What I Wish I Knew as a First-Time Parent

What I Wish I Knew as a First-Time Parent

Motherly Collective

I made it, I thought to myself, surrounded by friends at the dinner table, while my child ran around freely. I have finally reached a point in parenthood that I thought I would never achieve.

When I look back on those days and nights of survival, they are a bit hazy and blended in a whirl of brain fog. However, those days have passed, and my thriving toddler now races around with her friends, babbling in more coherent phrases, while the minutes and days spin by like the endless use of our laundry in the dryer. My husband and I can now enjoy dinner with our friends without a newborn or baby needing the security of our arms. It can be difficult to envision the future when you’re a sleep-deprived and overstimulated mother stuck in the present moment. 

As a parent who has come out the other side, it’s easier to look back and reflect on what we wish we would have known as first-time parents. Looking back on it all, while at a dinner party full of friends and rambunctious children who no longer need constant attention, here are the four things we wish we knew as first-time parents.

4 things I wish I knew as a first-time parent 

This too shall pass

It is important to understand that you may not enjoy every phase of life equally. You don’t have to love the entirety of a phase. Maybe you can find a moment to cherish. In my experience, my friends and I sat around the table and openly discussed our feelings about different phases of parenthood. Some of us loved the newborn phase with its constant need for a child to be held in our arms, while others cherished the obstinance of a toddler. Each phase or season comes with its own set of highs and lows. Just know that the good times will pass, and come around again, just as every winter must give way to spring. The lows will also pass and bring something new and exciting. For  each sleep regression, teething fit or cranky outburst there were also new developments, new teeth and a lot of growth.

Children are resilient

It’s astonishing to witness the transformation of a tiny bundle, once cradled in the gentle embrace of your palms, into a robust, spirited individual. Children are like clay, molded by experiences and challenges. Each stumble and scrape they encounter becomes a lesson, forging them into stronger, more adept beings. In the backyard, they learn the laws of gravity through trial and error, understanding that every leap might lead to a tumble. As parents, we wince at each new addition to their collection of bruises, yet gradually realize that our discomfort outweighs theirs. Imperfection is an inherent part of parenthood, a reality we must accept. But amidst our missteps, we must remember the inherent resilience of our children. So, let go of the guilt, forgive yourself and march forward. Your child’s love knows no bounds.

Do what is best for you

Find comfort in the knowledge that no two families are alike, each one unique with individual needs. Resist the temptation to drown in a sea of online advice, for it only serves to compound your anxiety. Instead, listen only to trusted friends and family. Allow their advice to wash over you, taking nuggets of information to use and allowing some advice to flutter away, unheeded.

Embrace your parenting approach, unapologetically tailoring them to suit your instincts and circumstances. Whether it’s a blend of breast milk and formula, the soothing rhythm of rocking your child to sleep or the intimate comfort of contact naps, trust in what feels right and safe for both your child and your well-being, both physically and mentally. Let your intuition be your guide because there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Sometimes they just cry

Understanding and accepting a crying baby can be one of the most challenging feats for parents, especially for those accustomed to tangible solutions and checklists. My husband, in particular, grappled with this concept, his pragmatic nature yearning for actions that could guarantee a change in outcome. He’d diligently run through a mental checklist: diaper change, fresh clothes, a soothing bath, gentle walks, rhythmic rocking and melodic lullabies, only to find that sometimes, none of these remedies eased our daughter’s tears. It’s a perplexing reality— babies cry, sometimes without any reason.

In those moments it’s crucial to remember that your presence alone may be the ultimate source of comfort for your little one. Though the tears may persist, holding them close offers them peace. It’s a test of patience, knowing that this too shall pass, even when the reason remains a mystery.

As a parent, who has come out of those tough months of the first  year of babyhood, I can gladly say that it will happen for you too. You won’t be perfect as a parent. You’ll make mistakes, but you’ll learn and grow. Your child will weather any mistake you make with resilience. Listen to your intuition, you know what your family and child need best.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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