5 Things I Wish I’d Done Differently as a New Parent

IMG_1974My son is three now. So I’ve had some time to reflect on the parenting choices I’ve made over the past few years. I assumed that parenting was going to be intuitive and that I wouldn’t have many regrets. Nope. Although I think I’m a pretty good mom, looking back, there are a few things I wish I had done differently:

1. Prepared less for birth more for baby – Don’t get me wrong, I think birth preparation is super important (check out the expecting category of my Mamajamas list and you will see that clearly), but I went a little overboard. I must have read at least six books on birth, took an eight-week birth class, and spent days researching birth online and reading birth forums. So when my home birth dreams disintegrated into an emergent c-section, all those hours spent practicing hypnobirthing techniques seemed a little ridiculous. I also realized that I had done zero preparation for once the baby actually got here. So I’d recommend instead of six books on birth, read one or two. Also, check out some parenting books or classes while you are pregnant, and ostensibly still have a bit of free time on your hands!

2. Taught my baby to sleep by himself – I’m actually still a bit torn on this one. We co-slept from the beginning. My son is three, and he still comes to bed with me at some point during the night. I love co-sleeping — he sleeps great, I sleep great, and I enjoy cuddling with him. So what do I regret? I still have to put my son to sleep every night by physically laying next to him until he falls asleep. Some nights, it only takes 10-20 minutes and it’s wonderful bonding time. But other nights, it is an hour-long wrestling match. When I eventually emerge from his room victorious, my evening is over and I’m exhausted. And now that this routine is so ingrained, it’s going to be brutal to change. We’ll be trying to get him to sleep by himself soon. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m not sure what approach I’ll take if we have another child, especially since neither my husband or I have much stomach for long periods of crying. (We attempted “Cry it Out” a couple times early on, but we hated it.)  So even though I love putting my son to sleep 50% of the time, if I had to do it over, I would have tried to teach him to fall asleep on his own earlier.

3. Bought less gear – I know it sounds funny coming from someone who started a baby product recommendations website, but I wish I had gotten less gear. I attribute a lot of my over-buying to not realizing that baby “phases” are ridiculously brief. For example, my son would only drool excessively for a couple months so I didn’t need to buy eight cloth bibs. Three would have sufficed. That’s actually one of the reasons I started Mamajamas, I figured that if I had had more collective wisdom from my parent friends, I wouldn’t have made so many rookie gear mistakes.

4. Gotten more help – There was a period when my son was about eight months old when he was still not sleeping through the night and I was attempting to start working again. I was also dealing with my own health problems (which we later found out were due to Lyme Disease) and a cross-country move during this time! My husband was an incredible co-parent, really going above and beyond, but he was also transitioning to a new, intense job and just as tired. Life was extremely stressful. But I had too much pride to try to get more help. The house was messy, I was sick, exhausted, and extra-cranky. Finally, I agreed to get more babysitting, ask my new mom friends for help watching my son once in awhile, and got a weekly house cleaner. After taking these steps, I regretted we hadn’t done so sooner. It doesn’t make you a lesser mother to take care of yourself or cede responsibilities to others — in fact, it can make you a better mother and partner!

5. Not have worried so much – This is something I’m still working on. More anxiety has been yet another unexpected consequence of motherhood. I worry about the well-being of my son a lot, and wonder if I’m making the best decisions for him. But I’ve realized how important it is to let go of the feeling of trying to control everything (which is simply impossible with a young child). I’ve also let go of the notion that there is a “right way” to parent. I have to trust that I’m thoughtful and doing the best I can. To keep my anxiety in check, I work to be mindful through meditation, and also to talk frequently with other moms about their experiences. I recently read this book called How Eskimos Keep Their Babies WarmIt discusses parenting practices in other countries (Kenyan disdain for strollers, Chinese early potty training, etc.). It underscored the fact that there is no universal right way to parent. There may be some global values that are important (unconditionally loving your child, for example), but it made me not worry so much about having the perfect schedule for my child or the perfect gear.

Parenting is an incredible journey filled with more than a few potholes. But it’s a wonderful ride, with great (albeit sometimes whiney) company. The trip is long, and mostly enjoyable. And I’ve realized it’s okay to make a few wrong turns and take a few detours.

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