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A word of advice

A word of advice

If you're a new student in Maastricht, you'll have received lots of advice already. Some of it contradictory. Focus on your studies. No, enjoy student life – you’ll never have this time again. Knuckle down and finish as soon as you can. No, take the time to explore, find out what you’re really interested in. Most importantly, find a partner while you’re surrounded by likeminded folk. Or not –keep your options open!

It’s exhausting, and I can sympathise. If you've recently had a baby, as I have, advice comes in torrents. You should be breastfeeding. No, give him the bottle. Make sure he naps a lot. No, keep him up, so he'll sleep more at night. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Do the housework when the baby sleeps. Be sure to exercise. Don't run around yet, are you mad? Enjoy your time off! (It’s not time off, moron, I’m keeping a small human being alive.) You should dress him more warmly. Take some of those layers off, he'll overheat! You shouldn't dress a boy in pink pants, you know. (Why on earth not? Even HEMA says I can now with its gender-neutral clothing, and besides, boys were perfectly fine for centuries dressed in pink, the little brother of ‘warlike’ red.) Remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect mother! Although you probably could do better. Whatever you do, enjoy every precious second. (At least there’s consensus on that one.)

Over the years I’ve learned to accept unsolicited advice with something approaching grace. But that initial move to the Netherlands was a crash course on the expression ‘Dutch uncle’ (Wikipedia: ‘a person who issues frank, harsh, or severe comments and criticism to educate, encourage, or admonish someone’). My (Dutch) husband now knows he's not to start sentences with je moet gewoon … (‘you should just … ’). When he forgets, he’s taken to finishing those sentences with a hastily added eh … als je wilt (‘ … if you want’). ‘You should just try to enjoy the 5 am feed. Do a little mindfulness. Er … you know, if you want.’

Here’s my advice. Don't listen to other people. Unless it’s your mother, or God speaking through your iPhone. Do your own thing. Do what you want. Don’t know what you want? Suck it up and stay paralysed with indecision until you do know. You know – if you want.

Alison Edwards

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