I’m excited to bring you the next installment in our Seasons in Parenting series. Last time we talked about raising teenagers. Today we’re sliding clear over to the other side of the spectrum and discussing those sleep-deprived, overwhelmingly-difficult-yet-don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-them days of welcoming a newborn into the family. If you’re a parent, you’ve been there — but it’s easy to forget what those early days are like, no matter how often you’ve lived through them. That’s why I’m eager to share with you these words from Tabitha of From Single to Married, a first-time mom to an eight-month-old. She’s not too far past that stage yet. Those of you who are pregnant, or hope to one day be pregnant — her words are especially for you.
Today is my last day of employment. Ever. Okay, maybe I’m being a tad dramatic, but it sure feels like a momentous occasion, because today is the day that I officially become a full-time stay-at-home mom.
If you had told me a couple of years ago that I would soon be at this point, I would have said you were crazy. Certifiable even. Yet here I am: age 38 and a new mother to an eight-month-old baby who is crawling, sitting up, and basically turning my life upside down.
And I figure that if you’re reading this site, you are either a parent or are hoping to be one. I know because that’s where I was last year. And now that I’ve come out on the other side, I thought I’d share five things that I’ve learned about making the transition from “me” to “we.”
1.Try not to panic
If you’re anything like me, before your little one arrived you did lots of research. Along with all that new-found knowledge comes the expectation that you will be the perfect parent. Colicky baby? No problem. Swaddling? Please… give me a challenge.
But, the reality is that a lot of that goes out the window once your new bundle of joy arrives. In its place is a sense of panic when you realize you are completely responsible for the well-being of another person.
All I can say is that the panic passes. With each day you will feel better about your new role and before long, you will be a pro. Until your child becomes a teenager of course, and then all bets are off.
2. Forget previous expectations
Remember that panic? That happens because of unrealistic expectations. Even if you’ve done this before, each child is different, so there are no guarantees. I’ve learned that unless you let go of the expectation to be perfect, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. There is no such thing as the perfect parent, only the parent who loves and the parent who tries. Both of which are completely acceptable (and doable) expectations.
3. Give yourself time
I mean this both literally and figuratively. I wandered through the first three months of my son’s life in a fog. I didn’t even realize it until one day –- poof –- it was gone and suddenly I was “me” again. Me but only better.
Just know that it may be a while until you feel like yourself again. Your complete life really does change when you add a new baby to the equation, so understand that it will take time to adjust.
And speaking of time… you must take time for yourself. In the first few weeks or months you may not feel like being separated from your baby, and that’s fine. But at some point you will need a little break.
I speak from experience. My husband watches our son every Saturday for three hours so that I can attend an art class. I cherish those three hours because they allow time for me. Make sure that you allow time for you.
4. Ask for help
Speaking of taking time, new (and older) babies take up pretty much all of your time. So much so that it’s hard to get anything else done. I’ve got three words for you: Ask. For. Help.
Just put away your pride and make up your mind right now that you will ask for help when you need it. After my little guy was born, my dear auntie (who knows my tendency to be stubborn) didn’t ask me if I needed help; instead, she told me she was coming to help. She came and sat with my son so that I could take a nap, which allowed me to remain sane during those first few sleepless weeks.
From that experience I learned that if I need help, it’s not my pride that will be hurt by asking, it is my son’s well being that will be hurt if I don’t.
5. Don’t be so hard On yourself
My final words of advice for new, expectant, or repeating parents: Take it easy. So what if you have a rough day or two and don’t get the housework done, or even get out of your pajamas? That’s what tomorrow is for. Everyone has been there, or will be there at some point. You’re not alone and people do understand, so try to go easy on yourself.
There you have it… Five things that I’ve learned over the past eight months as a new parent. There are more of course, but I’ll stop there. After all, I don’t want you to panic. Just know that being a parent is worth everything you can give, and so much more.
What words of advice do you have for new parents (first-time or otherwise)?