Parenting advice often addresses the practical side of taking care of a baby. Useful tips on feeding, napping and temper tantrums all come in handy. But, what about advice on handling the huge change from work to home life, or tips on how to handle a husband whose brain turned off the minute a newborn entered his world? After a year of parenting, these are the things I wish someone had warned me about ahead of time:
1. Your husband will temporarily forget that he has anyone but a baby to care for.
My husband, the Type A+ overachiever who used to tweak if there was a pile of catalogs on the kitchen table, pretty much forgot that he had household responsibilities when our son was born. One day I found myself hauling the trash out while he sat playing with the baby who’d just learned how to sit up. “Dude, are you kidding me?!” I shouted at him. He looked at me like I was the annoying disciplinarian mother and suddenly I realized I had two boys to take care of.
2. If you downsized your career or gave up your job to be a full-time mom, chances are you’ll be depressed for a while and that’s okay.
Part of becoming a new mom is grieving the loss of your old life. You’re taking on physical, emotional and social changes that have destroyed everything that is familiar and comfortable. Talk it out with someone you trust. Do something absurd like buying that ridiculous-looking lamp for your living room, or getting a completely new hairstyle. Above all else, don’t guilt yourself for feeling down. You aren’t blaming your baby and you don’t need to blame yourself. You just need to say goodbye to an old chapter and hello to a new one.
3. Your child will fall in love with you.
All of a sudden your little baby isn’t so little anymore. You’re meeting all of his needs, so why is he crying all the time? It’s like he needs to be with you EVERY MOMENT OF THE DAY AND NIGHT. In the midst of pure exhaustion you realize, oh my gosh, he’s fallen in love. With you. This is when you get to start calling the shots. The closest comparison is the transition from honeymoon period to real life in marriage; the moment when you stopped trying so hard to be the perfect wife and you just started telling your husband what to do. And he did it because he’s that crazy about you. In practical terms, this is when you start sleep training and encouraging the baby to play independently.
4. You will reach that moment when you understand that you can handle everything.
We’d spent weeks waking up at night with teething pain. On edge from being jarred awake (we were starting to get used to sleeping at night, silly us), I was having trouble letting myself sleep. Finally, one night it clicked: If my son woke up it wasn’t a big deal, because I could handle whatever was wrong. I knew him. I’d figured him out and I’d figured myself out and because of that it would all work out. And then I had the best night of sleep I’d had since he was born.
5. Suddenly, everything will make perfect sense.
Your grief will lift. You’ll iron out your schedule. Your husband will wake up to his adult responsibilities again. You’ll develop a kinship with your child and through all of these things you will find a part of yourself that you didn’t know existed: You’re calm, confident, authoritative and deeply loving. One day you’ll wake up and realize that you are Queen of your Castle and you will claim your throne in victory, proudly declaring, “I’ve got this thing.”
That’s also when you start thinking about having a second baby. So, enjoy your sleep while it lasts.