This past year has gone by so quickly. A year ago I was at home nursing a newborn, and trying to figure out this new thing called, motherhood. It was so precious and fulfilling, but at the same time it was terrifying and exhausting. I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew that I loved my baby girl and that she needed me. So I fumbled my way through this past year and just figured motherhood out as I went along. I am excited for what is ahead, but I’m sad to leave this past year behind. I’ll miss this sweet year of baby clothes, tiny toes, doll sized diapers, nursing, and newborn cries. The road ahead will have it’s own memories and special moments, I just wish this first year hadn’t gone so quickly.
Over the past year, I’ve had my fair share of mistakes and successes. Babies aren’t born with a users manual, though that would be nice. We wish someone could tell us how to make our baby sleep, or tell us that Costco wipes and Target diapers give us the best bang for our buck. (There. That’s me telling you. You’re welcome.) Mothers just have to learn along the way. For my future self and my friends, here are ten lessons I’ve learned from my first year as a mom.
1) Baby carriers are essential.
Lugging an infant car seat around everywhere is a pain in the butt. Plus, if you’re grocery shopping, there isn’t any room for it. When Des was a newborn, she wouldn’t sleep in the car seat either, but she would conk out in seconds in the baby wrap. Do yourself a favor, and invest in a good quality baby carrier. I started with the Moby wrap and graduated to the Ergo 360 when Desirae grew bigger, and I have no regrets.
2) Park near the shopping carts.
Forget trying to get the parking space closest to the store entrance. Park near the shopping carts. When you have a baby, a diaper bag, your phone, keys, and wallet, a baby carrier, and maybe your car seat, save yourself the trouble of trying to carry it all in and use the shopping cart. If you park by the shopping carts, you can easily grab one and throw everything in the cart. Then when you’re done with your shopping, you don’t have to leave the baby alone in the car while you trek across the parking lot to put the shopping cart back. Bonus points for finding a parking space next to the shopping carts closest to the entrance.
3) Start sleep training early.
Sleep training is challenging in the beginning, but it is SO worth it in the long run. If the baby is sleeping, it means the whole family is sleeping. That allows everyone to keep their sanity and enjoy being a new family. Call me crazy, but I started sleep training when Desirae was about eight weeks old. I didn’t go all cold turkey in one night (I’m not THAT crazy), but I trained, little by little, for about six months, as her sleep patterns changed. It’s easier to start good habits now, rather then break bad sleeping habits later.
4) Make it your goal to accomplish just one thing a day.
After Desirae was born, I struggled with feeling inadequate as a SAHM because I felt like I couldn’t get anything done. Before baby, I could do the laundry, stop at three stores, get my hair done, grab coffee with a friend, and be home in time to get dinner on the table, all in one day. Nope. Not anymore. Between nap times, diaper blow outs, meltdowns, meals, and trying to keep the kid alive, it’s hard to do a lot in a day. Just leaving the house is a chore. As a mom, you have to change your mindset and make a goal to accomplish just one thing a day. Maybe your goal is to go grocery shopping, or clean up the main floor, or have a play date. Whatever it is, be okay with that one thing. If it ends up being a great day with the baby and you can accomplish more, then extra bonus points for you.
5) When you travel, let it go.
I’ve found that when you travel as a mother, you just have to learn to let everything go. Forget all the routines, habits, and usual way of doing things. Learn to be flexible and go with the flow. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Before you go on a trip, do yourself a favor and promise yourself, “I’m going to let whatever happens, happen.” Kids are never themselves when you leave the house. If you can be okay with letting go of your normal, you and your family will enjoy your trip much more.
6) Take everything with a grain of salt
There are a million parenting books out there you can read, and everyone and their mother’s second cousin has opinions on parenting. Learn to take it all with a grain of salt – even the books written by doctors, psychologists, and professional nannies. There is no one way to parent. Remember that every baby is different, every mom is different, and every family is different. Sure, it’s great to learn from books, friends, and family, but that doesn’t mean that people’s advice is going to be the best thing for you and your kids. Try some things, and forget others. Confidently do what works for you and your family.
7) Be willing to try something new.
As I said above, there are a million ways to parent. No one thing works for everyone all of the time. Not only does that mean filtering out advice, but it also means being willing to try some tips, tricks, and parenting styles that you thought you would never use. Sure, try what you want to try, but if it isn’t working, be okay with trying a different way. We all have our ideas and experiences. Don’t be so stuck in your one way of doing motherhood that you aren’t willing to hear other people’s advice.
8) Be the mother your baby needs, not the mother people want you to be.
Being a mom isn’t about making other people happy. It’s about taking care of your children. There is always going to be that person who questions you, tries to make you feel guilty, or who pressures you into doing or not doing something with or for your children. There is always a part of us that wants to give in because we hate feeling like we are disappointing people or letting them down. As a mom, you can’t give in anymore. Your kid comes first. Ignore the guilt, and ask yourself, are you making this decision to make people happy or because it’s what is best for your baby?
9) Don’t forget your husband.
Babies are VERY consuming. They have so many needs and are totally dependent on their parents. It’s easy to get sucked into the baby vortex and forget everything else. Don’t forget, that before you were a mom, you were a wife. And someday, when all your kids leave the house, it’s going to be just you and your husband. In the midst of all the baby craziness, don’t forget your man – even if it’s just sitting together on the couch, running into the bedroom after baby falls asleep, or finding a new show to watch together. In the baby world, you don’t have a lot of baby-free time. Use the moments you do have to reconnect with your husband and remind him that you were his before you were mom.
10) Don’t forget yourself.
This seems almost impossible with a baby. Baby needs you for comfort, food, sleep, and pretty much everything. Those first few months are like a baby vortex. Yes you are a mom, but you are also just you. You may have to set some dreams aside for a while or put a pause on some of your goals, but you still need to remember who you are. (Picture Mufasa coming out of the sky to tell you this.) Let your husband watch the baby for an hour while you take a bath, take a walk, journal, go get coffee, read, or whatever inspires you. It doesn’t take much. Don’t lose sight of who you are.
I’ve learned a lot this year, more than I can put in one post. I look forward to what motherhood, year two, will bring me. I’ve realized that becoming a mom is hard, but it becomes a lot easier if you stop trying to be a perfect mom. Just enjoy being the mom you are. Yes, motherhood is hard, but with a little help, we can all figure it out.