Parenting can be tough. Especially when you’re brand new to the entire endeavor. We often go into it with a ton of expectations, doubts, fears, and questions.
After we’ve had a bit of experience under our belts, most parents have a point where they have a list of “Things I Wish I Had Known”. Things that, had we known them when we first became parents, would have made the process run a bit more smoothly. These things vary based on the person, so if you ask 10 different people, you may get 10 different answers. However, if you were to ask me for a few brutally honest tips for new parents, these would be my top ten.
“Your Baby Registry List is Too Long”
When we are in the throes of empty nest syndrome or planning a baby shower, one of our best friend is the almighty baby registry. Whether you created one or ten of them, it can be rather fun looking online for all the things that we think our baby will need, want, possibly want, or even remotely benefit from 10 years in the future. And we add ALL THE THINGS to our list. I get it. We channel our inner Boy Scouts and vow to ourselves (and our future children) to always “be prepared”.
However, almost every parent finds that there is at least one baby purchase they make that they could have skipped. When asked what they bought for their newborn that they either didn’t use or could have done without, some popular answers are:
Many parents buy this piece of baby furniture, deeming it a necessity. After all, a lot of your time will be spent changing diapers. Why not have a designated and organized space for it? In reality, though, you will likely end up changing your baby wherever it is most convenient. Whether your baby is lying on a blanket in the living room or on a changing pad on the dresser.
This is one of those things that we buy because we feel like it’s going to make our baby nice and comfortable. I mean, if adults can love the idea of toilets seats that warm up, it just makes sense that babies would enjoy something similar. However, many people who buy wipe warmers forget to plug it in when they actually need it. Plus, they tend to dry out the wipes and can breed germs if not stored properly. An alternative is simply to rub the wipes between your hands for a few seconds before using them at diaper changes.
While I definitely know parents who get great use out of diaper pails, I know even more who make do with regular trash bags thrown in their regular trash can. And anyone who has ever forgotten to empty the diaper pail after a week can contest to the fact that it is NOT a pleasant smell. An alternative is to buy some cheap disposable diaper bags and toss used diapers in those before throwing them in your regular trash can. The diaper bags are designed to trap the odor inside.
While bassinets are adorable and portable, your baby will likely outgrow it quickly. If portability or space is an issue, a pack and play with a built-in bassinet may be a better option. And, of course, investing in a crib is always a smart idea.
Speaking of cribs, another thing that is not a good investment for new babies is fancy crib bedding. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, having things like blankets, quilt, and even crib bumpers can increase the risks of SIDS. In fact, it’s recommended that you just use a fitted sheet and then adjust the house/room temperature to a comfortable setting.
“You May Not Be ‘Maternal’ Right Away”
We probably all know a mom that just makes it all look so easy. She fulfills her parental duties with joy and it seems to be effortless. We look to her as proof that being a mom is easy and that our maternal instincts will kick in the moment our baby is ushered into this world. So, it can be jarring when your baby arrives and you’re hit by the realization that you don’t know what you’re doing.
While motherhood comes with many joys, it also comes with a unique set of challenges. And, being honest, there can be a definite learning curve. I daresay that most of us feel like we are constantly learning and making mistakes. Yes, motherhood does seem to come easily to some people. However, you must keep two things in mind. One, there will ALWAYS be things that come more easily to some than others. Secondly, just because something LOOKS like it is easy to someone, doesn’t mean you are seeing the full picture. So, if you become a parent and feel like you are struggling to be perfect, know that you are not alone. We’re all learning and growing in this thing called parenthood.
“You Won’t Love Every Minute of It”
On a related note, I think it’s important to point out that parenthood is not all rainbows and flowers. Sometimes it’s dark clouds and poop. Some days, you will feel like you’re on top of everything and nothing can bring you down. Other days, you will feel like you can’t do anything right. There will be periods that fill you with joy and peace. Then, there will be phases where you wonder what you’ve done to displease the gods. If you feel like pulling your hair out sometimes- know that you are not the only one. Like I said, parenting is hard. Not all of it will be enjoyable and you don’t have to feel guilty about not enjoying every bit of it.
While having difficult phases in parenting is normal, if you’re concerned that your lack of joy, detachment from your child, or feelings of overwhelm are too much, I urge you to speak to your primary care provider or your baby’s pediatrician. These may be signs of postpartum depression.
Some other symptoms of postpartum depression include feeling sad or hopeless, crying more often than usual or with no apparent reason, feeling overly anxious, feeling restless, feeling moody or irritable, either oversleeping or being unable to sleep even when your baby is asleep, having difficulty concentrating or remembering things, feeling angry, no longer enjoying your favorite activities, overeating or loss of appetite, withdrawing from loved ones, feeling like you can’t take care of your baby, thinking about harming yourself or your baby. If you have experienced any of these, your primary care physician should be able to help. Make an appointment to speak with him or her TODAY. In fact, if you can walk in, I would suggest you do that.
“You Will Lose Yourself”
Another thing that happens that many of us don’t anticipate is how easy it is to lose yourself once you become a parent. Especially moms. We know that our lives will change. We know that we won’t have as much time available for our usual activities. We know that we will have to make sacrifices. But I don’t think we’re all prepared for how completely our priorities can shift once we have our babies in our hands.
Where we were once women with a set of goals outside of parenting, once our babies arrive, it seems like so much of who we are and what we wanted in life can be put on the backburner indefinitely. Even if we do remember those things, we tend to view them as either no longer important or things that we will get back to once our children are older. For some of us, this change seems natural and sensible. For others, though, it can be confusing. We may struggle to come to terms with this change in our identity.
“Rediscovering Yourself is Not Selfish”
Once we realize that we’ve sort of “lost ourselves”, there comes a time for many of us when we are ready to reclaim part of our lost identities. We want to pick up our old hobbies and passions. We want to revive our social lives. We want to start doing those things that we used to love before we became parents. But there’s often that voice in the back of our heads making us feel like doing those things would be selfish.
Ignore that voice.
Wanting to spend time with friends is not selfish. Neither is wanting to do something that you enjoy. Or deciding to chase your dreams. Or realizing that you want to start doing things like going to the gym, getting your hair done, or dressing up in a way that makes you feel attractive.
These are all valid forms of self-care. Self-care is important for your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Plus, when you take care of every facet of your being, it can only help you to be a better parent and partner. Everyone wins! So, stop beating yourself up about wanting to do something for you and GO DO IT. It’s possible to be a great parent and to be a well-rounded human being. They are NOT mutually exclusive.
So, there you have it. My top 5 honest tips for new parents. These are the things that I think every parenting class should cover. I hope that they help you as you dive into this amazing and challenging new leg of your life journey.
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