baby Max

Things I Wish We’d Done Differently in Our First Year of Parenting

My post earlier this week about the mistakes we made with Max’s nursery got me thinking about some of the other mistakes we made in our first year as parents – or things we’d do differently, rather.

To be fair, I think “mistake” is probably too strong a word here, because, like any other new parent, I know we did the best we possibly could at the time: and, in our case, under some pretty difficult circumstances, too. Terry’s mum passing away a month after Max was born was obviously the worst of these, but we also had to deal with Terry being rushed to accident and emergency, and my own mum being hospitalised for a week, too. So it wasn’t the best of starts for us, really, and to be totally honest, while I know it’s not cool to admit it, I still feel a bit sad that we totally missed out on that blissful newborn stage everyone talks about: and for reasons that no amount of planning or preparation could have changed.

With that said, while I know there were some aspects of our first year that we couldn’t have done any differently, much as we’d have liked to, there are some things I’d definitely do differently if I could have that year over again. Here are just a few of them…

Taken better photos

I’d originally written “taken MORE photos,” here, but honestly? We could not possibly have taken any more photos of Max last year: we took so many, in fact, that I had to upgrade my iCloud storage twice – and that was just in the first few weeks.

So, we have TONS of photos: the problem is, though, that most of them were taken on my iPhone, in low light, and they’re just not very good, really. Even our photos from the day Max was born, which were taken with the DSLR, are really dark and grainy, because the hospital lighting was so bad – oh, and also because we were so totally overwhelmed and brimming with emotion at the time that photography was the last thing on our minds.

I know there isn’t much we could really have done about any of that, but it breaks my heart a bit to look at other people’s newborn photos, and compare them to ours: documenting memories has always been really important to me (Even before the days of Instagram!), and while we did manage to pick up our game a bit in the months that followed, and get some decent photos of Max, it didn’t really get any easier, unfortunately, and I’m probably always going to be disappointed at the thought of all of the cute little outfits that went totally undocumented.

Yes, I’m totally aware of how stupid that sounds. Yes I am.

it breaks my heart a bit to look at other people’s newborn photos, and compare them to ours

(Of the photos we DO have from those early days, meanwhile, I’m hardly in any of them, and the ones I AM in are so bad that I can hardly bear to look at them. I think it’s the done thing in posts like this to comment at this point that I really wish I’d been in more photos, regardless of how bad I looked at the time, but, instead, I just wish I’d gotten my eyelashes done and had time to wash my hair and put on makeup. Shallow, yes – but it would have made me feel SO much better, seriously…)

Got a cleaner / organised the house better

This is another point where I’m going to fly in the face of Things Mummy Bloggers Are Supposed to Think, and, instead of telling you I wish I’d cared less about the state of the house, and just concentrated on THE MEMORIES we were making in it, I’m actually just going to say that, GOD, I WISH I’D GOTTEN A CLEANER.

Actually, I DID look into hiring a cleaner just before Max was born: I figured if I could even just get someone to come once a week to change the bedsheets and give the place a quick clean, it would go a long way towards helping me stay sane, and you know what? IT REALLY WOULD HAVE.

In the end, I didn’t go ahead with it, because I just couldn’t justify the prices I was being quoted, but, in retrospect, I wish I’d tried harder to find something more affordable, or to make room in the budget, because, just as I’d anticipated, the mess we ended up living in right after Max was born was really hard for me to deal with, and made everything feel so much worse.

I know a lot of people look down on ‘neat freak’ types (And I know this from all of those Facebook memes about how ‘A tidy home is a sign of a wasted life’- seriously, my eyes just about roll right out of my head every time I see one of those posts…), but, for me, a tidy living space is one of my coping mechanisms, and if my house is a mess, I feel like my entire LIFE is a mess, too.

My life was a MESS for the entirety of 2018. I REALLY wish I’d just booked that cleaner…

Worried less

As with the point about the photos, realistically I know there’s no way I could reasonably have expected to worry less. I mean, worrying is my THING: it’s like my super-power, almost. If I knew how to stop it, I’d obviously do it… but I don’t. So I worried. And then I worried some more. And while most of the things I worried about were normal, “new parent” worries, which I’m sure most new mums deal with at some point, when I look back on them now, some of them seem pretty stupid, really, too.

So, while I know worrying is inevitable for me, I’m pretty sure that if we had another child, I’d spend less time stressing about the fact that we started weaning two weeks earlier than recommended, say, or feeling guilty because we let him see two minutes worth of Peppa Pig while we were cutting his nails. Because I know now that those things don’t really matter in the great scheme of things – and I really wish I’d known it at the time.

