toys away in a basket, and make it routine. Once he’s three or four, let him clean his play area, or even help you with some dusting. When he can reach the sink (with the help of a stool), have him wash his own dishes. Supervise simple tasks such as using a toilet brush, sweeping the floor and setting the table before dinner. The trick is to make chore time a daily routine.
Pick Your Battles
We all know that successfully parenting a child takes immense energy. Sometimes, it’s worth letting him or her go to that concert you don’t approve of, or—when she’s older—stay out till ten instead of nine if it means her gratitude equates to a week of good behaviour. Let some things slide, and save your energy for the more important things.
Finally, there’s no shame in needing help, especially in the first couple of years. “Ask for help! Everyone who enters my home gets asked to hold the baby, set the table, cut vegetables or bring something. Some even spontaneously pick up the vacuum cleaner or hang laundry,” says Tessina.