6 Realizations from Year 1 of Parenting
Year One of Otto Riley is in the books. I know every parent says this, but I can’t believe how quickly time flies. He is growing so fast, and I am amazed at the end of every single day when I finally sit down and take a deep breath how much he is changing. I felt the urge to write some “lessons” or new wisdom down from getting through this first year of parenting/business ownership. I am by no means wise and have almost no advice to give, but I do think it’s important to share our stories because sometimes they resonate with others. And I know I like to feel a little less alone most days.
We are all doing the best we can.
This is a big one, and it doesn’t just apply to parenting. I’ve been reading a lot of Brene Brown this year, and this has been one of my biggest takeaways from her books. Let me explain...When I am tired and stressed I am very easily triggered. Everyone seems to be aggravating, no one is helpful, I can’t get everything done and be everything to everyone. These stories loop in my head when I’m in overwhelm. (And yes, they are stories my mind is insistent on replaying, not deep truths.) In these moments, I am constantly needing to remind myself that EVERYONE is doing the best that they can. We have no idea what is going on with other people. What kind of day they are having. If they are operating out of fear or sorrow. But we can give everyone the benefit of the doubt, even when someone does something horrible. They are doing the best they can, just like I am doing the best I can. And sometimes my best is not very good. And that’s alright. I would rather show my son that I can make mistakes and recover from them then seem like a perfect person all of the time, because that isn’t a realistic thing to aspire to.
The only person I can control is myself.
I spent a lot of time trying to “solve” all of what I saw as our day to day issues. Sleep, keeping to a feed/nap schedule, fitting in work. As it turns out, everyday is new and different with baby. Just when you think you have them figured out, they totally change. Just when I make a perfect weekly plan to get *all the things* done, my mom is sick and can no longer watch Otto. It’s just the way things go sometimes. I often throw up so much resistance to these hiccups, feel overwhelmed and then kick and scream internally that things aren’t going according to plan, and it’s only Monday at 9am. Can you tell I’m a little type A? In these moments my goal is to take a deep breath and remind myself that I can’t control when or how Otto sleeps, if my mom feels well, or if Otto will comply with my perfect plan. I can only choose to flow with what the day is giving me and choose to follow that path. The work will get done. Otto will sleep. It will all be ok.
All babies are different.
You can read all the books or Google “please make my baby go to f**king sleep” all you want and you will not find the answers. You may find some coping strategies, but ultimately there are no one size fits all solutions to babies. Babies are people. We are all different and have different needs. Social media makes it easy to think that all of your friends have perfect lives with perfect children and are never tired or get zits. It’s not true. We all have hard sh*t going on. And while I think it’s important to reach out to friends and family for advice and to chat about our struggles, it’s also important to take all advice with a grain of salt. What works for someone else may not work for you. You’ll figure it out. Or you won’t but it will be a beautiful journey (when you look back on it in 5 years and miss your teeny little baby).
You can’t do everything at once and be great at all of it.
Another big one. And this one I am nowhere near figuring out, because I still want to do everything and be great at all of it. But what I’ve realized is that when I say “yes” to everything because I think it will make me happy (either it sounds fun or I think the money will make me feel valued), I ALWAYS end up stressed and something gives. And that thing is usually parenting. Writing that now just made me deeply sad, but it’s true. When I’m trying to do everything, the thing I have to give up is being there for my son. I have to bring in grandma or my partner to take the reins while I hustle through the work. And you know what’s funny? Part of the reason for doing the work I do (besides love for the craft) is to be more available to him. To be present for this years of his life that are so precious.
I’ve learned that it’s important to tap into my values for every single thing I say yes to. Will this project bring me joy? Will it be worth the hours spend away from my son? Will it help fill my creative cup and make me a better parent when I’m present?
Parenting is isolating. Make mama friends.
Another one I am working on. Year one of Otto was full of hustle and panic and trying to be and do everything. One of the big things that was sacrificed in all of this hustle was friendship. It was very hard to maintain old friendships in this new phase of life, let alone make space for new ones. I found myself saying to my partner “I feel so alone” many times a week. And I still do. So one of my goals this year is to make more mama friends. The communities I have built in life and business have been SO valuable to me, why wouldn’t a motherhood community do the same? We aren’t meant to do this alone. Being a parent is one of the hardest and most rewarding journeys I’ve ever embarked on, and it truly does take a village.
Great parents take care of themselves.
Since Otto was born I haven’t been taking great care of myself. His care and attention to my clients have all come before taking care of my basic needs. A year in I have hit my breaking point. I am starting to crumble. Everything aches, I get too little sleep, and some days I realize I haven’t brushed my teeth yet and it’s noon. And because I am not taking care of me, I am not showing up as my best self for my son. I have come to realize that if I want him to value himself, he needs to see me valuing myself. If I am happy and healthy, he is more likely to be happy and healthy. Breaking in half because I’m giving him all of my energy does not serve either of us. So I’m starting to value myself and my body again. I’m going to the doctor, taking baths, and calling in the village when I need someone to talk to or to just get out of the house alone for an hour. Being a parent doesn’t have to mean losing yourself. I hope that if Otto sees me as an independent and thriving person, he will come to respect me as that and strive for the same.
These are some of the big things I am stumbling not so gracefully through every day. I have to remind myself daily of pretty much all of them, especially as a recovering perfectionist.
Are any of these resonating with you? What big life lessons has parenting taught you? And of course, if you need a mama friend, please reach out. We’re all in this together, and we’re all doing the best we can.