Here's The Deal: Year One.
1. It doesn’t go too fast. Want to know why it feels fast? Because you are sleep deprived and time is as elusive as a full nights rest. Or, if you are one of the lucky few who is sleeping through the night after only a few weeks, your amnesia has kicked in. It's true that the first year feels like a blink, but the days within it can sometimes feel like a lifetime.
2. Sleep Train. Or don’t. Whatever. Sleep training works for SOME babies and SOME parents, and in order for it to be successful, it has to work for BOTH parties. You may think sleep training is the bee's knees, but as it turns out, your baby doesn’t really need it. Your tiny human sleeps anywhere and everywhere and the less pressure you put on it, the better your baby responds. Or, you may be like my family: we were determined NOT to sleep train because we thought flexibility would be nice, but our daughter couldn’t (wouldn’t?) sleep without more structure, so we fell into sleep training and it worked well. There are so many variables and so many techniques, that my best advice is this: Remember that it gets better when you are struggling, and brag carefully when you find yourself lucky with sleep. There is no ONE right answer for everyone. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
3. Breastfeed. Or don’t. Whatever. Same rule applies as above: It has to work for both parties. Some people love breastfeeding and do it for years, other people are interested in formula from the beginning for any number of reasons (can we talk about how expensive donor milk is?). Let’s stop shaming whichever side of the fence we fall on, and just freaking talk about how tired we all are, ok? Stop mommy shaming about this. I’m over it. We all are.
4. All babies are different. Don’t compare too much. Sure, it’s reassuring to look at other babies and think “Oh yeah… that’s about the same as where my baby is/was at that stage.” It becomes a problem when you start wondering if your parenting is below average because all of these other babies are calmer/more alert/better sleepers/earlier walkers/etc. Our children are their own people and we can only take so much credit or blame for their behavior, no matter how young or old they are. As much as I love my daughter’s sense of humor, I am no more responsible for that than I am for the fact that when she is overwhelmed with emotion and overtiredness, she bites. I have never bitten her or my husband, so this was something instinctual in her development. She is 13 months old. Her humor and biting phase will evolve and improve. It’s important to trust that.
5. There is always someone who has had it harder or easier than you at any particular time. It doesn’t take away from the reality of the difficult time you experienced or are experiencing, nor does it mean you don’t get to process that however you choose. Mostly, it means that it's important to remember that it gets better when you are on the harder side of things, and to be gentle with advice when you are on the easier side of things. Remember, you aren’t the first person to walk this path, nor will you be you the last.
6. Take advice with a grain of salt. Or more. Whatever. It’s ok to smile, nod, and say “Maybe I’ll try that!” when you know you’ve already tried it and it doesn’t work for you. It’s also ok to say “Maybe I’ll try that!” when you are so happy that someone has finally suggested something new that you can’t wait to have the opportunity to try it out. Take advice or leave it. The mothers in your life don’t know everything about raising every kind of child, and anyone who claims to know exactly what to do all the time is someone I’d probably avoid interacting with because that’s just unpleasant and frankly, untrue. Having once been a baby doesn’t make you an expert on raising them. Having read thousands of books and papers on parenting and children might give you more tools in your tool belt, but it doesn’t mean you have all the answers and know exactly what to do with everyone. Some things work for some people, others work for others.
7. Stop the mommy wars. Working moms. Stay at home moms. Work from home moms. Holy hell, ya’ll. We are all doing our best. I have experienced a little of all of these: Working in the office, working from home, and ultimately becoming a stay at home mom who is now back in school. Want to know what I think? You have to do what you have to do for your family and your sanity. Find what works for you and your family, and then do it. If you are lucky enough to have the luxury to make this decision instead of economics or other issues making it for you, I say, high five, sister. You. Do. You.
8. Enough with the mommy shaming. Seriously. Just freaking stop. When you start mommy shaming, just imagine that a big, bright, spotlight is now shining down on you and while you are assuming that the spotlight is on whoever you are shaming, you are wrong. It’s right there on you, illuminating every blemish on that tired face of yours. So just stop.
9. About the diapers….. Same rule applies here: Disposable. Cloth. Whatever! None of it is the best thing about parenting. I don’t care how cute your diapers are (and we use Honest. Our diapers are CUTE), changing a poopy diaper sucks for everyone. And if it doesn’t suck for your baby yet, it will. I promise. And thank goodness. How else would potty training happen? You want to use disposables? High five! You want to use cloth? High five! I don’t care either way. I just don’t want to change any more diapers than I possibly have to. And really, unless you are doing the majority of the baby-in-question's diaper changes, you can take a big ‘ol glass of shutthefuckup and let the parents do their thing.
10. Trust your doctor. And if you don’t trust your doctor, find a new one. But for the love of all things Holy, please don’t Google and rely on obscure sources for your information. Being an advocate for yourself and your tiny human can coexist with Western medicine, which can coexist with Eastern medicine as well. I know we are all really good at whatever we do in life, and we all like to think that we are so incredibly super smart, but really, If you are a psychologist or a dentist or a cardiac surgeon…you are NOT a pediatrician or an OB/GYN. Trust. Your. Doctor. ***Also, if someone is pestering you with really annoying advice, you can always say "My pediatrician says..." because that's pretty much the best conversation ender ever.
TLDR? You do you. I'll do me. I'll support you doing you while you support me doing me. We are the tribe. We are the village. Let's do this together!
Photo Credit: Caroline Colvin Photography