When my daughter woke up on Sept. 18, she was 1 year old. She didn’t know how the past year had changed her parents’ lives for the better or how seeing her grow was both exciting and sad at the exact same time. Her day was not different from her previous 364 days, but for us, it was filled with emotions as we soaked up our baby who, overnight, turned into a little girl.
As a new mom, I have learned a great deal this past year; here are some of the highlights.
The nights are long but the year is short.
My daughter had me up to eat every hour and 45 minutes for the first four months and it was brutal. I’m now getting 6-8 hours of sleep a night and as wonderful it is, I have since looked back and realized that some of my favorite memories were simply holding her in the quiet hours of the night, just the two of us, holding her close without a care in the world.
Do not sweat the small stuff.
Children are independent creatures who will do things in their own time. My daughter rocked on all fours for two-plus months until she finally took the leap of faith to crawl at 10 months, and now she’s everywhere and into everything. It’s easy to compare our babies to others but please don’t. Milestones will be hit when he or she is ready, and you will find every little thing, such as even holding a sippy cup, absolutely amazing.
You do not need every single thing that advertising says you do.
A flat place to sleep, yes. Clothing, yes. Breast or bottle, yes. Diapers, yes. A car seat, yes. All the gadgets and toys in the kids’ section of the store, not really. Your baby needs to be fed and loved. My daughter did not care for rattles or tiny toys until she was about 3 months old, although she absolutely loved a piano kick mat we found secondhand. Too many toys can be overwhelming and overstimulating, not to mention take forever to clean up.
Secondhand shops and Buy Nothing groups will give you (almost) everything you need for your little one.
With the exception of a toy storage unit we found on sale, our daughter’s entire room was furnished for under $250. It is a happy place where we can watch her play and make it her own, and we can be satisfied in knowing we didn’t break the bank for it. While her car seat and stroller were new, we saw no issue buying a secondhand crib as long it met the current criteria for safety and a changing table that needed a few white paint touch-ups.
It is okay to miss life before baby.
Gone are the days of simply getting in my car to go shopping or meeting a friend for coffee whenever works for us. I now plan outings around naptimes and hope that the coffee shop has a nice set up so she does not get bored sitting on my lap the whole time. Life before motherhood was simpler, and I do miss it sometimes, even though I wouldn’t trade this life with her for the world.
Lastly, you were yourself before you ever became a parent.
We have all heard the term self-care, but do we really do it as parents? I don’t know about you, but I do not consider going to the grocery store while my daughter stays with my husband as self-care. I’m talking about a hair appointment, time out with friends, shopping – something that you enjoy and can put a spark back into your day. When we are fulfilled as women and individuals, we can be better spouses and parents.
Parenthood is a never-ending journey of highs and lows, good and bad moments, and joy even in the most exhausting times. It is, by far, life’s most bumpy ride that is so worth taking.