Started dummy weaning much earlier

With that said, there is one thing I wish I’d worried about MORE, and that’s the length of time it took us to start trying to wean Max off his dummy. I’m not going to say here that I wouldn’t give him a dummy AT ALL, because, honestly, it REALLY helped us survive those first few weeks, when we were totally overwhelmed, and willing to try just about anything to make life a little easier.

Giving Max a dummy DID make things easier, because it helped soothe him when all else failed, and got him sleeping through the night fairly early, so I’ll forever be grateful to it for that. Those things did come at a cost, though, and we’re currently paying that cost as we try to wean him off his dummy at 16 months. It has NOT been fun, people, so I really wish we’d either resisted the dummy altogether, or, failing that, started the weaning process a whole lot earlier. You live and you learn: or some people do, anyway…

Been better prepared with work

As a self-employed blogger, I wasn’t able to have a “proper” maternity leave. Instead, I’d scheduled a month’s worth of content in advance, assuming that, once that ran out, I’d have plenty of time to write more posts, because the baby would be sleeping most of the time, after all, and I wouldn’t be able to just sit and watch Netflix ALL the time, would I? (Answer: YES. I could totally do that…)

I’m just going to pause for a second here while you all laugh hysterically at poor, naive, pre-baby me: the one who thought she could just put the baby’s bassinet in the office, and continue working away as if nothing had happened. LOLOLOL.

So, yeah, needless to say, I was WAY off with this one. I mean, it’s certainly true that newborns sleep a lot, yes, but they wake up a lot, too, and, just to make a difficult situation even worse, sometimes they only want to sleep ON YOU. This was how it was with Max: and, on the odd occasion when he DID consent to sleep on his own, or was being looked after by someone else, I’d have to leap into action, frantically trying to have a shower whilst simultaneously cleaning the kitchen, doing the laundry, and, oh yeah, running a business.

It was a NIGHTMARE. It still is, to be totally honest. These days it’s STILL a struggle to find time to work, and it was even harder when he was newborn, so, while I’ve no idea how on earth I’d have managed to do it, I really wish I’d been better prepared for the fact that sitting at my desk and writing a blog post would come to feel like a total luxury, or impossible dream. I STILL wish I was better prepared for it, actually…

Stopped comparing myself to people online

Finally, while it makes me feel a bit ill to even think of it, I reckon my first year of parenting would’ve been significantly easier if I’d just deleted the Instagram app off my phone altogether. Seriously. The fact is, I love Instagram, and I especially love the community on there, which I’d miss if I ever really DID go ahead and delete it.

But, when Max was born, I was following a bunch of women who all had babies at roughly the same time as me, and, lovely though they all are, looking at their accounts made me feel like I was totally failing at life – or at motherhood, at least.

There they were, three weeks post-partum, and out taking magazine-worthy outfit photos in their pre-baby clothes. And there I was, sitting on the sofa in my dressing gown, with baby sick in my hair, and a pair of white, knee-high compression socks on my feet. My house looked like it had been burgled: theirs all looked like Homes & Gardens were on their way round to photograph them.

They’d post photos of their babies sleeping peacefully on beds of rose petals (LITERAL BEDS OF ROSES, PEOPLE. LITERAL.), dressed in adorable little outfits: my baby, meanwhile, was wearing the only sleepsuit that wasn’t covered in spit-up (Yeah, reflux was the reason for a LOT of the problems we had in those first few months. Possibly ALL of them, now I come to think of it.), and I couldn’t risk taking a photo of him sleeping in case the sound of the shutter clicking woke him up. Which it did. EVERY TIME.

Now, I know perfectly well that Instagram isn’t “real” life, and that I have no way of knowing what other people are dealing with behind the scenes. I also know, however, that seeing all of those women seemingly breezing through motherhood, without a care in the world, made me feel like a complete and utter failure at the time.

I just couldn’t understand why I was struggling so much with something other people seemed to find so easy: why my life had changed beyond all recognition, when everyone else just seemed to be going on exactly as they had before. I don’t think I’m ever going to know the answer to that, but if I hadn’t been following all of those apparently perfect people on Instagram, I wouldn’t even have asked the question – and I think I’d probably have been happier for it.

Anyone want to chime in?

What do you wish you’d done differently as a new parent?

