You can read all of the latest books on parenting, take all of the childcare classes, and prepare all you want—but nothing prepares you like actually getting down and dirty in the trenches of parenthood.
Before I had a child, I thought I had all of the answers. Now that I have a child—I have all of the questions for the experienced mamas I know. There’s nothing quite as humbling as being a parent.
I cannot imagine how many more lessons I will learn as a parent, but here are just a sampling of some of the lessons I’ve learned thus far. Enjoy!
Your house doesn’t need to look perfect
I was really hard on myself in the first year after my daughter was born. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t keep the house clean, cook a healthy supper at night, take care of the baby, and manage to shower that day. I was lucky if I managed to shower. Part of this was due to postpartum depression, but part of it was due to the fact that I thought I had to have it all together, all of the time. Great news—I don’t!
Someone wise once told me that when you become a parent you have to find a new normal. For me, this means that sometimes I just have to ignore the toys scattered across the floor, the laundry piling up, and dishes stacking up in the sink and accomplish what needs to be done at that moment—whether it be taking a shower, playing with the little one, or just taking some me time. A home is meant to be lived in.
Whatever you do, don’t act alarmed
Whenever the little one would take a tumble, she would immediately look up at me to see my reaction. I quickly learned that if I acted like it was no big deal, then she would too. Conversely, if I panicked—so would she. Now, I wait for her response before I respond—and most often, she takes her tumble, stands back up and keeps on trucking without a single tear.
Increased number of blowouts? Go up a diaper size
This has been my number one indication that it was time to move up a diaper size. Once the blowouts start happening on a regular basis, you know it’s time to move up a size. For me, it’s kind of hard to physically tell if the diaper is too small or not by just looking.
Dislike a food the first, third, or fifth time? Keep trying
If you continue to introduce a new food, more than likely the little one will end up learning to like it. Sometimes the new texture or taste of food isn’t agreeable at first, but don’t give up too easily!
I think my daughter refused strawberries the first 20 times I offered them. Then one day, she started eating them and loved them. I was glad that I didn’t give up!
ALWAYS bring an extra outfit
I keep a bag in the car with an extra outfit or two, diapers, wipes, and snacks. The time that you forget the extra outfit is the time you’re going to need it. Babies are messy little creatures! It doesn’t hurt to have an extra outfit for yourself too—unless you like the look of food or spit up splattered across your shirt.
Little One Acting Out? Remain calm
When my daughter was going through a horrible biting stage, our pediatrician told us that parents are a baby’s favorite toy. Babies love to see the reaction of a parent—both good and bad. She told us that, although it can be hard, when the little one acts out, we need to do everything we can to remain calm. If we start yelling, or scream “ouch”—the baby will probably continue the behavior because he/she finds the reaction entertaining.
Happiness is contagious
One of the most rewarding parts of being a parent is seeing how people light up when they see your little one. Every time we go out, our little girl makes random strangers smile. Children truly are precious and their happiness is contagious. There’s a lot to be learned from the innocence of a child.
It’s okay to accept help
It took the humbling experience of postpartum depression to make me realize how important accepting help is. You don’t have to do it all alone. If you feel overwhelmed, ask for help. If someone offers help and you need it, accept it graciously without guilt. If you just need a few moments alone to recharge, ask someone to take care of the little one for an hour or two. As parents, we need a village of support and it’s so important for our mental and physical health.
It’s Just a Phase
Oh, the countless times I wondered how I would ever survive. There was the biting phase, the chewing on the furniture phase, the throwing food phase (we’re still in this one), the throwing herself on the floor in a tantrum phase, and so many more. Each time, I wondered how in the world I was ever going to be able to teach this little girl of mine that the particular behavior was not acceptable—because nothing I tried would work.
After surviving a few phases, you realize that these behavioral issues are simply phases and eventually your little one will grow out of that phase and onto yet another one. But, it’s only just a phase.
You think you won’t, but you will
Before having a child, I told myself I would never do this and never do that. I would never give up listening to the music I like and listen to children’s music instead. I did—I know so many nursery rhymes, lullabies, and children’s songs now. I often find myself singing them when I’m all alone.
While pregnant, the birth horror stories that every mother thought she needed to tell me was irritating. Now I find myself wanting to share my story—thankfully, I’m usually able to stop myself before I share—but seriously, you think you won’t—but you will. Just wait and see.
Can you relate to any of these lessons? What is an important lesson that you would add to this list?