It seems like just yesterday I was counting down the days to my due date, dreaming of what the tiny human inside of me would look like. Now I watch my son destroy the room in front of me, toys everywhere, laughing. My heart is full. I can hardly believe that we are so near to his first birthday.
It’s been one year since my whole world fell into place and I’ve had this little man attached to my hip. It has been a year full of ups and downs, mistakes and surprises. I have learned so much that I never would have been able to fathom.
- Motherhood is really hard
9 month pregnant me would have rolled my eyes and said “duh” to this one, but motherhood (probably fatherhood too) is so much harder than anyone could ever possibly explain. It is physically and emotionally exhausting. It highlights all the deficits in your knowledge and your abilities. It takes stamina and willpower to keep on keeping on as a parent.
- Everyone has an opinion and most of them are horse shit
Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh, but it is gets exhausting to hear everyone from your sister to the checkout lady tell you how they think you should parent. From “He needs a hat” to “You didn’t circumcise him, did you?!” (yes, that’s a real one) it gets old and overwhelming. The truth of the matter is, the only opinions you need to consider are those of the other parent, the doctor, and someone telling you your child is in immediate danger (i.e. Sarah is playing with matches, Timmy isn’t fastened in his car seat properly).
- Prioritizing is easier than it looks
Once your whole world changes, it is really easy to figure out what’s most important. That doesn’t mean you aren’t pulled in a hundred different directions, or that you don’t feel overwhelmed. It means that when push comes to shove, you can decide pretty quickly what is more important to accomplish.
- Everyone needs a break
When I unexpectedly became a stay-at-home parent, I thought life would be easier than I anticipated. No need to pump milk multiple times a day, no runs to daycare, no chores after putting my little guy to bed. What a joke. Stay at home parenthood is a kind of relentlessness that I never could have been able to fathom. You are with your child all day, every day. Even if your child gets on board with napping and you can sneak your household chores in, you are so mentally exhausted at the end of the day, you need a break as much as any working parent.
- No one knows my baby better than I do
This is, hands down, the most important lesson I’ve learned. It goes along with learning that everyone and their grandma has an opinion. Parenting styles and guidelines for safety and child development change like the tides, but very few things are actually wrong as a parent. People will nag you (and sometimes attack you) for parenting differently than they would and you just have to try to shrug it off.
Letting your baby cry doesn’t feel right? Then don’t! Don’t think your 6 month old is ready for solids? Wait a little longer. Don’t want to give monthly update pictures? No sweat. No one knows my baby better than I do, so I will do my research then go with my gut.
- Kids get the best and worst parts of their parents
My husband’s dimple, my smile, and my husband’s sense of fun are all found in my tiny little human. He also has our stubbornness, my anxiety, and my inflexibility. It’s difficult to confront the worst parts of yourself when they’re plain as can be in your child. I guess the good news is I know what to work on.
- My marriage is still my most important relationship
I think sometimes parents get the misunderstanding that because their children need them most, they have to make that relationship their biggest priority. I cannot be a good parent if I do not have a good marriage. I would be setting an inappropriate example of what love and partnership are for my son. I would also be a more impatient, angry mother. It’s so hard to find time to nurture your marriage when you’re ruled by a tiny dictator, but it is so necessary. I am a much better mother when I take the time to be a good wife first.
No one is a perfect parent and I still have a lot to learn, but I know one thing is for sure. I trust myself more as a parent now than I did a year ago and so far, my son is a pretty cool human.