When it comes to being a first-time parent, the age-old adage ‘expect the unexpected’ probably sums it up best. While we’re all different and everyone eventually develops their own style of parenting, there’s one thing all parents have in common – when the baby first arrives, it’s all new for both of you.
Babies don’t come with instruction manuals.
But if you’re a first-time parent-to-be or newbie, it’s reassuring to know you’re not alone. Many sleep-deprived veterans of parenting, were once in your shoes and managed to successfully welcome a small version of themselves into the world.
So, to get you prepared for the inevitable, here are some tips to help you through the amazing journey of looking after a tiny human for the first time.
Sleep when they do
This won’t come as a wake-up call, but lack of sleep is something you’re going to have to get used to. Fear not – your yesteryears have probably prepared you quite well for this moment. The thing to remember is that sleep is important – not only for your child, but for you too.
Me time is a rarity for new parents, mainly because baby’s sleeping patterns are erratic. 4:00am could become your new time to rise and shine. That’s why it’s important to make the most of those precious hours of peace and quiet by doing something for yourself, that you enjoy. Putting yourself before the chores is highly recommended. When baby hits the hay, take your cue and recharge too.
Have faith in yourself
The Internet is full of parenting advice, from blogs to books to tutorials. A lot of it comes from self-proclaimed parenting experts who say they have the secret formula to successful parenting. The truth is, hardly anyone begins as a parenting expert, but you’ll figure out what works best for you and your family as you go. Trusting yourself is an important part of the process, because as your child learns and grows so do you. Don’t forget, you were a child yourself once, so the wants and needs of a baby can’t be too foreign.
A good rule of thumb is to not strive for perfection. There will be periods of frustration, so give yourself the time to adapt and adjust to a new lifestyle, especially in the early years. Remember that everyone goes through this phase in their own way and at their own speed.
Accept there will be ups and downs
The days of late nights and long sleep-ins are behind you now. What’s in front of you is an adorable but potentially very demanding little person. It’s your responsibility to take care of that little person and love them unconditionally. Try to not focus on what you have lost or what you miss about your old life, and think about what you’ve accomplished, changed and added to your life.
It’s okay to ask for help
Never forget that you’re not alone. A lot of people are going through exactly the same experience as you. Baby classes are a great place to meet people and make friends with shared experiences. Even your friends that don’t have kids will be able to give you a helping hand, whether that’s babysitting for an evening or even just hanging out to chat. And last but not least, probably the best port of call for help or advice are your own parents. Because they did a pretty good job of it, didn’t they?
Make time for yourself
Although your free time will become precious, it’s important that you make the most of it. Fitting in things like exercise and time to socialise with your friends will help you feel less isolated, as it’s easy to feel as though your child has taken over your entire life. At least for the first few months babies are highly portable – so try to get out and about.
Parenting is not a competition
It’s easier said than done but try not to compare yourself to other parents. This is a good rule for life in general, too. Comparing yourself to others can lead to undervaluing the good things you’ve got going on. Always keep in mind that not only does every parent care for their child in their own way, but children are also individuals. Some things work for one child and some things don’t.
It’s time to live in the moment. Because before you know it, you’ll be sending that small human off to school and, weirdly, you’ll probably miss the days of early wake-ups and nappy changes. So be present with your child through these early stages of life and enjoy watching them grow, because it doesn’t last forever. Teach them the skills they need to take on the big wide world, just like your parents did. And who knows, one day they might even thank you for it.