Elisabeth is almost 7 1/2 months. She’s eating apples like crazy, or rather with as much gusto as her papa, and she sits straight back and proud just like a yoga master. It’s gone scarily fast. As we enter this seventh month, I thought that now would be a good time to gather some personal learnings that I’ve gleaned over this new journey:
- Do it NOW. In your old life, you had flexibility! You could shower now…or later…or even twice if you wanted. Now with a seven month old, I know better. If you think of it and it’s realistic to tackle at the moment, do it. Whatever it is. Text, call, make a list, respond to an email, whatever it is. I didn’t want to learn this lesson. I fought it like a tiger (mom). I’m a terrific multi-tasker; somethings can be done later, I rationalized. Not with a new baby they can’t…and maybe they can but you sure can’t count on it. Now, I shower when I have the opportunity because it may not come again. Which leads me to…
- Shower everyday. My dear friend Jackie told me this early on and oh boy, was she right! Showering refreshes and awakens. Something about the intoxicating mix of heat and pounding water just forces you to feel better. A hot shower helps mend the wounds of missed sleep and heals your lungs as you take deep breathes of steam. A shower in the morning is how I have always greeted the day, even before I had my daughter and even I still do today thanks to Jackie’s sage advice.
- Take time away weekly. Time away from baby -perhaps your main job at the moment- to do something fun may require you negotiating that time with your partner. Perhaps they aren’t as confident w/baby or you feel bad asking but whatever the reason, time away is essential. Just do it! Do them a favor by giving them one-on-one time with baby without you peering over their shoulder. Doing so will save your sanity, restore your faith in yourself, your partner and the world and give you a whole new appreciation for your baby.
- Find a community. As a new parent, you need it. You need to hear what other parents are doing, what their struggles are and what their baby is up to. You’ll get good ideas that will save you heartache, stress and time. Sisters, friends, moms, childbirth class friends….anyone can be a community. My communities are where I “got” baby-led weaning and co-sleeping…two biggies! And both of my sisters have cooled my frantic heart on more than one occasion. If you can’t find a community, join virtual ones on Twitter or build your own, as I did with Saturday Birth Circles.
- Accept that very little will get done initially. Laundry is overflowing. Dishes are soaking in the same water as they were last night at this time. Your desperate wish for homemade chocolate cookies hasn’t materialized any. Let it go. It won’t always be this way. The lack of task accomplishment will go away soon enough. Your baby will start to sit independently and your world will change. Her teething pains will ebb and then flow again but you’ll recognize the signs sooner, grab your frozen celery faster and re-start folding clothes, just like nothing ever happened! But for right now, focus on her, not dust bunnies or grubby bathroom, just your baby.
- Let go of what others think. My husband told me recently that the change that he has noticed most in me was that I care less about what people think of me than I did before. And, I didn’t care much back then either! Some people are going to like and approve of my choices, some aren’t. DO what YOU think is right for your family and exercise your valid voice. Or, get used to second-guessing your parenting decisions by making choices based on popular opinion. The latter though is a recipe for craziness and fatigue. Tip: your true community (see above) will always let you be you.
- Remember who you are. This is a little nuanced. What I mean is don’t let your new identity as a mother usurp all of the other, equally authentic, pieces that have been you. I’ve had acrylic nails for 10+ years. When I had my daughter, I thought I should abandon that practice. It took time, money and all of those chemicals were bad. All true. But I learned that even one day without those nails had me climbing walls. I started playing with them, picking them over, biting them…all the bad habits that I traded in for nails that I didn’t think about after they were done. Not good. The acrylic nails are back and just as before, I don’t think twice about them.
I’ve learned that parenting means being willing to look foolish on what can be a regular basis, especially in the early days. Chalk it all up to learning how to be a new person with a new person, every day, all the time. That’s hard. It’s on the job training you don’t get paid for which never ends. Yes, WOW. You’re constantly the new worker bee. But, I’ve found that, for me, it’s better when I approach it with my learning hat on instead of my self-judgment one. If I try something & it backfires, I’ll try something else and hopefully learn along the way.
What tips would you add to this list?