Wednesday, October 22, 2014

10 Things I Wish I Could Tell New Parents

As I am closing the Having Babies chapter of my life, many of my childhood friends are just beginning their parenting journey.  While I think there is nothing more precious on the planet than their little baby bumps, newborn pics, and monthly infant updates...I also know there is nothing harder than that first year.

Behind the sweet smiles and glassy, sleep-deprived eyes, in the depths of their souls, lies the question,

"Am I doing ok at this parenting gig?"

In a culture obsessed with grades, performance reviews, and feedback, it's tough to adapt to a role with none of the above.  No one is rating the quality of your diaper changes (approximately 15,000 diapers later, I would assume I'm a perfect 10 by now).  No one is thanking you for waking up 42 times a night.  There are no talks around the water cooler (is that still a thing?  I've never actually had a career) about how great you're performing in your new endeavor.

The hardest part is that there is so little job training (actually, there is none).  While nothing can ever prepare you for parenthood, I have some ideas to hopefully encourage you along the way:

1.  You don't have to "enjoy every moment," as every woman on planet earth will challenge you to do.  There are so many moments beautiful, precious moments that you will love, but there are so, so many moments that you will not 1% enjoy.  And that's ok.  It's more than ok.

2.  Despite what every book and magazine tries to tell you, parenting comes naturally to exactly no one.  We are all too afraid to admit this, but I promise you: no one has it figured out.  Some people may talk a big game and use impressive jargon, but in reality, they're just as scared they're screwing it all up.

3.  But you aren't screwing it all up.  You're doing a really good job.

4.  Even so, you will have ugly moments.  Moments that don't make it on to your Facebook feed.  Moments that make you question if you're cut out for this parenting thing.  Moments that you're thankful no one sees.  Please remember the words of Lysa Terkeurst, "Bad moments don't make bad mamas (or daddies)."
You most definitely can do this.  Take a deep breath.  Step outside for a few minutes.  You are not defined by bad moments.
(As a side note: if you find yourself having a lot of bad moments, please seek professional counseling.  Post-partum depression is a very real and very normal effect of some pregnancies.  The benefits of treatment are immeasurable.  There is no shame in becoming the best mama you can be!)  

5.  This will all get wayyyyyy easier.  The days feel very long when learning to navigate a new baby, so remind yourself often that it gets easier.  I've said this before, but it bears repeating:  having four kids is easier than my oldest son's first year of life.  Babyhood is no joke, so give yourself lots of grace.
If I could be honest for a moment (would you expect anything less?), it took me until about baby #3 to actually enjoy the first year.  I was not that great with babies, but I completely adore my kids (if you haven't noticed).  So if you find yourself not really loving the baby phase much (once again, no one will admit this), I assure you, it is no indication of how much you love your children.  It is a lot easier to enjoy a child when you don't have to hold them constantly....and when you're actually sleeping again.

6.  Never underestimate the power of outside.  Fussy babies almost always calm down on a walk around the neighborhood.  Moving the pack n play outside and letting your baby sleep or play while you read a book or pull weeds creates a nice change of environment for you both.  The outdoors will change attitudes for kids (and adults) of all ages.

7.  Never underestimate the power of a hot shower.  It's a long running joke in the mommy world that there isn't enough time to shower.  I would argue that making time for a hot shower is one of the best things you can do.  While I would suggest not having the baby in the bathroom with you, as a new mom, I would not have heeded that advice (unless Brett was home to watch him).  Whether you put the baby is the crib or in the bouncy seat outside of the shower.....a hot shower is so refreshing.

8.  If your baby is inconsolable, gently place him in the crib.....and walk outside for 10 minutes. Your baby is going to cry anyway, but you could reallllllly use the break.  This is very hard to do, but I promise it will save your sanity.  Half of parenting is learning how to manage your sanity.

9.  Go on a date with your spouse (or if you're a single parent, go out with a friend). Nothing will make you love your baby more than leaving her for a few hours.  You'll promise not to talk about the baby, but then that's all you'll talk about.  Because OH MY GOSH you produced (or adopted) this tiny human.  And they're the cutest thing on the planet.  Getting out of the house will remind you how great this parenting thing truly is.

10.  Be easy on yourself.  You will be tempted to think everyone is doing parenthood better than you.  Maybe they are, maybe they aren' doesn't even matter.  All that matters is loving that baby fiercely.  And all decent parents do that well.  

I wish you the best on the wildest, most fun adventure you'll ever embark upon.

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