Ellie Gibson and Helen Thorn, aka the Scummy Mummies, know a thing or two about imperfect parenting.
The duo, who perform comedy shows across the UK for less than perfect parents, launched their parenting podcast in 2013. It’s since been downloaded over 3 million times in 150 countries.
Speaking on White Wine Question Time recently, the pair dished out lots of advice on how to survive parenthood – here are their top tips…
Have no expectations
When you’re pregnant, it’s best not to have any hopes and dreams for your unborn child. The lower your expectations, the better according to Ellie.
Ellie revealed to host Kate Thornton the best piece of advice she ever received while pregnant.
“It was from my mum,” she said. “When I was pregnant with my first son she said, ‘I can't tell you what this is going to be like. It's different for everyone, but also you can't explain it. You can't articulate this experience. You're just going to have to go through it and it's going to be what it'll be. And you might have a good time or a terrible time. You might have a sleeper or a not sleeper or you might be depressed, or you might be over the moon.’
“Funny enough, I was all those things but – you know º I had sort of... not low expectations, but sort of no expectations.”
Perfection doesn’t exist when you’re a parent
Ellie and Helen first made friends as new parents, bonding over their imperfect parenting, something they think every parent, particularly mums, need to embrace.
Helen recalls: “We just liked making each other laugh and we found a kindred spirit because we used to say things like, ‘Oh God, I've given the kids fish fingers three days in a row’ and ‘But my kid ate pizza off the floor!’ We used it to make each other laugh because there was such a sense of competitiveness that was established by this ‘yummy mummy’ myth, which is just not true.
“I think it's another kind of way in which the sort of patriarchy bashes women that you have to be perfect. You can't be perfect!”
Beware – they might bite!
We all know that hamsters, rabbits, cats and dogs can all bite, but unless you’re giving birth to Dracula’s child, you probably wouldn’t worry about your future child biting anyone or anything. Ditch that idea – as Helen from Scummy Mummies found, your child could be a biter.
“For two years he just bit anybody,” revealed Helen. “And it'd be like murder scenes. I’d go to the nursery they’d say sign here, here and here, and they’d have like an outline of a person… with just red crosses where my son had just ravaged another toddler would. I’d be like, ‘Oh God, just don't make eye contact with anyone!’”
You will be a major disappointment to your children
We love to think as parents that we are the epicentre of our children’s world, one in which they adore us and love us unconditionally. Think again. Parenting is brutal and there’s definitely a chance that your children will hate you at least once a day.
Ellie explained that having two children means these defeated feelings occur on a daily basis.
“Mine are 5 and 8 now,” she told Kate, “and even this morning I was playing UNO with the big one and the little one wanted me to help build this thing and you have to make that decision all the time. You have to say, I either disappoint this child or that child? Like, what am I going to do today?”
Don’t expect the second child to be any easier
There’s a myth in the parenting world that if you can cope with one child, adding another to the mix will be a breeze. This is incorrect. What will occur is something called a ‘juggling act’ where you try and balance the needs of your two different children and their very different need, often resulting in a new to imbibe some much needed ‘mummy juice’ once the kids are in bed.
Helen, who has two children now aged 10 and 7, said those early pre-school years are the toughest when you have two.
“That number one child has been your everything and now you've got this other little baby and that child has to wait,” she explained. “You can't just fulfil their needs and that's what I found really hard.
“I'd be like breastfeeding the little one and the other one's like, ‘I need the toilet’ and I'm like, ‘You've got to wait!” And then often she'd have to just wet herself because I couldn't put the baby down. I mean… I'm having the best time of my life!”
Your relationship will suffer
There are some people who believe that having a baby will help heal a relationship. These people are fools, as even the most solid relationships will suffer at the hands of a small baby!
The pair say they get lots of feedback from their podcast listeners about the state of their relationships after kids come along, something Helen agrees, is a another minefield to navigate once children have come along.
“You have no idea how your husband's going to react, but the way that your relationship is impacted… I think it was one of the biggest shocks” Helen said. “I was like, ‘Oh, I thought he could cope with that. No, he can't. No, he's going to be a mess and I'm going to be a mess!’
“Like the sleep deprivation or us all getting gastro at the same time. I mean, that's a lovely thing. I think that was a big kind of shock!”
However, the love you feel for them makes all of the above OK
If all of the above has put you off ever having children, then you need to know that sleepless nights, useless husbands and angry, biting children will all be forgotten thanks to the love you’ll feel for your little one.
“You've never felt the love that you feel for that baby,” exclaimed Helen. “It is so overwhelming. The love you have for your child… it makes you nuts!”
Ellie agrees, believing we’re that the love we feel for our newborn child is programmed into us – for a special reason.
“I think we're biologically programmed to love them so much,” said Ellie. “The feelings you get are unmeasurable and that's all true, but I think that's a biological process designed so that you don't hurt them because they're so annoying!
“If a friend of yours or even, you know, your own mother asked of you what the children ask of you, you would just want to strangle them all of time!”
Listen to the Scummy Mummies chat more about parenthood, awkward kid questions and peeing at Buckingham Palace on the latest episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on iTunes and Spotify.