Lately, I've found myself waging an internal battle over the construct of time. How fleeting, but necessary it is. How little it truly impacted me until I was a mom. The fact that I always assume I will have more of it. But more than anything, I am taken back by how hard I am struggling to accept that I have an almost one year old.
Where did the year go? All the moments I've captured through photos, the memories we've already made as a family...none of it seems that long ago. Yet here we are, with an almost 11 month old. I think it's safe to say that we are both equally offended at time's cruel joke, and also pretty delighted that we've managed to keep her alive and thriving for almost a full year. (if I'm being honest.)
It got me thinking about what parenting strategies and brooding life lessons I'll walk away from at the end of her first year. It's sort of a mixed bag, but let's give it a go.
- Don't ever assume your kid won't be (insert emotion, action, adjective, noun here) when you go out: They like playing the game of 'whatever it is you think, I'm going to do the opposite of.' over-prepared is better than not prepared at all, always.
- Your relationship will be tested. Over and Over again, for the foreseeable future: Yes, I'm talking to you, glowy-mermaid pregnant lady with the gaga eyes over her partner and the 12-year-old hormones to match. I was you. You may scoff begrudgingly at me while you think to yourself 'no, that won't be us, babe...' but let me assure you, it will be. You'll get defensive hearing it now, but I'm glad the people that know and love me gave me the heads up. It semi-prepared both my husband and I for the reality of becoming parents. When you haven't slept in 5 days, don't know when the last time you ate or washed your hair was, and you seriously want to roundhouse your partner in the jugular every time they breathe funny. It's a thing. The best advice I have for this is to stay caffeinated, tag each other in/out, and shift exchange. Chore list your routine like you both have a serious case of sibling rivalry. Except for a cool participation trophy, you're both fighting for more sleep and less poop.
- Remember to eat: I'm a completely different human when I'm hangry. Think of those Snicker commercials; I should have been their spokesperson. I am much more level headed and less likely to tear out your throat out with my bare hands after I've had a cheeseburger. So, pick up a bite or two in-between feedings, will ya?
- Remember to date your partner: This is the hardest thing. It's not like you get out a ton after becoming a parent. But even if it's watching a movie together on the couch once a month after the kid has gone to bed, do it. Make sure you are committing to each other and honoring the quality time. An hour or two of solitude can do wonders for your morale.
- Self care is key: Something I still have to remind myself of daily. There aren't enough hours in a day, and by the time you even think about it, it's 10 PM and you're half asleep. Take time each day (even if it's 5 minutes) to do something you love, or even go sit in the bathroom (if were talking desperation) to regain some sanity. You are literally NO good to anyone when you are running on empty. It's a constant battle, but worth while when you actually invest in your emotional/physical/spiritual health.
- Don't buy into the fairy tale: No, motherhood does not come naturally to every woman. Don't lead any expectant mother into believing this nonsense, either. I didn't cry when my daughter was born. Was I absolutely beside myself with joy? Of course. Was I freaked out? Absolutely. I struggled with the idea that I was solely responsible for not only having to keep this tiny human alive, but I was also expected to shape and mold it into a much bigger, sort of decent, non-criminal human. I don't know about you, but that's a shit ton of pressure. It's okay if you don't immediately bond. It's okay if you have to get to know this little stranger before falling head over heels. It's OKAY if you don't feel like yourself. All of it, whatever "it" may be, is OKAY. You're not alone, and you're not a terrible mom.
- If you were squeamish before, jokes on you: I have now had skin to skin contact with butts, privates, poop, throw up, spit up, have openly and casually picked my daughters nose, plucked spaghetti leftovers out of weird places, clipped her nails with my mouth (baby nails are no joke and cutting them with tools freaks me out big time) have to fend off her constant need to have her full fist inside of my nose, mouth, and shirt (after digging into her own lady parts) you name it, it's probably happened. You know that movie Baby Mama where the mom is all "is that chocolate or poop?" that's basically the worldwide tagline for Motherhood.
- People will always try to out-parent you: Whether it's some form of unsolicited advice, the "1-up" game (your daughter walked at 9 months? How unfortunate for you, so-and-so walked at 3 weeks!) passive aggressive comments about how you're raising the humans you spent 9 months creating, or snippets of what is probably well-intended parenting tips....just be prepared to train yourself to take the good with the bad; and grow a thick skin. Some of what I've been given I've been able to implement, and the rest I just laugh off until I'm somewhere quiet and can shit-talk about it with my husband. Such is life!
- Find your tribe: I actually made another post about this here. It's vital. I've lost a lot of friends after having a baby, but I've made a lot, too. Certain people are meant for certain seasons; and once their purpose in your life has been fulfilled, you have to be okay with parting ways. Now that I'm 31; my tribe is pretty set in stone. The group I hold near and dear to my heart rally for me unconditionally; especially on my worst days. That's solidarity. Love your tribe hard, and recognize their efforts. Always reciprocate; and never turn down help. I survived my first weeks as a mom living off meals given to me by those same people. As you get older, I notice you try harder not to burn solid bridges.
There's more, but when I sat down to write; these are what came to mind first. I think we all have different perspectives when it comes to what helps us get through the parenting game. It's definitely been eye-opening to witness this thing you made take on a personality of it's own; individually interpreting everything you've taught them. It's also amazing, and beautiful, and frustrating, and sad. I would be lying if I didn't say I was a little sad. Sad that I'm already buying 18 month clothes. Sad that I didn't get to experience breastfeeding like I thought I would. Sad because I feel a little guilty about the 'shoulda, woulda, coulda's' of my early parenting choices. Mainly sad because after this year, I will have a walking, back talking, NO shouting, gremlin of a toddler on my hands.
Everyone wish me luck. BRB, I'm going to gird my loins.