Pick your battles. For many of us, this expression takes on a whole new meaning when you become a parent. I am seven years into my parenting tenure and I’ve experienced my fair share of battle wounds. This child-rearing gig is physically, emotionally and mentally draining. Compromises and sacrifices are part of the daily grind. But how do you survive the bumps and not sacrifice your sanity?
The answer is simple.
Choose the battles that are worth fighting and ditch the ones that aren’t. Surrendering, when appropriate, is a powerful tool to have in your parenting armour. Knowing when to drop a battle is crucial. Some battles that are worth the fight, but many are not. Here’s a guide to the most useful, and useless, battles:
Parenting battles WORTH the fight
In an age where self-entitlement amongst kids is rife, this is a battle worth fighting. We must win the war on manners and this extends beyond the obligatory pleases and thank yous. I reckon this is something that needs constant reinforcing. And, yes, sometimes it’s tedious and you get so sick of saying “what’s the magic word?” in a voice you barely recognise as your own, but the truth is there should be no magic to it. Kids need to learn respect, empathy and etiquette. And even if my dinner hardly qualifies as “cooking” I still expect to be thanked for the fish fingers and frozen peas!
I know we’re meant to be raising daring and robust risk-takers but I rather fancy my kids alive and well. Fortunately my kids are naturally risk-averse (read: scared shitless of being more than a millimetre from my side) so I don’t have to worry about anything more sinister than a grazed knee. But many kids seem all too eager to run out onto roads, and have a particularly violent response to being restrained. So I reckon seat belts, car restraints, stair gates, pram straps, and safety-approved cots and high chairs, well that stuff is worth the effort. Emergency departments don’t rank highly on most parents list of milestones!
Let me be very clear on this one. Glitter is WORTH the fight. I can accept the crayons, clippings and clag that contaminate the house when you have young children, but there ain’t no place for glitter in my house. It is evil. This festive asbestos leaves an irrepressible trail of destruction. And if anyone should ever send your child and invitation to their little princess’s party with glitter in the envelope, your response should be swift. Defriend them.
Parenting battles NOT worth the fight.
- Birth plans.
The best laid plans come undone is a well-worn adage for a reason. The birthing process is something we have little control over. And I reckon most women who have been through labour would classify it as one hell of a battle. Cervixes sometimes don’t cooperate, kicking your calming birth techniques to the curb. Try as might to coax my first baby into the world, my obstinate cervix had other ideas. After 34 hours of hell, I couldn’t have cared how that baby crowned! While pethidine, an epidural, stirrups and a vacuum extraction weren’t high on my wish list, a fair degree of force was required to convince my baby out was better than in. DITCH the bullet point birth plan. Better to have an open mind and your only birth plan should be to have a baby.
- Rigid sleep routines for babies.
Here’s the thing. No two babies are the same. Some babies are good sleepers, others are not. Full stop. I don’t care what any parenting expert/guru/whisperer says, you can’t FORCE a baby to sleep. Some like being rocked to sleep, others need to be swaddled tighter than a Mexican burrito. Many babies need to be coaxed, coerced, and cuddled to sleep. Some love the car, many don’t. And there are some babies who sleep effortlessly through the night at six weeks of age. These babies are the exception, and false advertising for the rest of us. Babies fall into all sorts of sleeping categories: light, nocturnal, party animals, cat nappers and if you’ve ever had a colicky/reflux baby you have my sincere sympathies. There is little you can do. I read Tizzie Halls ‘Save my sleep’ and instead of saving sleep, it smashed my sanity. The military approach was not for me and I was a frazzled mess. When I surrendered this battle and relaxed, the baby slept through the night and has done ever night since. #couldbeslightexaggeration
- A tidy house
Learn to live with the clutter and craft. I know some will not agree with me here as the mere sight of crumbs and clag induces heart palpitations, so if this is you, develop a system to control the chaos. Your fridge will be decorated with hand-painted masterpieces for many years. Think they’ll like the handcrafted timber toys over the plastic rubbish? You’re dreaming. Kids love colour. Kids love plastic. Kids also like toys that make noise. Invest in earplugs and plenty of storage baskets. You can’t beat it so better to live with it and preserve your sanity.
- Forcing toddlers to eat
This is where parenting really gets colourful (pun intended). I am convinced toddlers derive a sick pleasure from seeing their parent try every trick in the book to coax something down their throat. They learn quickly that they can’t be forced to swallow the mushroom risotto that you’ve spent the whole afternoon cooking because some food expert told you kids love it. And don’t be fooled by past behaviours. Just because they’ve eaten pumpkin puree every day since they started solids, they will suddenly despise it. This will be fairly evident as it will be hurled across the room with merciless force. In fact, they have decided they don’t like orange food. And the following week it will be green food. Unless you particularly enjoy having food thrown in your face, regurgitated all over the floor, or blood curdling screams that will make the neighbours phone child protection, DROP this battle. Present, let them reject, and go back to your instagram feed where you can feed on house porn and a life that in no way resembles your own!
This guide is by no means exhaustive. Which battles are you happy to fight or drop? Let me know in the comments below!