What Nobody Told Me about Having Children

Even before I had children, I considered myself clued up. I’d looked after plenty of kids as a family doctor, though my education actually began in my teen years. As a fifteen-year old, I used to baby-sit a feisty brood of five living round the corner from me. Four of the children moved so fast that I could barely tell them apart, let alone stop them wrecking their home. The baby, less mobile, needed constant nappy changes, which was a challenge as he was in a ‘frog plaster’ for developmental dysplasia of the hip

The scales fell from my eyes, however, when my own kids arrived. Here’s what I learned from having my three sons.

1 Everyone has an opinion on raising children, especially those who never had any. The fewer children someone has, the more insistently they share their wisdom. Experienced parents rarely dish out advice because they know that not all kids are the same.

2 Yep, all children are different. Before you ask:  yes, even identical twins. My own twin boys had different personalities from day one. After all, why should they be exactly alike? The environment begins in the womb, and there are always differences in the closeness to the mother’s heartbeat, to her dominant hand, even in the amount of blood flow from the placenta, to name just a few factors.

alarm clock

3 Babies need a lot less sleep than their parents. They don’t have to go to work. They can just loll about all day looking cute and innocent, and save their strength for another fun night ahead. Had I fully appreciated this, I might have stayed on maternity leave longer rather than dragging my befuddled brain (plus a breast pump) to work.

4 The best toys engage the child’s ingenuity, not the toy designer’s.  That’s why empty boxes, old saucepans, wrapping paper, and key rings make great playthings. By the way, if you’re still looking for your keys, try checking inside your boots, behind the radiator, in the toilet, and out through the cat-flap. Or keep a spare set somewhere.

key ring

5 The longer you take to prepare a meal, the less likely your child is to eat it. Strangely, letting a child make his own sandwich does not put him off wolfing it down, even if it contains the most outlandish food combo and looks nothing like a sandwich.

6 Shopping and mayhem go hand in hand. Before supermarkets provided trolleys for more than one child, I’d have to push one trolley and pull another one. This was the moment when I’d be accosted by a patient who wanted to chat over the baked goods about her test results, or even show me her painful knee. On the plus side, my kids rarely had tantrums while out shopping. Instead, they amused themselves by pulling toothbrushes off the shelves and stuffing them down the front of their dungarees.

twins at the soft drinks dispenser

7 Children have an infinite capacity for embarrassing their parents. At a neighbour’s house one morning, I was offered coffee, only for one of my sons to pipe up, “Mummy likes gin and tonic.”  Another memorable event was a job interview, the kind where you’re invited to bring your entire family (GP interviews can be like that). One of my little lads promptly removed his shoes and socks, gleefully shouting “Sock, sock!” The snag was that, at the time, he pronounced every S as an F.

8 Being a doctor helps you cope with children’s illnesses, but doesn’t make you superhuman. One of the low points was the Christmas when both twins, aged eight weeks, had bronchiolitis. Their older brother didn’t get much attention that year.  Another low was a convulsion which landed one of the boys in hospital at the age of eighteen months. The little lad was fine in the end, but my husband drove into a bollard on our way to A & E.  

9 The biggest lesson? You have to put your child first, before yourself, before anyone else. But that’s perfectly OK, because, until your own baby come along, you have no idea how intensely you can love a little person.

FreeImages.com/Helmut Gevert

If you’d like to help a new parent cope when their child is seriously ill, please take a look at Lucy Air Ambulance for Children’s Mum Matters campaign. This great initiative comes just in time for Mother’s Day.

You can find out more about Lucy Air Ambulance for Children right here

Mum Matters logo


Why Your Mother Was Right All Along

It’s been a while since I presented my mother with sticky home-made cards that shed macaroni and glitter. With three offspring of my own, these days Mother’s Day is more about me. From this great vantage point, I now realize my mother was right all along. What’s more, I’ll bet yours was, too.

Here are some things mothers say that are right on the money.

“Don’t sit out in the sun all day long.”

She may have droned on about getting heatstroke and prickly heat. But she was also protecting you against sunburn, skin cancer, cataracts, and premature wrinkles.

That’s what mothers do. They protect their young.

FreeImages.com/ryan shull

“Pick up your clothes.”

Your mum thought it was slovenly and untidy, but you had to learn for yourself, didn’t you? Maybe you couldn’t find your wallet, you tripped arse over tit on a pile of shirts, or the cat threw up on your best jeans. You get around to using hangers eventually. 

“You’re wearing far too much make-up.”

The stuff you applied with a trowel didn’t look nearly as good in real life as it did in your bedroom mirror. But it’s even less flattering when you’re 50. Your mum just wanted you to ditch the panda eyes before you looked totally ridiculous.

“Wash your hands.”

Hands look a lot better when they’re clean, but that’s not the real point. Washing your mitts often is the single best thing you can do to prevent common infections like colds and even flu. 

FreeImages.com/Deborah Krusemark

“Remember to say Please and Thank you.”

Kids who mind their manners reflect well on their parents, but that’s not the whole story. They also become adults that people like being around – whether it’s at work or socially – and like doing things for. 

“No TV till you finish your homework.”

That was so unfair, as no doubt you pointed out. But your mum wanted you to learn a few more important life skills, like concentration, perseverance, and becoming a completer-finisher. Polish TVMore on Belbin team roles here

“Sit up straight.”

You were determined to slouch like the archetypal sullen adolescent. But your mother hoped you’d reap the benefits of good posture:

  • Less stress on vertebrae and ligaments, so less back pain
  • Spine less likely to become fixed in the wrong position
  • Better breathing
  • Looking younger and slimmer.

There’s more info from BackCare

“Turn down that noise.”

Maybe she was just after a bit of peace and quiet, but it was the best advice for your ears too. Noise exposure is a major cause of permanent hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss is often gradual, and it’s cumulative. That ringing in your ears after a gig? It means the hair cells of your cochlea are already damaged. 

So go on. If you’ve got a mother, make a fuss of her on Mother’s Day, and, while you’re at it, throw in the rest of the year as well. She won’t be around forever.

mum and me


Note for US readers: In the UK, Mother’s Day is today, March 6, and its correct name is Mothering Sunday.  And falling arse over tit is a very common expression.

I’m taking a little break to edit my novel, so this blog will be back in a couple in a couple of weeks. See you then.