Monday, June 24, 2013

Published 7:49 AM by with 4 comments

Ten Things I've Learned in the First Year of Motherhood

All right, ya'll, it's time for the typical blog post of a new parent: ten things I've learned in the first year of being a mother! You can always let me know your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree with what I've written, in the comments, especially if you'd be willing to share the invaluable lessons YOU learned as a first time mother or father!

1. Let your child wear clothes they can get dirty, especially when they are outdoors, near food, near other children, or awake. 

It's not worth the fuss to try to keep a baby's clothes pristine for longer than half a church service, so don't get too attached to the cleanliness of their clothes. Or yours, for that matter. I'm convinced that babies are like chipmunks, with little sacks of food stored in their cheeks for later. All it takes is one mouthful of spit-up breakfast to require a complete change of clothes for everyone. Oh yes. 

2. Always be prepared.

This is the Boy Scout motto, but it should be the motto for parents, too. Whenever we go out, we have to pack: two extra outfits for the Bug, extra diapers and wipes, water to drink for everyone, sweaters, a blanket, two snacks, extra pacifiers, a bib, band-aids, hand sanitizer, washcloths, and hats/long sleeves for those with skin too delicate for long sun exposure. If this seems like over-kill for those who may not have kids yet, believe me... we use or have used EVERYTHING at some point, and fervently thanked the heavens for those times when someone had a bloody lip and we actually had water and washcloths to take care of it, or we were out late unexpectedly and needed the extra diapers, blanket, and sweaters. It's waaaaay better to be prepared with a little more than you thought you'd need rather than not have what you need at an inconvenient time.

3. Sometimes you just have to stop worrying about _____ .

Your child is only in the 7th percentile for weight by a year old? Quit worrying; she'll probably be small all her life like you and her father. Your child sometimes almost exclusively wants to nurse at ten months? Quit worrying; she'll pick up on solid foods before you know it. Your child wakes up with a rash all over her body the day after her birthday? Quit worrying; she doesn't act sick, so we'll just take it easy for a few days to make sure she's okay. Your child decides that roly-polies are the latest, greatest protein snack? Quit worrying; at least they appeared to be dead before she ate them. (I was wondering why she was being so quiet in the corner of the room. See point #4.)

I have a tendency to FREAK THE HECK OUT at anything unexpectedly new that comes up, simply because I've never experienced it before. Rational people like Chris calmly take in the facts, consider the options, and make a decision carefully. Crazy, worrywart people like me run shrieking around the room (at least in their imagination), trying not to hyperventilate while they babble incoherently through all the possible scenarios that could arise from the situation. I've gotten better recently at not running around screaming. 

(Just kidding about the screaming. Mostly.)

4. If your child is quiet for longer than one minute, you'd better go see what they're doing.

They could be: eating roly-polies, eating bird seed, eating food scraps from the kitchen floor (I promise that I sweep), eating yarn, eating chapstick, eating paper, texting grandpa on your cell phone, dialing foreign numbers on your cell phone, taking apart your pantry shelves, methodically wiping their pacifier on the underside of all the shoes by the front door, wiping their pacifier on the bathroom floor, tearing all the toilet paper off the roll, attempting to drink dishwashing liquid (thank goodness for childproof lids), unfolding all the folded laundry, tearing all the organized clothes out of a mistakenly left open dresser, climbing onto the bed to look out the window (how did she get up there?!), or using the diaper bag as a stepladder to climb onto the coffee table. Just to name a few. 

5. Sleep is over-rated. 

For the parents, that is. Whenever an infant sleeps, everyone encourages the mother at least to "sleep when the baby does", which is the best advice ever. But by the time the infant turns into a baby, and then into a toddler, when they go down for a nap, all we can think is "TIME TO GET ALL THE THINGZ ACCOMPLISHED!!!!" So instead of napping with the Bug, I (quietly) run to cook food, do laundry, clean, organize, write, chat with Chris, answer emails, etc. 

Same thing happens when she finally goes to bed at night. That's why I never get to bed earlier than 10:30 or 11:00, because the quiet night hours can be so productive. Also, that's why I get up early, between 6:00 and 6:45 on most days, because I need just a little bit of peace to myself before the day is begun. I get enough sleep to get by and stay sane. Usually.

