Working in politics while bringing up a young family isn't easy. Multi-tasking is the only option and keeping the kids involved is a great help. I have three children, aged five, seven and ten. Thankfully they're always keen to help out, happy to be out with me knocking on doors, attending constituency events and even making their own election posters.
One of the things I've noticed about parenting is how you change with experience. When my first son was born, I was determined to do everything by the rules. He was straight onto the Gina Ford routine, I spent many hours making up batches of Annabel Karmel recipes; ensuring everything was baby-proofed and enforced a strict no more than 20 minutes a day screen time. We went to baby massage and loads of different baby activities and when he started on solids I was determined he'd eat no sugar or anything unhealthy. It was only later I discovered he'd had his first taste of ice cream at five months before he was even weaned, thanks to Granny…
I spent hours checking his progress against development milestones in my large collection of baby "manuals". I followed all the tips I read as closely as I could, determined to be the best possible mum I could be. The result was that I ended up totally stressed and exhausted.
By the time my youngest son arrived six years later, though, it was a much more relaxed regime. We just went with the flow. I don't think I consulted a baby guide once. He fitted in easily with his big brother and big sister and despite being weaned entirely onto jars, now has the most adventurous palate of all three!
One of the biggest challenges as a mum is competitive parenting but the best way to be happy and to raise happy children is to relax and enjoy. Young kids don't stay small for long. Live for the moment, don't worry too much about what other kids are doing. Enjoy the stage kids are at now, rather than constantly stressing about the future.
And don't feel guilty! The guilt tends to start when you first put kids in childcare. I remember going back to work after my eldest and sitting in tears at my PC all day until I started appreciating the bonus of being able to finish a cup of tea while still hot! Things don't get much better when they start school. Suddenly there are busy starts, fun finishes, sports days, bake offs and a whole host of activities - sometimes I think schools forget parents have to work. And that's before homework, which once your kids are at school seems to eat into what little quality time there is to relax and have fun - I didn't factor in three lots of homework when deciding to have three kids!
One of the "joys" of being a parent is the school run - the daily chaos to get kids up, fed, dressed, teeth brushed, forgotten homework done, then to school. And then the challenge to arrive in work, on time, fresh-faced and presentable. I can't offer any tips here but any on offer are very welcome!
As parents, we now face many worries we didn't even contemplate ten years ago: a generation growing up with Ipads and Xboxes; a world of information available at a swipe, exposing children to consumerism, harmful sexual images and cyber bullying. I'm sure I'm not alone in finding that my children have successfully purchased apps on my Kindle and somehow managed to crack the Sky pin and download their choice of movies. The challenges the digital age poses as our children become teenagers is a huge worry!
I'm delighted Parenting Across Scotland have developed these Ten Top Tips. We all need support and a bit of advice to be the best parents we can be. Parenting can be stressful and it's definitely a challenge, but it's the best job in the world!
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