I have about a million pregnant friends right now. Here’s the new parent advice post no one has asked me to write. Because if there is anyone who gets unsolicited advice, it is new moms.
The first few months might totally suck, or they might not.
Some babies come out cooing adorable blobs who sleep and smile and are generally great. These are called “easy” babies, and I hope you have one. But you might not. Some babies just are not happy with their lot in life. For the first few months my daughter had two states: crying and sleeping. She almost never slept. When people told me to “just enjoy” the newborn phase I wanted to punch them in the face.
I’m not saying this to scare you. Most babies are not as hard as mine was. But if yours is, it’s OK to not like it. It’s OK to wish your miserable grub would hurry up and start becoming a sentient being. The good news is they will grow out of it, and quickly. It’ll feel like an eternity while you’re living through it, but it’ll pass. Really. Once Bitmap got mobile she was like a totally different (happy) kid.
If the newborn stage sucks, just hang on. It’ll get better. And don’t be afraid to ask for help in the meantime.
You will feel like you are screwing it up. Maybe a lot.
In a world of mommy blogs and pinterest familes, it’s easy to feel like you’re fucking up. Whatever your parenting “style” is, you probably won’t be able to live up to it 100%. There will be times when your kid eats nothing but kraft cheese, or watches TV for 2 hours straight, or stays up till 10, or you’re just too goddamned tired to get out of bed to rock him to sleep for the 27th time. This doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you a human. It’s OK to be less than perfect. Shrug it off and try to do better next time.
Your instincts know better than Dr Sears
Parenting book are great for the “what the hell do I do when…” stuff, but don’t let them override your gut instincts. You know your kid better than any book does, and if something doesn’t seem like it’s right for your family, just don’t do it. Parenting books are written to help manage the average child, but no child is actually average.
You’ll run into this a lot when talking about anything sleep-related. Let them cry. Never let them cry. Co-sleep. Never co-sleep. Every kid is different, just try stuff until you find something that works.
Take care of yourself
A kid whose parents are insane from sleep deprivation or running around like crazy people isn’t gaining much. Not every naptime needs to be spent making organic baby food puree. No one who has actually done this before will judge you if you grab a jar of Gerber and pour yourself a glass of wine every now and then. Find a qualified babysitter and get out of the house on occasion. Yes, it’s expensive, but not as expensive as the years of therapy your kid will need if you start resenting them for ruining your life. Don’t wait until your kid is off to college to have your first postpartum date night.
Speaking of postpartum life, stand up for yourself if something feels off. Giving birth is a huge thing for your body to go through, and it’ll take a while to recover fully but you shouldn’t feel totally broken. Occasionally, weird stuff happens. If it’s been a few weeks and things aren’t getting back to normal, body-wise, talk to your doctor and insist they take it seriously.
Find yourself a village
Raising a kid is about 8,000 times easier if you have a local network of people you trust. If you have a group of friends with kids around the same age, you can trade babysitting services on credit and have a social life without breaking the bank. For some people, family is a godsend. If your family sucks, you might find your village at church. If your’e not religious, try a local parenting group.
If you’ve been thinking of going back to church/temple, now is a great time. Being pregnant or having a young child is a pretty good ice breaker. Also, if you go to a new church and no one talks to you, find a church that sucks less. It’s OK if it’s not the same denomination as what you grew up with, the basic principals are usually the same. Finding friendly people who share your general world view is more important than going somewhere you agree with the priest or rabbi on every bit of religious minutiae.
If you’re not strongly religious, but like the idea of a church community, try Unitarian Universalists (sometimes described as church for agnostics) and if you’re atheist try the Secular Humanists.
Cover all upholstered furniture
Seriously, babies are puke factories. That tiny burp cloth is adorable, but ultimately useless. Just cover the whole damned couch with a waterproof mattress pad and some cheap sheets from Target. You can reunite with your couch once your kid’s stomach valve has figured out how to close.
Congratulations, you now know everything I do about parenting. Good luck.