When I was expecting my first child, I decided that I would be the perfect Mom. I read Parent magazine obsessively, purchased non-gender-specific toys and books, and day-dreamed about winning “Mother of the Year”.
Then I went into labor. And things immediately started to go wrong.
First, there was the emergency C-section; my pelvic bones were not big enough to give birth. Then, there were the rock-hard engorged breasts. Why didn’t anyone warn me about that?!? Then, I went home with a urinary tract infection, which made me miserable.
Two weeks later, I was deeply depressed. Being a perfect mom seemed out of reach. The magic cradle that was supposed to rock him to sleep only made him cry. All he ever wanted to do was eat and sleep in my arms. (This was long before the idea of baby-wearing was popular in the United States.) My house was a wreck, meals were slap-dash, and who had time to take a shower?
Sound familiar? The dreams of parenthood rarely match up to reality. Some parents just handle it better than others. Here are some things I wish I had understood before bringing my first precious little one home:
- You will not get a full nights sleep for 18 years (minimum), so don’t expect one. Those folks that said sleep when the baby sleeps know what they are talking about. Take naps. Lack of sleep makes you grouchy.
- Prepared food will not kill you. I had made my own bread and cooked everything from scratch before. But during the first year of your child’s life, the frozen food section is your friend. If you can’t handle all the added chemicals, invest in a company that will bring food to your home — or get a friend to cook for you.
- Learn to live with a less-than-spotless house. What other people think of your house cleaning is none of your business.
- Simplify your wardrobe. Dry-cleanable clothes is so last year! AND having clean clothes every day is over rated. Who cares if you wear the same t-shirt and shorts for three days in a row?
- Ask for help. There are lots of people out there that are willing to help you. Think of all the empty-nesters you know. They would love to come hold your child while you get a refreshing shower or take a well-deserved night out with your partner.
- After the first six weeks, get involved in something outside your house. Take a class at the Y. Attend a place of worship. Start a play group with other parents. You need adult conversation, and watching Oprah does not count.
- NEVER compare your parenting with any one else’s. You have no idea what happens when you are not around. You are going to make mistakes. Few of them will cause irreparable harm.
Above all, enjoy this special time with the miracle that is your child. Watch her brain begin to develop as her eyes begin to focus, and she learns to smile, and starts to hold her head up. Play peek-a-boo, and sing to him. He doesn’t care if it’s off tune or you use the wrong words. Relish the time you have to feed and hold your baby. This is your time. Enjoy it!