Passing on my pearls of parenting wisdom after seven years in the trenches.
It’s official. I have been a parent for seven years. My oldest is in the fun place where she plays with dolls and sneaks my make-up. I teeter between being her best friend and embarrassing the crap out of her. Yet, in seven years of holding the ‘title’ mommy, I have learned some things I would love to pass on the those just gaining the prestigious parenting title. So here it is. Seven things I can proudly say I have learned from my early days of parenthood.
Slow down. With my oldest I found myself trying to fast track her babyhood. I wanted her to eat solids, walk, talk and of course sleep. Of the million parenting decisions I have made that I wish I could have a ‘do over’ for, this is pretty high on the list. With every new milestone comes a new challenge. Enjoy your baby exactly where they are at when they are there.
With every new milestone comes a new challenge. Enjoy your baby exactly where they are at when they are there.
So while you may be spending your days on the couch clutching a sleeping baby because they refuse to be put down, you are still doing exactly what you should be in that moment. Even if your laundry is piling up and they should be able to self-soothe by now. Enjoy it, especially being able to choose the television channel.
Don’t live up to anyone’s expectations—even your own. Of course when it comes to parenting, everyone wants to do it all. Your child needs to perfectly behave, your house spotless, you lose the baby weight overnight and keep your relationship with your significant other perfectly on track. Well, perfection is a pretty far reach, especially when faced with such a huge life change. When it comes down to it, your baby won’t care if your house has dirty dishes piled to the ceiling, but a parent who is overwhelmed emotionally by unrealistic expectations will cause a domino effect on your ‘perfect’ life.
One size does not fit all. One of the biggest curve balls life has ever thrown me was the birth of my second daughter. My first born came home and I thought, ‘man what is everyone complaining about? Taking care of a newborn is easy.’ I never realized that perhaps I just had an easy newborn. I didn’t have any problems breastfeeding. She slept through the night at three months. I had time to work out and lose the baby weight. I had motherhood under control until I had my second daughter. My second born did not sleep, cluster fed all night and then demanded to be held all day. On top of that, I had a needy toddler at my heels. It was, to put it bluntly, a huge wake-up call. This has continued throughout her life. While sending my oldest to her room may be the nastiest punishment possible, my second born would happily hunker down in hers for hours. Each kid is different and so must be our approach.
I had motherhood under control, until I had my second daughter.
Take care of your marriage. While the role of parent is one that I hold in high esteem, so is the title of wife. After all, if my marriage falls apart, then so does my family. While it can seem that the needs of your partner may fall to the bottom of the list, spending time together needs to stay a priority. After all, parenting is hard work, you both deserve a break to reconnect and have time together away from your kids. Make each other a priority. One of the easiest ways my husband and I have accomplished this was to set an early bedtime and stick to it. Evenings are reserved for us and by forcing 12 hours of sleep on my children, my mornings go slightly smoother.
While it can seem that the needs of your partner may fall to the bottom of the list, spending time together needs to stay a priority.
Keep the right company. I have been fortunate enough to have some really good friends around me. As a parent, I don’t have much time for socializing so the time I do have is spent with those who I want to have around me and my children. If I can combine a playdate with a mom date then everyone is winning. So I choose to make friends with the parents of my kids’ friends as well as force my kids to become friends with the kids of my friends. It’s a win-win.
Take care of yourself too. While it may seem selfish, you need to make sure that you are making yourself a priority. Even taking the time to have a hot shower can make all the difference in how you feel each day. Make sure you are getting outside for fresh air and to de-stress. Can’t fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes? Buy yourself something to feel good in for the meantime. The better you take care of yourself, the better you will be able to take care of others.
The better you take care of yourself, the better you will be able to take care of others.
Ask for help. This is something that really resonated with me when I recently interviewed Dr Harvey Karp, author of ‘The Happiest Baby on the Block’. He explained to me that in other cultures new mothers are rallied around and they have help with their newborns from close family and neighbours yet in our North American culture it seems that we are more and more shying away from that in favour of doing it alone. This is not only unrealistic, but it often sets you up for failure. How can you be patient with your child if you haven’t slept for a week? Reach out and ask for help. Often times you will find that those around you will be more than happy to hold your squishy baby so you can sleep, shower or just regain your sanity. Even if you don’t want time away from your baby, ask for a hand with the household chores or some frozen meals. Just a little help can go a long way.
Often times you will find that those around you will be more than happy to hold your squishy baby so you can sleep, shower or just regain your sanity.
So professional parents, what have I missed? What are some of the best tips you can pass along to those just starting out on their parenting journey? Leave us a comment below!
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.