Becoming a parent for the first time is exciting. It is also quite scary. Some of the stories people kindly share would terrify even the bravest of souls. But there is no love without pain, and no win without sacrifice and every single parent I know, given the choice, would do it all again in a heartbeat. The little people that we love so unconditionally are very very much worth it!
Here is some advice from those that have been there and done that:
Once a wise not-quite-old man (my Dad) said, “You gotta be realistic”
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Children WILL change your life.
You may think right now that nothing much will change. It will defiantly change, significantly. You can lug them around in a capsule to all your social engagements for a while, but this won’t work forever.
But it is good change, embrace it.
Your life for the next two years (per child) will feel similar to a constant hangover. Don’t worry, go with it, even try to enjoy it – it will get better. Try to enjoy that 2am (and 3am and 4am…) snuggle, there will come a time when you kinda wish you still got them.
“Don’t sweat any of it. The small stuff or the big stuff. Humans have been raising babies for hundreds of thousands of years. No matter what people tell you, there is no one best way to do it. An abundance of love, gentleness and care (for yourselves and for baby) will see you right.” – Stacey mom of 4
As long as both you and your little ones are in clean-ish clothes (seriously unless they have covered head to toe in spaghetti sauce, a little juice on their front is no worries), they are fed (always keep snacks on hand – fruit, jelly, yogurt, cheese), happy and healthy you are doing great as a parent.
Practical tips for first time parents
1 Buy a truckload of facecloths – they are invaluable at cleaning pretty much anything off of everything.
2 When getting baby bibs, get good quality thick ones, preferably with domes rather than valcro (hook and loop). Valcro wreaks havoc in the washing machine.
3 If you use cloth diapers, always do the valcro (hook and loop) up before washing them! (see above)
4 Holding a child throwing a tantrum is much easier side on (yes, yours will do it too, probably in a busy supermarket, when you are in a hurry to get home). You wear less kicks to the groin and they can’t hit you in the face so easily. This also works carrying a screamer who won’t hold your hand across the road.
5 Buy a drop-sided crib for your first child so that you can still reach in to get them out when you are pregnant with the next (assuming having the first hasn’t put you off).
6 Keep a box of tissues handy in every room to mop up nasty spillages.
7 Keep all your baby bottom creams well out of the reach of toddlers at all times. Sudo-cream and carpet DO NOT MIX.
8 Do it your way
“You will know a multitude of great parents who give you heaps of great advice and suggestions. ….and it will all conflict with each other. They are still great parents and so will you be. Your baby will grow up – they will not remember whether you breast fed or bottle, used disposables or cloth, fed to sleep or self settled- they will remember you love them and cared for them- always have and always will.” – Letitia McRodden mom of 2
You will be on the receiving end of all kinds of advice, the best idea is to smile sweetly, nod politely and go and do things exactly how you want to. Mom knows best.
Unfortunately this may include conflicting advice from health professionals. Usually this just means there are several options that will work, pick one and stick at it for a while.
If your baby will only sleep on you, or with you or be rocked or fed to sleep. THAT’S OK! most of us do this anyway, we just don’t tell everyone because it is seen as the wrong thing to do. I don’t know why we hide it, it’s instinctive and it is what most indigenous cultures have done for thousands of years, but now some researcher says we shouldn’t and it is now seen as being the worst thing to do.
9 If you bed share, learn to do it safely and drop the guilt.
10 If you bottle feed, learn to do it safely and drop the guilt.
11 If you have to leave your baby to scream in the crib, so you can go outside and calm down for a few minutes so you don’t shake the living daylights out of it because you haven’t slept at all for 48 hours and it is still not asleep, do it safely and drop the guilt.
12 Doctors, nurses and others don’t know everything. They are human too, you know your baby the best, if you think something is wrong and no one is listening to you, keep asking, keep getting others to look until you are satisfied. Follow your instincts, you have them for a reason 🙂
Wise words from other parents
Love them a lot. Say it to them often.
Enjoy all the snuggles and cuddles you can get.
Keep a book or box of special things, their first hat, or shoes, funny things they say and do, you will forget them.
Let them climb things, jump off things and generally play. Let them get dirty and don’t sterilize everything around them. Generally kids know their own limits and won’t do what they can’t do. Some germs are good to grow a strong immune system.
No one on their death bed ever said “I wish I spent more time in the office” – don’t regret placing your children above your career.
Set strong boundaries when it comes to expected behaviour, manners, responsibility and safety. Then let them play within these bounds.
Try not to say no too often.
Kids are all gifted, some just take a little longer to unwrap it! Don’t rush them and don’t compare, they will get there in the end. If you are genuinely concerned, check with your doctor.
Get your first aid certificate in infant and child CPR, heaven hopes you never have to use it, but the 10-20 minutes it takes an ambulance to get there may be too late for a fragile little life. Arm yourself with some knowledge and skills and don’t be afraid to use them!
If anyone offers you a cooked meal, folded washing or ironing, or babysitting so you can have a nap – Never say no.
In the first few months try and get outside everyday, even if it is just to the letterbox or around the block. Fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for altering your perspective and helping your outlook.
Never underestimate the power of sleep deprivation. It can turn the most pleasant of persons into a raging crazy-person.
If you feel yourself slipping, and unable to cope – please, please don’t try and go it alone.
Ask for help. Ask your partner, siblings, parents, friends, neighbor, health visitor or doctor. Ask anyone that will listen. Parenting can be hard, and it mostly works out in the wash. But get some support if you need it, we all want to see you succeed!