Two weeks ago, my little boy turned one.
I am still so emotional about it, and can’t believe how quickly that first year passed. I feel like I blinked and my newborn became a toddler.
That old nugget of advice to enjoy it because it all goes by so fast is so, so true. This past year has been the best year of my life. It’s been the hardest year of my life too, because parenting is hard. Really hard.
However, watching my son turn into the cheeky, happy, little person that he is has been the greatest joy imaginable. It’s been exhausting, exhilarating, challenging and lots and lots of fun.
I’ve learned a lot about myself this past year, and he has taught me what’s really important in life. In reflecting on my first year as a mum, I hope I can pass on some of the lessons that I’ve learned, and some advice for new parents.
1. Press pause
It can be hard to juggle having a baby and the day-to-day chores around the house. A year in a baby's life goes so quickly, with milestone after milestone marking the transition from baby to toddler. The cleaning can wait, so can the vacuuming. Take time to just stop, pause and interact with your little one. Eventually, they will gain their independence and won’t need you as much, so soak it up.
2. Take care of yourself
Having a baby is hard work, physically and mentally. Go easy on yourself, and take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, don’t forget to eat, and if you need a break – take it! Also, don’t succumb to the pressure to “lose the baby weight”. You spent 10 months growing a human being. Give yourself a break and don’t obsess about fitting into your old jeans.
They say the first year of marriage is the hardest. In my opinion, the first year of parenthood is the hardest year of any marriage. In that foggy haze of those first few months, you will take out your tiredness and your frustration on your spouse. Communication is key here, and not losing your cool. Sit down every evening and talk. Talk about your day, talk about how you’re feeling, and if you need help, ask for it.
4. Accept help
If you’re like me, you’ll want to do it all, just to prove that you can. If you take one piece of advice from this post, please take this – accept help when it’s offered. Babysitting, dinner, even if someone offers to just make you a cup of tea, take the help. Life is tough with a newborn, and it’s just as tough when your little one is on the move. Give yourself a break when you can, and let others help you.
5. Sleep over everything else
We all know how ridiculous the “sleep when the baby sleeps” saying is. There aren’t enough hours in the day when you have piles of baby clothes to wash, bottles to sterilise and a million other things to do. However, I do think sleep should be a priority. When baby goes to bed, go easy on the Netflix binge, and go to bed early. If baby is napping and you’re exhausted, have a snooze on the couch. I’ve even had a 20 minute nap in the driveway when my little boy nodded off on the drive home from town – every little helps when you’re exhausted!
6. It's OK to not be OK
Becoming a parent for the first time is a roller coaster – it’s amazing and it’s a complete life changing experience. You go from just having yourself to worry about, to having a tiny, gorgeous human who is completely dependent on you. Add sleepless nights to this mix, and recovery from childbirth itself, it’s a lot to handle - and it’s all new. Don’t feel like you need to have it together all the time, and don’t feel like you need to put on a brave face. It’s OK to have bad days, it’s OK to not be OK. On those days, take a break, go for a walk, hand baby off to your partner and take a bath. If you think that it’s more than just a “bad day”, speak to your doctor.
7. Lower your expectations
When I was pregnant, I had a picture in my mind of what motherhood was going to be like. Play dates, long walks with my baby, cuddling up together reading books and so on. Let me tell you, that is not what motherhood is like. It’s a lot of repetition – feed, change nappy, nap time, wash bottles, load laundry, repeat. I talk about poop way more often than I ever imagined I would. It takes twice the time to do anything with a baby in tow. Going out anywhere takes an hour of preparation and military planning. The cuddles become less frequent once your baby starts crawling, and then you spent 90% of your time trying to stop them from opening the oven. Don’t get me wrong, motherhood has exceeded all of my expectations, but the picture-perfect ideal I had in my head is non-existent.
8. Have fun
Most of all, have fun with your little one. They are only small for such a short period, and everything in the world is new to them. Shower your baby with love, teach them every day, and laugh with them. There is no sound in the world better than the sound of your child laughing. We love to blast music and dance around the kitchen, get messy when my son is trying new foods, splash around in the bath or just point out interesting things to him when we’re out and about. Soak it up and make the most of your baby’s first year.
I can’t wait to see what this next year brings us!