We did it! We made it through the first year (and then some) of parenthood. I by no means consider myself an expert on parenthood, or any other child besides my own, but I have learned a lot of things about being a parent to a baby and about myself in the past year that I think may be helpful to share. Any tips on parenting a toddler would be welcomed with open arms!
I hope that these things help you take care of yourself throughout your first year on this wild ride. I know everyone has said it to you already, but it really does go by so fast, so enjoy it as much as you can!
Set your own expectations, don’t let others set them for you.
What are your hopes for your style of parenting? How do you want to approach things, what do you want to accomplish? Obviously, as long as your baby is not in danger or suffering as a result, you and your significant other decide what is right for your family. The “right” choice about something is not what a friend, family member, or stranger is doing. Rather, it’s what is right for you and your family. I decided I wanted to try baby led weaning, but still incorporated purees frequently. I decided to breastfeed past a year. Those choices are most definitely not for everyone. You figure out what works for you as you go!
Be patient with yourself.
Becoming a mom is the best thing that has ever happened to me, but it hasn’t been easy! In whatever you are trying to work toward, be patient with yourself. You may struggle with the transition back to work. You might be trying to improve your health through exercise and healthy eating. You may want a clean house. Things will happen that get in the way of reaching these goals quickly. Take your time, ask for and accept help when needed. Are you tired because baby woke up early this morning? The dishes can wait till tomorrow. Your body just grew and gave birth to a human. Let it rest, recovery, and find it’s happy place in time.
Feel whatever you need to feel.
In my first year as a parent, I cried. A lot. So much so that I remember worrying that Jack wouldn’t recognize me without tears streaming down my face (I know, that is absolutely ridiculous). I cried because I was happy, sad, overwhelmed, in physical pain, etc.
To the new or expectant mama reading this, feel whatever you need to feel. It’s okay. You’re okay for feeling what you’re feeling. Talk to someone about how you are feeling. That can be a friend or family member, your significant other, or a counselor. In all seriousness though, if you or a loved one are worried about the intensity of your feelings, go talk to a counselor. That in NO way means your feelings are wrong, bad, or that you’re failing. It means that you’re taking care of yourself, asking for help when needed, and that is an amazing thing to model for your children.
Laugh at the small stuff.
This is key for me, I need to do more of this. When you’re suddenly decorated in explosive poop (it will happen), your child decides to make a splash pad out of the dog’s water bowl, or you’re up in the middle of the night with your equally exhausted significant other, just laugh. Laugh at how absolutely ridiculous the situation is. Laughing will feel way better than being frustrated.
Last night Jack wasn’t feeling well and wanted to be held all evening. So as I’m holding him and trying to get stuff ready for dinner, he knocks over a plastic bottle of olive oil, which proceeds to spill all over the floor. I was tired, I wasn’t feeling great either, and I got frustrated. There I was, crying baby on my hip, dog begging for his dinner, noses running with snot, and Lake Olive Oil forming on the floor. Instead of getting frustrated, I wish I had said to myself “so this is your life now!” and laughed, because even though that moment felt pretty awful, it was nothing.
Don’t lose sight of YOU.
There is now a sweet, helpless little person in your life that is completely dependent on you. Of course, the majority of your time and attention will now be focused on your baby, as it should be. In between feedings, rocking, napping, and working (if your situation calls for that pretty quickly after), try to find some time to focus on yourself. I struggled with this one for awhile. I would feel extreme guilt even thinking about going to run errands by myself, going to the gym, or going to get my hair done. I only wanted to do something if I could have Jack with me, but I really did need time just for me. Time at work did not count.
When baby is safely with another trusted adult, get out of the house. Go to the store, go for a walk, go see a movie, or have a cup of coffee by yourself. Participate in hobbies you used to enjoy, do something that makes you happy. Then come home and snuggle that sweet little baby. Yes, you’re a parent now, but you’re still a person.
To all the new parents out there, you got this. You’re a rockstar. Yeah, there will be challenging times, but the amazing times will far outweigh. Let me know what’s going on as you explore your first year of parenthood! What are some things you learned in your first year of parenthood? How about when your kids started getting older?