The first year after a baby’s birth is the best year for parents, but it can also be the most difficult year.
Babies evoke in us pure happiness, love and lots of gratification, but they also test us physically, mentally and emotionally.
To be honest, the first year of motherhood was the shortest and longest year of my life. Shortest because time really flew by, and before I knew it, my baby was one. It was also the longest because of everything that I went through.
Are you ready for your first year of parenthood? Here are some thoughts on how to get through the first year of parenthood and survive your baby’s first year of life.
1. Make sure you rest
From the minute I was pregnant to the day my daughter was born, this was the one piece of advice that I consistently received. My husband and I did not take this advice initially, but it soon caught up with us.
Babies are exhausting. They are tiny human beings that require your attention 24/7, so the first few weeks will be especially hard as you’re adjusting to parenthood. The best thing that you can do is rest whenever you can because it will allow you to recuperate physically and emotionally.
2. Ask for help from others
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it is so true. As rookie parents, we wanted to do things our way, and we took pride in parenting without external help but we soon realized that our family and friends will not judge us at all when we ask for help. No one needs to tackle parenthood alone. Once we let ourselves accept the help we needed, we were much happier.
For example, our mother-in-law came over once in a while to help with babysitting and that gave us the time that we needed to rest, or just tackle other things. Accepting help does not make you a bad parent, in fact, it will make you a better parent when you are happier.
3. Do not compare
Do not compare yourself against others or your baby against other babies. Every family is different, so don’t compare yourself against other parents. They may seem to have it together, but life may be chaotic on the inside.
Similarly, every baby grows differently. For example, my eldest did not start walking until 1.5 years, but my youngest was so mobile at 11 months. My eldest required a little more time with sleep training, but my youngest just slept like a champion throughout the night. If you have any concerns with your baby, just talk to your pediatrician. Instead of worrying about the tiny things, how about just take the time to appreciate your baby, live and learn with them!
4. Embrace your new self
You will change both physically and emotionally as a mother. Physically, as a mother who just gave birth, your body will need time to recover. Your old clothes might not fit you anymore, or just accept that it might take longer than just a few months to lose the baby weight.
On the other hand, when you become a new mother, you experience different emotions. There will be ups and downs, happiness when you see your baby’s first smile, but fear when your baby is in danger, or just frustration when you baby won’t stop crying. All these experiences change you.
5. Accept that your life is different now
Since you have a baby now, your priorities will change. For example, how you spend your free time and money changes. Also, your friendship with others will change. You will slowly stop spending time with your single friends, and your social circle will consist of other parents who are going through the same phase in life. That’s because it’s just difficult for you make plans with friends who don’t have a baby or kid.
6. Make time for your partner
With a baby, there is no doubt that your relationship with your partner or spouse will change. It can either break or cement your relationship as a family. A baby can take up all of your time, and you will have literally no energy left in you for your partner.
A whole year of not investing in your marriage can be devastating, so make sure to set aside some time for each other, even if it means setting aside time intentionally to go on a date night, or just to talk. Constantly checking-in on each other is crucial too to avoid a blowout when both sides end up waiting for the right time to talk about things. The truth is, there is never a perfect time to talk.
7. Respect your partner’s parenting style
My husband and I have different parenting styles. For example, I am more serious with everything, but my husband adopts a more relaxing approach. I let him take the lead when it comes to playing with the kids because I know they will have more fun playing with daddy.
Alternatively, when it comes to more serious matters, my husband lets me take charge. We support and complement each other with our unique parenting styles.
8. Parenting is more than a full-time job
A full-time job only requires your attention from 9am to 5pm every day, but your baby requires you to be a parent 24/7.
For example, feeding your baby for the first few weeks is an around-the-clock affair, especially if you’re nursing and pumping at the same time. You get no rest. Thankfully, it only gets better.
Or that being a parent involves making a million decisions about everything that is related to your baby. Should I use cloth or disposable diapers? Should I sleep train my baby now or later? Sometimes making decisions that involves your baby can be scary because the slightest mistake can have serious repercussions.
So, be kind to yourself and forgive yourself if you make mistakes. The sense of guilt is real, but just know that most decisions ca be undone or pivoted from, and it is completely OK.
9. Lower your standards for some things
For example, it is OK to have a messy house. We can’t do an excellent job with everything, so if we need to pick, choose to spend your time and energy to be a great parent.
10. Have a sense of humor about everything
Parenting can be so frustrating if you take everything seriously! For example, my baby picks up fallen snack from the floor and proceeds to stuff it into her mouth when I’m not looking. I’d like to think that I’m training my baby’s gut and tolerance level even though I know it’s not really true, but so far my baby’s been OK.
Or when the time that I had to use the bathroom and my baby barges in, it leaves me with zero privacy. Instead of feeling angry or frustrated, I choose to laugh about it and make funny faces with my baby to let her know that the bathroom is stinky.
Your first year of parenthood will look different from others. Just know that it’s hard but it will also be beautiful. Whatever you’re going through, you are not alone.
For me, the key to get through the first year of parenthood mentally and physically is to remember that everything is just a phase. Just when you are feeling that you’re out of options and ideas, the struggle will be over.
How did you survive your first year of parenting? Share your tips by commenting below!
Are you a working mom? Check out my other post on how to juggle work and family here.