Parenting and decision overload

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 Photo: Getty Images

Before having your first baby, people flood you with warnings. Sleep now, they say, because you'll never sleep again once the baby comes!

Savour your freedom now, they say, because you'll never get to leave the house alone again once the baby comes!

And enjoy eating chocolate on the couch now, because your eating-chocolate-on-the-couch days are over once the baby grows up and knows what you're doing! (That last one might just be me.)

One thing people don't tend to warn you about is the amount of decisions you'll soon have to make.

And frankly, I suck at decisions at the best of times.

I'm vegetarian, so when I go out for dinner I simply scan the menu, narrow it down to the two veg options (sometimes it's just one), then decide between them. Put me in a vegetarian restaurant and I'm hopeless. All those choices!

For those of you who also know I'm a GP, I know your next question: How do you make decisions at work?

That's easy. Being a doctor means spending years (and I mean years) being trained. When making decisions at work I use my training and knowledge.

But here's the thing: no one told me how many decisions are involved in caring for a baby.

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Say your baby cries (I know it's an out-there hypothetical, but stay with me).

But your baby has just been fed. She is dressed appropriately for the weather. She has been burped. She recently had a good nap. She has just done a poo. She should be content.

But she's not.

Do you:

a) Pop her to bed because she could be tired?

b) Try to comfort her?

c) Consider whether she actually could be hungry again?

d) Phone a friend?

e) Realise there are no correct answers ☺

The correct answer is, of course, e ☺ (I put the smiley face there so it softens the blow a little).

Oh, and all the other options could be right too.

I've sat some hard exams in my time (being a doctor and all), but none of them came with 'no correct answer' as the correct option, WHERE ALL THE OTHER OPTIONS ARE POSSIBLY CORRECT TOO. (Sorry for getting shouty, but seriously - what the heck?!)

The decisions don't just relate to when your baby cries. Rather, it's constant.

Should you wake your baby so you can make it to your friend's birthday lunch on time, or should you let her sleep and arrive late? She's due to wake up soon anyway, but you hate waking a sleeping baby.

Should you start dropping a daytime nap now because she's so wide awake at night, or will she become overtired if she hasn't slept enough during the day?

I know, I know. Talk about first world problems. Trust me, I feel so incredibly grateful for having the privilege of thinking about these things.

But the fact there are no correct answers can be a little frustrating. After all, we all want to do what's best for our babies, and it can be hard trying to work out what that is.

Considering this is my third baby, one thing I have learnt is that, in time, it gets easier.

You see, once your baby grows into a toddler and is better able to communicate, you're unlikely to have to keep trying to work out what she wants, because she'll gladly tell you.

Working out how to get her stop telling you what she needs at every minute of the day, however, is another story …

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