5 pieces of advice that have helped me to raise a happy and secure child.
I became a mother 16 months ago, quite unplanned and as quite a shock to myself and my partner.
During my short journey through motherhood so far, I've constantly questioned myself and wondered if I'm doing things right or if other mums out there are doing a better job. However, I've realised that this is all part of the territory that comes with playing mum.
Most, if not all mothers will tell you that having a baby is one massive learning curve Ė one that runs purely on gut instinct. It's trial and error and no matter what happens, you will always be the best mother in your child's eyes and you can't really fail when you're trying your best.
Looking back, there are things I could have done to maybe make my life a little easier now, but I do feel that the things I have done, have helped me to raise a happy and secure child thus far.
Here are my 5 pieces of advice:
1. Hold your baby
I remember when Joseph was first born, I would carry him everywhere with me. Partly because he would cry when he was put down initially, but also for myself. Having carried my sweet baby in my tummy for 9 months, the thought of him being away from me just seemed totally alien. People would constantly laugh and say:
"Don't you ever put him down?!"
"You're making a rod for your back, you know."
And sometimes I would wonder, was I being silly to take him everywhere in my arms? But for me, even when he was little, I wanted him to see and smell and enjoy every experience. Yes, this did make my life a little harder, but it also made it so much more rewarding as I watched him take in faces, trees, plants and clouds.
Now my child is so adventurous and curious about the world that I know that by encouraging this sense of wonder from those first early days, it was the right thing to do. Yes, he does still like to know where I am most of the time which means leaving him can be tricky, but he is also the most cuddly and loving child and I wouldn't change that for a few months of free arms and empty hands.
2. Tell them you love them
I read somewhere once that babies understand far more words than they can speak, so even when they're tiny and it seems like they don't understand, they're already forming the concept of words and their meanings.
Your baby may not be able to say "I love you" back or appear to even listen when you say it to them, but when they look back on their childhood, they will always remember that feeling of being loved.
3. It's not about stuff
I remember feeling so ill-prepared for having a baby when I was pregnant. The magazines I read contained endless lists of things my baby would need Ė most of which I had never heard of and that cost more than I could afford. Luckily, my family all rallied round and I was so fortunate that I had to buy very little.
However, the pressure was still there when I saw other expectant mothers with their fancy gadgets and the latest toys. As Joseph's grown up, of course he needs more physical things; shoes, toys, clothes etc, but I've never once put these things down to having any baring on his character or personality.
Material things really don't play a massive role in our lives; some of our best days have been collecting flowers in the woods or shells at the beach and it's these kind of experiences that I feel help build a child's confidence and happiness in a way flashy cars or fancy trainers just can't compete with.
4. Surround yourself in happines
And by happiness, I mean family, friends and good people. I have no doubt that I would have struggled without the above, and by watching your baby interact, learn and love the people you do, is a wondeful experience. It undoubtedly helps create a child full of positivity, love and the ability to form secure bonds with others.
5. Listen to your gut
The key thing to raising any child I feel, is to ignore what others say. Don't listen to bad advice, don't read books that make you feel like a failure, don't force routines and habits if they don't work for you.
Enjoy your baby and being a mother and the rest will fall into place!