I’m of that age where many of my friends are parents to young children. I roll in circles filled with mommy and daddy bloggers. And of my friends who aren’t already parents, several are either happily engaged, recently married, or currently expecting. These kinds of stories dominate my Facebook feed and understandably so. And with so many first-time parents among my immediate peer group, it doesn’t take long before everyone gets bombarded with unsolicited advice.
You know, like today’s post. Enjoy!
One Day at a Time
This is going to sound incredibly cliche, because it certainly sounded awfully cliche when someone gave me the same piece of parenting advice. It’s also 100% absolutely true. You really need to take it one day at a time and really strive to live in the present. Yes, I know it sounds like one of those generic Oprah-isms, like being told that you should embrace the situation, but that’s the only way that you’re going to survive those first few weeks and months (and years) as first-time parents.
You’re going to get frustrated. You’re probably going to be sleep-deprived. The most important lesson I tried to internalize is that you really need to avoid the “it’ll be easier when” line of thinking. It’ll be easier when she doesn’t need to be fed every two to three hours. It’ll be easier when he can fall asleep on his own. It’ll be easier when she’s potty-trained.
One set of challenges will always pave the way for another set of challenges. As cliche as it may sound, you really do need to cherish those precious moments because they’ll be over before you know it.
Sleep When Baby Sleeps
Speaking of sleep deprivation, if you are a reasonably engaged parent, it’s unlikely you’ll be sleeping all the way through the night for at least the first little while. That’s just the reality of the situation. As a result, it is in your best interest to catch a little shut-eye every chance you get and that includes when the little one is napping in the middle of the day. You’ll need it.
Yes, I know you’ve got a huge pile of household chores and there’s always more laundry to be washed. It can wait, because you cannot serve from an empty vessel. Get your rest.
It’s Probably Nothing
And the net result of all that late night web searching and all that time sitting around in the waiting room at the doctor’s office? “That’s perfectly normal. It’ll go away on its own.”
Absolutely, it’s a good idea to arm yourself with some basic knowledge. You should definitely take a class on baby first aid and CPR. That’s smart. As much as you’ll inevitably worry, though, take solace in knowing that you’re probably overreacting. It really is probably nothing.
Even before my daughter was born and turned my world upside down, I had already been working from home for a number of years. I had grown accustomed to working out of my home office, typically devoid of the usual face-to-face social interaction you’d get at a traditional workplace. At the time, I discussed my challenges with urban cabin fever and how I tried to make it a point to get outside as often as I could. I’d walk around the block. I’d go get a cup of coffee.
This advice is just as applicable for first-time parents. Especially in the first month or two, you might feel nervous about leaving the safe and mostly predictable confines of your home. That’s normal. At the same time, you need to be around other people. Go to story time at the library or stroll around the local mall. Start with places that have good baby-friendly facilities to build up your confidence.
Track the Data (If You Want)
When you’re still in the hospital with your newborn, chances are that the nurses will provide you with a simple chart. They want you to keep track of feeds and diaper changes, making sure that everything is working as it should be. Just in case. We continued with this practice using pen and paper for some time before switching over a mobile app.
There are tons of free mobile apps for exactly this purpose, both for Android and iOS. They’re great for seeing how much total sleep the baby is getting each day, for instance, or if there is an unexpected fluctuation in how many diapers you’re changing. Many of these apps (or alternatives) are also useful for informing you about wonder weeks, expected milestones, growth spurts and the like.
Do you need to keep track of all this? No, not really. Are they useful in providing some predictability and establishing routines? Absolutely. And as first-time parents, finding comfort in routine is a good thing.
Be Gracious About Advice
Most people mean well. It doesn’t always come off that way, but let me assure you, they really do. Take it all in stride, listen to those who have gone through this before you, and then just do what works for you. You’re going to encounter all sorts of conflicting and contradictory advice. No matter what you do, someone is going to say you’re doing it wrong. That’s okay. Whatever it takes to survive another day, right?
For all the veteran moms and dads out there, what piece of parenting advice do you wish you would have received at the time? Knowing what you know now, would you have done anything differently?