6. Say yes as much as possible, but be firm when you need to say no.

Harmony is just like all toddlers: she wants to explore and experience and experiment as much as possible. So for many situations, we allow her to do so, as long as it is not a) ruining someone else's property, b) dangerous or potentially unsafe, or c) letting her form a terribly bad habit. That way, when we do say no, it means "NO". We are still in the remove-from-temptation-and-distract stage, of course, so the journey is just beginning, but we hope to continue this way.

7. No matter how good of a parent you think/hope you are, there will always be another parent who appears to be waaaaay better than you.

Don't compare yourself to the mother at the park. Or the dad in the grocery store. Or the harmonious couple walking their beaming child and their well-behaved dog down the street just as you are attempting to get your baby to stop throwing a tantrum because they don't want to get into the car seat. The grass always appears greener, ya know. But as long as you are doing your best, stop worrying (see point #3) and just keeping caring for your own child.  

8. Find other parents and families and been-there-done-that mothers who think the same way you do and you can learn from.

Nothing has encouraged Chris and I more than our own family supporting us with the parenting choices we make. But it's also extremely encouraging to be around other folks who have the same kind of ideas we do. When I first decided that I wanted to have a home-birth, it helped immensely to have a group of like-minded couples in our birthing class, which was specifically for people who were having a natural and/or home-birth. I still hang out with some of those ladies and their babies nowadays. 

If your interests are home-schooling, holistic health, nature, music, teaching your child about God, etc. then you and your child will benefit from being around other families who are interested in the same things. 

Also, being around women whose children are already grown, but whose parenting philosophies you can learn from, is invaluable. Everyone should have a mom-mentor or two. The more, the better! And even if another mother or mom-mentor tells you something that doesn't fit your parenting style, or that you disagree with inwardly, it's usually not worth making a fuss over. Just smile and be pleasant. No need to continue the infamous "Mommy Wars" here. 

And now, #9 is a point written directly by Chris, the rarely-heard blogophobe!!!

9. For the guys from the guy: she had the baby, the least you can do is help...

Parenting is most assuredly a hands on experience, but if you make her do all the work, changing diapers, feedings, nap times, and so forth, then all you're really saying is "I don't care about you or the baby". So get your hands dirty and dive right in. Everyone will be much happier. Even if the little one cries more for you than for mom, it's okay, she'll show you plenty of love as the years go on. And the more involved you are in your child's life today, the more involved your child will want to be with you later.

We'll end with point #10 from both Chris and I:

10. Our family is just going to be weird. And that's the way it is.

I teach music lessons in the afternoons and early evenings. By the time I get home, we eat dinner, Harmony nurses, and we get her calmed down enough for bedtime, it's usually between 8:45 and 9:15. She goes to bed much, much later than most children we know. But she also sleeps in pretty late (between 7:30 and 8:30), usually takes two naps during the day (hooray!), and appears to be in good health, so I'm trying not to feel guilty about it. Our schedule just works this way.

Harmony also sleeps with us. *gasp* Yes, we are bed-sharing parents. Without getting into all the controversy that has surrounded bed-sharing, let me just say that it was the only way we were able to get decent sleep from the very beginning after trying every other option for weeks (crying it out was NOT an option), and our whole family has been happy together. 

Harmony and any other kids we have will grow up in a house full of people playing random instruments, making art in random places, reading books at random times of the day or night, trying different creative projects (my sister has been experimenting with wild edible plants lately, Chris is carving a rubber stamp of the United States, and I am participating in the Love Notes Project), inviting random people over for a friendly chat or shared meal, or setting off on random adventures. 

But I would venture a guess that although we're a pretty crazy bunch, we're also loving, strong as a family, and supportive of each other, so hopefully Harmony will look back on her childhood with us and smile : ) 



Kelsey Gray said...

Yep, totally agreed with ALL of it. My girls were rarely dressed up. Waste of good clothes. Easy to clean soft cotton, that's it now. Bugs eaten? Yes. Sleeping bed with us? Yes. Iris nursed exclusively and refused food until she was 13 months old. Do I whip out the boob in public and freak people out? Yep!
Your list is spot on. It deserves a re-post.

Kelsey Gray said...

p.s. I did home birth too!

Lyssa said...

Awww, you are so sweet!!! I'm heading on over to your blog to read what you've written : )

Sarah said...

Lyssa - I am with you on all of the above! So interesting how we have to learn these lessons by being in the midst of it. I'm sure people tried to tell me these things before I had kids but I could not understand them. And now I am nodding my head along with every single one. :)