Friday, September 25, 2015

First Year (and a half) of Parenthood - What I've Learned

You know you're a parent when you find unfinished posts that were supposed to be posted 6 months ago in your draft folder. Whoops. Better late than never, as I always say, particularly on my blog! :P 
A year ago, I was sitting on the couch in yoga pants and one of hubby's band shirts with a big, pregnant belly, wondering if I'd ever give birth or if I'd just be pregnant forever. I was a nervous wreck about becoming a parent, wondering if I'd know what I'm doing and if I'd be a good mother. But I wanted nothing more than to finally go into actual labor and meet the little person who had spent the past 9 months in my belly. 

I spent months preparing for motherhood - I read three pregnancy books, joined three online pregnancy groups as well as two online communities. I did my homework, in attempt to prepare myself to the best of my ability. But honestly, no amount of studying and research can fully prepare you for parenthood. So much of what I've learned has been from experience and a LOT of trial and error. Do I have it all figured out? Absolutely not. Not even close. But learning is all part of the adventure, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

In this past year, I've laughed, cried happy, angry, sad and confused tears and wanted to rip my hair out quite a few times. But it has been the most incredible year of my life! 

I will never forget the first moment I looked upon my child's face. Time stood still and when I close my eyes, I can still see those beautiful blue eyes looking up at me! 
Never judge another parent. It is absolutely none of your business how a parent decides to raise their child and not your place to intervene unless the child is in danger. As long as you love and care for your children, it does not matter how you raise them. I have seen SO many arguments, wars and hurt feelings over things as simple as bottle or breastfeeding, cry-it-out or attachment parenting, pro or anti crib bumpers...even over organic mattresses. Seriously. I could go on for hours. As parents, it's important to stick together and support one another. If you don't want to be judged for your choices, you shouldn't judge others for theirs. It's that simple.

Sometimes it's okay to take a breather. I learned this pretty quickly. Mike was in Texas and I was 100% responsible for Vincent. There were nights that the crying would not stop. No amount of nursing, diaper changing, rocking, bouncing or singing would stop it. I would put Vincent in his bassinet, make sure he was safe and leave the room for a few minutes to have a short meltdown. I felt like the most horrible mother on the planet for doing this, but I know if I hadn't, I likely would've gone insane. 

Let unimportant things go. This is a hard one for me. I am the type of person who can't sleep well at night if I know that a chore has gone undone or something is out of place. I also tend to let our animals' misbehavior ruin my day. I will often walk into the living room in the morning to see dog pee and feces all over the floor, the garbage can emptied out and strewn through the house and cat vomit on the couch. It puts me into a fit of rage. I am STILL working on not letting the little things bother me and simply letting things go. It's not worth being in a crappy mood over something so minor and letting it affect your child's mood. 

On that note: your attitude and mood affects your child. If I am in a crappy mood or having a bad day, Vincent is in a crappy mood, too. If I cry, Vincent cries. If I laugh or smile, Vincent does! Notice if a baby smiles at you, she expects a positive response. If you don't react, the baby will become uneasy and upset. I had no idea that a baby that young could be so greatly affected by your mood and attitude. This has made it even more important to me to let things go and work on my attitude.

Schedules really do help. I was convinced that Vincent was impossible to get on a schedule, until I put my foot down and disciplined MYSELF to follow through with one. Since then, Vincent started sleeping and eating better and eventually sleeping through the night. It was worth setting my alarm every morning and for every nap and feeding for two months straight, to get us into a good routine! Even now at 18 months, Vincent does best when we stick to his schedule.

Quit comparing. Just like every pregnancy is different, so is every child. It's not a competition. Just because someone else's child is already walking, doesn't mean your child is behind because he is still crawling. There were so many times that I worried about Vincent being behind, when really, he just wasn't quite ready yet. I was so anxious to have him finally start crawling, when I saw so many other babies his age do it. Once he started, he started getting into everything! Not to mention when he started walking. ;) Now, same situation with speech, I remind myself constantly that he will eventually get there. No rush!

Don't be hard on yourself. This was a big thing for me, particularly when my milk supply dropped. And I can admit now, that a big factor was stress. I was so worried and stressed about my supply dropping, that I couldn't get it back up and had to eventually stop nursing. Even now, I still feel disappointed thinking about it. But then I try to remind myself that I managed to exclusively breastfeed my son for 8 months. That's a great accomplishment. I did the best that I could and that's all I can do.

Drop unrealistic expectations. I have done this in the past and still find myself doing it often. Saying things like: "I will NEVER let my child..." or "My child will..." ... Not necessarily. I swore I'd never let Vince watch TV before age two. I also swore he'd be potty trained by age two. Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahahahaha....
Yes, I sometimes turn the TV on as a last resort for my sanity. And *gasp* sometimes I turn it on, just for it to be on!! Oh the horror. And no, I do not see him potty trained by two - he is not showing signs of being ready yet. And you know what? THAT'S OKAY. As I said above, every child is SO different and every child has different needs. And children learn and hit milestones at their own paces. It is not worth beating yourself up for not doing things exactly the way you imagined and it's not worth pressuring your child into something he or she isn't ready for yet. No parent is perfect. And no child is perfect. You can't possibly expect that. (Repeating this to myself over and over again...)

Pick your battles. Is it really worth freaking out over the mess he is making with his yogurt? Toddlers are messy. Yogurts are messy. Go freaking figure. Is it really worth telling him to not play with that thing that isn't a toy, when it's causing no harm? Yes, there are limits, absolutely! And safety is #1 - no matter how hard he cries and screams, I will never let him play with cords or electrical outlets. Sorry, kid. Just trying to keep you alive. But saying the word "NO!" all day over every little thing is just not worth it 90% of the time. Hence why one of the cabinets in our entertainment center has been completely cleared out, so he can use it to put his things in. xD

If I could offer any advice to a new parent, I'd say this:
When you feel like your child will never stop crying, you will never sleep again or you're completely losing control of everything, stop for a moment. Take a deep breath. Look at everything around you. Is everyone breathing? Check. Is there a roof over your head? Check. Is there food in the kitchen? Check. Then it is going to be okay. And no matter how rough things are going, I can promise, you're doing a MUCH better job than you're giving yourself credit for. Take a moment every day to breathe, give yourself a pat on the back and remind yourself: you're human, you're a good parent and someday, I PROMISE you'll sleep again! ;) And never, ever hesitate to ask for help if you need it. Because there's no such thing as a perfect parent.

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1 comment:

Leah |