Congratulations! Welcome to the wonderful world of parenthood! Now, sit back and relax while I inform you of just what you got yourself into…
Am I being too honest for you? Well, if you are to survive what lies before you, you must be prepared with the tools and skills gleaned from the experiences of those who came before you (i.e. me… and maybe a few others!)
So instead of sugar-coating the truth with exaggerated imagery of angels singing the praises of your newborn, I figured I’d just ‘hit you upside the head’ with a huge dose of reality…
Parenting is not easy! Especially if you’re a first-timer!
Okay, this introduction was a bit ‘tongue-in-cheek’. But most slapstick is based on reality, right? The truth is this: if you recognize the struggles that come with the territory and have the right perspective going into parenthood, the less surprised, better prepared and more fulfilled you will be.
As a parent of two beautiful children myself, I am here to tell that every single struggle you go through is all worth it! Every time you have to pull yourself out of your precious sleep to tend to your crying baby, every time you have to clean your baby’s vomit or poo, every time you have to battle your baby’s propensity for rejecting solid foods… it’s all worth it.
Because your baby is a part of you!
If your first baby has not been born yet, then it is impossible for you to comprehend the following sentence…
Looking at your very own baby, touching your baby, holding your baby will open up feelings of love and compassion inside of you that you never knew existed!
Before having my first baby, I remember how I looked upon other children, such as my nieces and nephews. Of course, I would have feelings of love for them and think "Awe, they’re so cute!" But when it comes to your very own child, your own flesh-and-blood, those feelings are multiplied by infinity!
It is this indescribable love that trumps all! All the sleepless nights, all the crying, all the banging-your-head-against-the-wall frustrations… they all mean nothing when you realize the precious miracle that is your very own baby!
So my first-and-foremost advice for new parents is to harness the feelings of love for your baby within your heart. Try to absorb and live in the very first moments that you gaze into your baby’s eyes and never forget what that feels like. Recognize and appreciate the feelings throughout your entire body. Forget about the impending responsibilities and focus and your baby and your spouse. Building the bond of love between all of you in those first few moments, and those first few days, will serve as the foundation upon which you will stand that will eventually allow you to conquer the inherent struggles of parenthood.
Needless to say, this brief article cannot cover all, or even most, of the trials (and sometimes tribulations) you and your spouse will have to deal with in raising your new baby. It’s not a new baby checklist or a comprehensive parenting guide. There are countless resources, both online and off, that can address parenting issues more adequately than I can. But what I hope to convey are some basic principles that, if understood and applied, will make your life so much easier and will help you to triumph over any obstacles you may face regardless of its specific nature.
So here are just a few parenting tips for new moms and new dads:
If you are at all blessed with the nearby presence of family members, take advantage of them! Don’t be shy to ask for their help. Even if a cousin, uncle or aunt, ask them to come over for a few hours to entertain the baby while you get some rest. Surely if it is the baby’s grandmother or grandfather they would be honored to do so.
Remember what the airline stewardess says to those passengers with children: "In case of emergency, put the oxygen mask on yourself before your child." In other words, take care of yourself first! Sure many things you used to enjoy like free time and loads of energy will have to be sacrificed. Quiet romantic dinners and/or movie nights with your spouse, weekend get-a-ways, a relatively carefree schedule will also be sacrificed. But don’t sacrifice the bare essentials! Eat regular nutritious meals, hydrate yourself with liquids (preferably water), and sleep when your baby sleeps, if possible.
What many couples don’t realize until it’s too late is the potential negative effect a new member of the family can have on one’s marriage. As difficult as it may be, don’t forget about your marital bond. Don’t forget about your spouse! Just as you would make time for food and rest, make time to reconnect with your spouse. Engage them in a conversation to see how they’re dealing with the stress, be sure that their needs are being fulfilled, and make an extra effort to counter any feelings of jealousy that may arise with so much attention being given to the new born.
Obviously you’re already doing this by reading this article in the first place. But don’t stop here. Read books on parenting, magazines, articles and websites that provide help with parenting. Parenting blogs, forums and online groups will allow you to connect with other first time parents or veteran parents who can lend advice, support and other resources you can look in to. The more you do this, the more you will learn and also understand that you’re not alone in your struggles. Perhaps you can start with a small handbook entitled "The Essential Parent Handbook: Advice and Help For the First Time Parent" which can be found at http://www.TheEssentialParentHandbook.com/baby
Are you aware that there any many different tried-and-tested parenting styles out there? My wife and I have chosen Dr. Sears’ method over Dr. Ferber’s method. However, each method has its pros and cons and there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ solution, since everyone’s situation is different. The important point I want to convey here is that you have to do the research yourself and determine what style best suits your preferences and lifestyle. And perhaps more importantly, neither try to impose your way on others who may have chosen a different method nor look down on them for doing so. Recognize that there are pluses and minuses to all approaches and that your choice suits your specific circumstance and preference, not others.
Things may get really difficult at times and you will feel unappreciated and unrecognized for your service. Just remember that you are simply doing for your baby what your parent(s) did for you. You are, as they say, ‘paying it forward’. When you accept this reality, you will become more grateful and realize the responsibility you have towards your child. And this will allow you to press on no matter what.
Of course every situation is different and unpredictable. Postpartum depression is always a possibility, especially for new mothers who are exhausted and, in some cases, hormonal and/or depleted in essential vitamins. In this case, don’t be embarrassed or afraid to seek help. First talk with trusted friends and maybe even close family members. If all else fails, express your feelings to a professional counselor. The worst thing you can do is not talk about it at all. Ignoring the feelings of depression will not make the feelings go away. If you fear that counseling is too expensive, many organizations and professionals will provide free services in cases of financial hardship. You can research online or have your spouse or a friend do it for you.
So never forget that good parenting is all about perspective. With these small bits of new parenting advice it is my hope that you are beginning to construct a rock solid foundation for a healthy and happy family life. One that is built on an appreciation for the miracle of life itself!