Selah will be turning 11 months this week, and as her first birthday is quickly approaching, I can’t help but be nostalgic over this past year. I’ll be sitting in Selah’s nursery watching her play and I can’t believe how much she has grown. “This can’t be the child I brought home from the hospital,” I say to myself.
My husband and I decided that on top of the birthday party we’ll be throwing for Selah, we are also going to have a “We Survived Our First Year of Parenting” party. I remember some of the 3am feedings and thinking that there was no way I could survive another sleepless night, but I did. And here I am almost a year later.
So, while my nostalgia is overwhelming me at the moment, I thought I’d jot down some of the few survival tips I’ve learned along the way….
1. Your partner is not the enemy.
For those of you who have kids, I am sure you can understand that there are good days, and then there are bad days. Whenever a bad day comes along, it’s important to keep in mind that your partner is just that, your partner. They are there to help you; to assist you in this crazy thing we do called parenting. I will admit, I am quick to lose sight of that. If Selah is fussy, if she is refusing to nap, if she just isn’t content unless someone is holding her, I lose it and typically it’s on Jonathan. I forget that we are in this together, and that there is such a thing as asking for help.
Before having Selah, everyone told me to sleep whenever I had the chance. Did I listen? Of course not! Whenever my bundle of joy would sleep, all I could focus on around me was the never-ending pile of dishes and laundry. I thought to be the perfect parent and spouse, I had to appear busy and have it all together. I viewed my zombie-like state as a badge of honor to broadcast to the world that I’m doing it all! I soon realized that I don’t have to have it all together 100% of the time, and decided that for my own sanity–and the safety of my husband and child– naps should be welcomed with open arms!
3. Put your mental and emotional health above your physical health.
All my health nuts out there are probably up in arms about this, but hear me out. I’m not saying that you should forgo your physical health, because you do need to be able to pick up and play with your child. What I’m suggesting is that, during this season of sheer chaos, you work on your inner self above obsessing over your outer appearance. Once I popped out my chuncker-of-a-newborn, I thought I had to be back to my pre-pregnancy weight ASAP. The moment my midwife cleared me, I had my running shoes on, and was hitting the pavement. Whatever energy I had in those beginning days was spent working out. I didn’t care that I was only getting a few hours of sleep at night, or that I hadn’t truly spoken to my spouse in days; I was getting back into shape. It didn’t last long, though. Instead of obsessing over losing weight, I began spending my spare time reading, talking to friends and family, and going on nature walks. I found that if I was mentally and emotionally happy, I was a better spouse and a better parent. Then, once life became a bit more manageable and not so chaotic, that’s when I put my running shoes back on.
4. Plan Ahead!
I learned early on that the amount of time it took Jonathan and I to get out the door had doubled, if not tripled. What would keep me sane on the mornings we had somewhere to be, and assist in getting everyone out the door in a timely manner, was planning ahead. For example, on Sundays we attend a church service, and a community breakfast. When Jonathan and I have Selah’s diaper bag packed the night before, her outfit laid out for the morning, and her breakfast already made, those Sunday mornings run so much more smoothly.
5. Give grace at 3am.
No one thinks rationally when woken in the middle of the night by a screaming baby, especially if it’s the second, third, or even fourth time. There is no such thing as a filter. All that exists is your most carnal self. Jonathan and I have been the most impatient with each other during this time, and have said some of the worst things to each other. Know that whatever comes out of your partner’s mouth, typically, is just from sleep deprivation. So learn to give grace, because more than likely you will be needing it to.
Parenthood is one of the most rewarding, challenging, amazing, crazy, loving, and exhausting experiences in life. And from what I’ve heard, it never ends. I’ve only been Selah’s mom for about a year, so I know there is so much more yet to learn. What I’d like to leave you with is this: the perfect parent does not exist. Allow room for mistakes, and learn to not just give grace to your partner but also to yourself. Find what parenting style works best for you, and then stand firm.