Six Things I Learned in my First Year of Parenting
There is no way to prepare for being a parent. You can read all the books, babysit, expect a ‘challenge’ but until you are leaving the hospital without instructions or a warranty.... you won’t ever truly know. These are a few home-truths I’ve picked up this year that I thought might be helpful, or at least relatable, to parents both new and seasoned.
|The Safety of the Hospital Bubble|
I promise. I wish someone told me this when I was in it. Actually I’m sure they did and I just didn’t believe them. For a while it feels like you have Stockholm syndrome. You’re in love with your captor who also happens to be the new boss of the family- and is more demanding than Donald Trump. Sleep deprivation takes your sanity and even your dignity. It feels infinite. This too shall pass and soon the memory will be fuzzy and even pleasant.
2. There are Pro’s and Con’s to Waiting Until your 30’s to Have Children.
I’ve traveled heaps, partied lots, slept-in and had few regrets (I tell myself this might be key to avoiding a mid-life crisis.) After 30 I felt ready to ‘settle down,’ because sometimes a bottle of red and a good movie appealed more to me than going out all night. The term ‘settle down’ implies relaxation and a slow pace of life. They should call it- ready to ‘fire up’ for kids because you should train for it like you would a marathon. With an 11.5 month old baby, I’m starting to feel more like my old self again and now there is this sudden pang of jealousy for people without children. My shrink and I decided that I’m not jealous of the childlessness, just the freedom- especially now that I have the energy for freedom again. Personally, I’m glad I didn’t have children in my 20’s or I would be even more jealous! However I would have had plenty more stamina back then.
3. Gone is Spontaneity.
Want to pop out and grab a coffee? Yeah Right. You can no longer grab your handbag and go. In fact, there is no longer room for your handbag at all. I’m lucky to be able to shove a wallet, keys and Blistex in my diaper bag. Plus there is other serious equipment to consider. Stroller or baby carrier? Extra clothes for baby, and yourself. Bottles, meals, and snacks on rotation depending on the time of day. Should you bring extra in case of delays? Diapers, wipes and bum cream- oh my! Hat, sunscreen, and comforter. Plastic bags, nappy bags, garbage bags (handy for large-scale disasters) and toys...the surprising thing is that the smaller the baby, the more you need to bring. Makes no logical sense.
Camping goods sorted, then we have the nap conundrum. Can it be timed so she sleeps in the car or the stroller? Oh wait, the weather forecasts explosive poo, spew and or food spillage? Better grab an umbrella too.
After all this prep if the baby cries when we get there- we are going to turn right around. Better to just never leave the house? Maybe.
When we first brought Lavinia home, we were inundated with company. And it was lovely but also exhausting. We were so proud to show off our little angel that we would invite two sets of visitors over each weekend day. I’ve learned to say ‘we’re busy' and it's literally always true. Even if 'busy' simply means that my husband and I have coordinated in advance and booked family time. One weekend a month we decline all social engagements home or away because (see item 3) a coffee date could take up half the day. Sounds totally lame but you know what? It’s these weekends I look forward to the most. So hard to say ‘no thank, you,’ but so worth it in the end. Soon enough Lavinia will only want to see her friends, desperately trying to avoid her boring parents (which is ironic because SHE is the reason we are boring!) So take that time to pencil in for being a family.
|Just a Couple Friends Blowing Bubbles in the Backyard|
5. A Night Out is Almost Not Worth the Hangover. Almost.
Sometimes you need a good blow-out to remind yourself you still have a personality. Events must marry up perfectly with babysitters. And keep in mind that come morning your baby does not give a flying F#$@ that you were out too late and drank too much. The kid will be well-rested and ready to rock’n’roll at 7am (or sooner) regardless of whether you went to bed at 9:30PM or 2:30AM. And I’ll tell you something from experience- it’s martyrdom to breastfeed while dehydrated.
So, sorry to all my friends for declining often. Side note: Please keep inviting us anyway because we like to feel included. And for the record, no, we cannot ‘just put the baby to bed in your spare room’ during your dinner party. That’s just crazy talk.
6. The Most Supportive People in your New Life are Not Always who you would Expect.
Your hospital room will be flooded with visitors, gifts, and loving glances. But while your life has been turned upside down, it goes back to normal for everyone else. And one day, you go to the hairdresser and find in her a soul-mate. Lovely, single, girlfriends offer to sacrifice precious weekend nights to babysit so you can go to dinner for your birthday or see a movie with your hubby. A sister-in-law spends hours on public transport to spend quality time with her niece. A judgement-free and down to Earth mother’s group. A mother-in-law who commutes four hours just so you can nap. The kindness of people is both astounding and surprising. And we are grateful.
After your first child life as you know it will never be the same, just like everyone says. You can never ‘un-know’ what it feels like to be responsible for a baby you made. Then the light bulb illuminates- this is how my parents felt about me- and you finally understand the depth of their love, and understand their imperfections.
Then the second, more disappointing light bulb- this brand new human will not have a clue how much you love and sacrifice for them until they have children of their own. And that’s a damn long time to wait. Which brings me back to point number one. Patience.