Advice to the New Parent

Wrote this a while back; just wanted to post it here as well.

I know this time is hard, but it is also critical. This ectoplasm they let you take home from the hospital gets one and only one mother and you must figure out how to get out of crisis mode and into the swing of things. I wish someone had stepped in and told me what to do when I was in crisis with my wee ones.
I didn’t need someone to save me or do it for me, just help me understand a few key things. Maybe they did and I wasn’t ready to hear? Nevertheless, I choose to share these with you now:

1 – You are not alone or frankly all that unique. There are universal truths about early parenting that can’t be avoided, that can’t be organized, that are difficult, but that pass. Networking with other skillful moms is a shortcut to making this time less traumatic. Join a meetup, subscribe to podcasts (http://longestshortesttime.com/) find on-line networks, reach out by phone (to people who have kids you like to spend time with) when you can’t get out of the house.

2 – There are universal truths about early parenting that should not be missed— moments of touch, eye contact, heart connection with this unfathomably precious little soul that no one else gets the priviledge to witness. I wish I’d gotten my (aching) head out of my (woeful) ass more often to drink in that love, to bathe them in it.

3 – Day care, day care, day care, day care, now and every weekday. There are humans well-suited to a day with an infant. (I expect I will be one when I’m a grandma.) Admitting I’m not one of them was one of the best gifts I could give to my child and myself. With kid number one, I struggled with the guilt of hiring help; nothing compared to the despair I felt with kid number two who got subjected to my lousy stay-at-home mom skills and resulting depression. I’m a great mother now, partly from the lessons I learned from outstandingly gifted caregivers (hi Tara Lupis!).

4 – Share. Don’t do it all alone. Babies and mamas and papas need a village. Start by envisioning the family energy you want to live in for the next 18 years and communicate that to your partner/husband/wife/co-parent. Every day, explore these sentence thoughts with your partner (and later with your child) even if for only 30 seconds each and even if it is just about what to do about breakfast: “Here is what I wish for us…” “This part isn’t working for me…” and “how does it feel from your side?”

5 – Study. Don’t let the parenting advice, whether from loved ones or written word drive you crazy, but consult the experts. Understand developmental psychology; consult summaries of actual evidence-based clinical research on what does and does not help children form secure attachments, develop healthy minds, and feel like worthy members of society; know what is going on in the baby mind/body so that you can put reasonable expectations on yourself and your child. Mostly do this so that you can quietly and knowingly make a conscious well informed choice to parent the way you want without having to defend your decisions to folks on either end of the spectrum (from the “don’t spoil the baby” to the “helicopter parent” wackos, we all know who we are!).

6 – Be gentle with yourself. These days are very very long, but the time is remarkably short. There is no redo, rewind, fast forward or pause. It just IS what it IS. But you don’t get extra credit for effort and frankly, you won’t get your report card for 25 years. So take each day carefully, joyfully, patiently, loving yourself and your opportunities with the same Mom love you magically inherited the moment they put that baby in your arms.

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