5 Tips For Surviving The First Year of Parenthood
1. Expect the Unexpected
No matter how many books and articles you have read, or how many seasoned mothers you have interviewed, nobody can be prepared for the life altering event of having a new baby enter your home. It changes everything and it never goes according to plan. To help reduce impending feelings of guilt, step lightly into the parenthood journey with a healthy amount of knowledge coupled with a health dose of humility. You will have to learn what works for you and your child and you will certainly have to learn as you go. Your baby will never be exactly like the book or article claims he/she will be.
2. Forgive Yourself
This follows perfectly after step 1. Forgive yourself. You do not know it all. In fact, you may find yourself feeling like you don't know much of anything at all. That is ok, and it is ok to forgive yourself (You probably aren't getting much sleep these days, anyway!). Learn to be gentle with yourself like you are being with your precious new baby. After all, they are learning not only from how you treat them but also how you treat yourself.
3. Forgive your partner
Also, this one is important. As much as you want your partner to intuit your every need, and maybe before the baby they really did, they are entering this foreign land with you. Everything is new and they know nothing about what your needs are now that there is this strange other person living in your home, waking up every hour to make strange requests, and taking up all of your energy. Your partner probably misses you and the attention that you used to give them. So find it in your heart to forgive them. And ask for what you need (even if... no especially if you really think that they should already know it!)
4. Trust your gut
As my mother told me, "You are the expert on your own child". You are the one who spends every waking (and sleeping!) moment with this tiny human. You are the one who knows their rhythms. You are the one who notices anything out of place. Nobody else can tell you what is the best practice for parenting your child. Each combination of parent and child is as unique as a snowflake; no two combinations are the same.You will learn what works best for your child and your family. Other people, especially childless people, may feel that they have advice to give you that feels shaming. They may say things that make you feel clueless. The best way to handle this advice is to say "thank you, so how about that news article/the weather/the local sports team?" and quickly divert the conversation away. Then take the advice that they gave and decide whether to try it out or whether to dump it in the endless abyss of useless advice that you will soon find yourself filling. Then move on.
5. Enjoy What You Can, Move on From What You Can't
Speaking of useless advice, you will always be instructed to "enjoy every minute" of this time because it goes so quickly. And yes, I urge you to try to find the light in the situation and enjoy what you can. The time really does pass quickly. But you will find it impossible to enjoy every moment when you are consistently sleep deprived for months, you are learning new skills, your partner isn't doing everything that you think they should, you are constantly washing laundry because OH THE SPIT UP! Not all of these are enjoyable experiences, and pressuring yourself to feel joy at times when all you feel is defeat is a one-way-ticket to collapse. So give yourself permission to not enjoy some things. Its is ok. No parent has ever enjoyed everything. But if you find yourself not enjoying anything, or feeling an unshakable sense of fear, depression, or anxiety, day after day then pick up the phone and call someone. Get help. Find a therapist nearby who "gets you" and provides support. Call your doctor and tell them that you can't shake these feelings. It is normal to not enjoy everything, but it is problematic if you can't enjoy anything, and there are people who will help.