So I was assembling some furniture from a well known Swedish flatpack furniture retailer we’ll call Ikea, and as I was endlessly whacking what look like tiny wooden breadsticks into holes the old adage ‘babies don’t come with a manual’ came into my head. Thing is though, what with this new fangled internet malarky, they sort of do and it sort of hasn’t helped. You want to know the best product to remedy Winniford’s itchy big toe and *ping* one google search later and you can have the latest in toe scratch technology delivered to your door within 24 hours. Simple. Baby not sleeping? How to get your baby to sleep through the night manual downloaded and saved to your phone in 0.6 seconds. So you have a non sleeping baby and a mum glued to her phone in the night reading the damn manual during any available time that she has, which happens to be only when the baby is finally sleeping. So I think that these days babies do indeed come with manuals but they’re not very practical and I don’t really understand them. Much like the Ikea instructions I find myself studying and puzzling over. Come on, I’m a 30 year old independent woman (throw your hands up at me) I can read instructions, use a screwdriver, utilise (well, wield) a drill. How hard can it be?
NEVER and I repeat NEVER utter these words when pregnant with your first child. I did, and let me tell you now, Karma’s a bitch and she takes no prisoners.
That is not the only thing you should avoid in both a Hemnes assembling and a child rearing situation. In fact, bringing up babies and Billy bookcase building are very similar (go with it). Here is how:
Easier with a partner
On the first page of every instruction booklet of every sodding piece of furniture I have ever attempted to single handedly construct there has been a picture of a little man (course it is, my feminine little paws can’t hammer) looking pretty pissed off, on his own, with a great big cross through him. Next to him are a pretty smug looking duo, one of which has a pencil planted behind his ear and the other looking eager with a hammer. Now, i’m no psychic but i’m pretty sure this is indicating that to assemble this piece of furniture it is advisable for there to be two of you. This instruction manual does not know my husband. In DIY situations I pretend I do not know my husband. But there is no denying that for certain steps you do ideally need someone to hold bits up otherwise it all falls apart. Likewise, no one can bring up a baby solely by themselves, everyone needs someone to hold baby now and again, be it a partner, a friend or grandparent, otherwise it all falls apart. NB if someone is VERY bad at DIY, it may actually be detrimental to the process so equally don’t co parent with a dickhead just because the manual tells you not to go it alone. Even if he does have a handily placed pencil (this is not a euphemism)
The process goes on FOREVER
You are the proud owner of a white bedside table in the Ikea analogy (IA) or a baby in the motherhood example (ME). Congratulations on both your achievements. You get home (both) pleased as punch and look forward to a nice team building excercise of learning how to shape something into the product it was meant to be (both). It’s just it takes longer (always) than anticipated. It can take years (IA) or forever (ME) but enthusiasm wains (both) and by the time you’re done you’re not 100% sure it’s your style and maybe the bedroom isn’t actually big enough after all (both)
Some steps take longer than other
So you lay out all your screws, dowls and silver round half things that tighten things up (that is actually the official Swedish name for them) And you start step 1. Two and a half hours later you have finished step 1. You flick to the back of the book to check how many steps there are and you almost lose your tiny mind when you see that there are 36 steps. Rough calculations suggest that (a) you will still be building this bedside table when the baby graduates and (b) you are not very good at maths. However when you get to step 2 the strange anaemic man and multiple arrows are indicating that you simply need to turn a screw and that step is done. The same is true of parenting, some stages are effing relentless and seemingly endless (teething, seperation anxiety and two year olds to name a few) and others you dread but are as easy as turning a screw (conception? ha!)
You know you are doing something wrong but you don’t know what
I spent a considerable amount of time squinting at the two men in the instruction booklet, one of whom was sporting the large cross again and one of whom wasn’t (sporting the cross as in he was crossed out, I don’t believe he is a man of the cloth). They were both seemingly doing exactly the same thing. Now I’m no ‘spot the difference’ world champ but it took me the best part of 30 minutes to work out what it was that these apparently identical drawings were trying to tell me. It’s exactly the same as parenting. We know what is wrong (e.g. bottlefed children are statistically more likely to rob your nan) and who the big cross lingers over (rumour has it breast is best) but we don’t really know why. All the babies get fed and look the same to me, chubby little genderless gnomes. So unless you really are the spot the difference world champ and/or a bottle fed baby did rob your nan then let’s leave the crosses and ticks to the instruction manuals. NB Children are useful at this stage, my five year old informed me of the differences between the pictures (‘that man is turning it the other way mummy’)
It doesn’t get any easier
So, thanks to your daughters unnatural ability to spot the difference you have built your bedside table, hurrah! But your bed has two sides so your work here is far from done. Never mind, you are now the expert! You will be able to assemble it twice as quickly, you can put one screwdriver in your mouth and simultaneously tighten the bottom with your toes, easy. Why on earth do people employ people to do this? You could do this with your eyes closed! Blindfolded! To prove it, you blindfold yourself whilst mentally constructing your CV for your new employment of handylady extraordinaire (you are also congratulating yourself on your business acumen and making a mental note to contact Lord Sugar). You will not make the same mistakes again, no sirree, a good business woman learns from her errors but… oh… hold on, why aren’t there enough screws? What is that bit? I’m sure I didn’t use that bit before… I think you can see where this is going. You may well avoid the same mistakes but there are plenty to be made and I’m pretty damn sure even the experts leave the hammer at home sometimes (in the Ikea example. It’s prob best to always leave the hammer at home on a day out with the kids).
Having multiple children does not make you the expert; More confident? Yes. More likely to misplace one of your offspring? Yes. Less likely to make mistakes? No.
Sense of achievement
See that bedside table over there? I made that. I could have bought it ready made but I only went and knocked it together myself because I am something of a carpenter don’t cha know (and a bit cheap TBH). But I do feel a sense of achievement that I’m not sure would exist had I purchased a ready made one. It’s not perfect, don’t lean on it and definitely don’t inspect it too closely but I made it and I love it. Draw your own comparisons to motherhood here (it’s quite egocentric really, on the whole we love the humans we made more than the others, except that kid from Jerry Maguire, right? He’s super cute, is it ok to like him more than mine? I digress)
So I think the moral of the (long and rather drawn out) comparison is you DO have a manual to fall back on if you need to but winging it works too. And raising a child is a lot like building furniture from IKEA.
And whatever you do don’t invite this guy round for dinner, WTF is he up to? It’s clearly easier to mistake drawers for a staircase than you would think. Back to step 1…