6 things you absolutely must do in your first year of parenthood

6 things I wish I'd done differently as a brand new parent

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books by Amber Eve
  • Yeah I regret not taking better photos too, now that I look back on them. And I get what you said about wanting to look nice in the photos. I’ve pictures where my baby looks lovely but I have crazed maniac eyes from the lack of sleep and grey roots showing. I managed to do a few “milestone” photos the first few months the couldn’t keep up with them. When I see instagram mums with their perfect pinterest looking baby photo shoots, it also made me feel like I was failing at it all. But in the end I reminded myself that my baby was still having a good childhood even if I didn’t organize a fancy cake smash birthday party photo shoot or whatever!

    May 17, 2019
  • I had the same thoughts after my daughter turned one, and then, with the next one, it started all over again. Some people might live and learn, but I am apparently not one of them.

    Anne|Linda, Libra, Loca

    May 17, 2019
  • Alice


    I definitely wish we had taken more photos on the day she was born. I only have one, and she’s mostly covered by blankets. It was all such a rush that my plans to take in a proper camera etc came to nothing. We still could have made time for a proper photo, though, we just didn’t.

    May 17, 2019
  • Amber


    Oh gosh. Definitely the pacifier weaning. Potty training too. I would have been so happy to start way earlier. I wish we had gotten rid of our Piano earlier too to make more space for the baby’s play area. I wish I had done more to expose him to foods early on. Turns out though, I have a picky eater. He sleeps through the night but he is pretty picky about what he wants to eat.

    May 17, 2019
      • Ska Cahy


        My biggest regret is not doing a baby book. We got good photos and did the milestone cards for each month. I have a vague idea of when he reached milestones like smiling and walking so I guess it’s not too late to make one. Honestly, my little man is 20 months now, and even though it’s been tough at times overall I feel pride more than regret and think all mammas doing their best should feel the same. We’re raising the next generation of awesome people. I’m about to start the journey again next month when baby sister gets here!

        May 17, 2019
  • Vanessa


    I hear u on the make-up and clean hair.
    I wish I had taken him (also Max!) to the pool sooner/maintain floating fun in the big bath/rather than just do baby baths. He used to float and kick in the bath but now he’s a bit freaked out by the pool… I see other babies floating (with assistance) and kicking and I’m like oh fudge I fudged this part up. I suck.

    May 17, 2019
  • So with you on the cleaner. When people ask for new baby gift suggestions, I suggest hiring them a cleaner for a few months. I was never particularly houseproud before having kids but it really got me down when visitors asked if they could use the toilet and I couldn’t just say, “No, you can’t possibly be allowed to look at it.”

    May 17, 2019
  • Vickie


    Reflux is the worst. (I write this draped in muslins, under an 11 week old with reflux.)

    May 18, 2019
  • I honestly could have written every word of this post myself. We have no photos of us as a family until Ollen was about three months old because I couldn’t face the camera/was just trying to get through the day! I almost cry thinking about this sometimes. Trying to make up for that with 8 million photos now I have 5 minutes to do my hair in the morning…. sometimes. All our hospital photos are grainy and badly shot, which really bothered me at first, but now I love them anyway. They’re just for us. I didn’t care about getting the perfect shot then. I was just happy we were all healthy! And now I look at them and remember being happy and not stressing about getting the photo right for IG. Does that make sense? xx

    May 18, 2019
  • Dana


    Lauren Conrad just started a podcast called “asking for a friend” and the first episode was about motherhood. Even though I don’t have children, the episode made me really tearful! They talk about “instamommies” and discovering yourself after children. I think you should give it a listen, you might resonate with it a lot!

    May 18, 2019
  • Brilliant, honest post, as always Amber!

    Re the worrying, me too. I have anxiety anyway but it seemed to really peak post-partum when I used to worry about things like not walking anywhere with the pram on a pavement where care passed at faster than 10mph in case one of them mounted the kerb and hit us – which basically meant that I spend months going over dreadful scenarios in my head whenever I tried to leave the house for a walk, because duh – we live on a very fast very busy main road (where just last week a car hit the parked car behind mind at great speed and wrote off three cars – what if we had been getting out of mine, or even walking next to it?! – This event has caused a massive resurgence in this in my head which I thought I was over). And my google history was just ridiculous – Emilia had a new ‘symptom’ every other day I needed to find out about. Truth: babies go blotchy occasionally, they have sniffly noses, they can be a bit warm but with no temperature, their scalp is a bit scaly, none of it is as life-threatening as I imagined it to be.

    And the online comparison – well, I suffer that in every area, not just motherhood. I wonder why I can’t be as polished or have such a lovely home. Truth is, I don’t spend hours at a time on myself or my house, because it is not that important to me. And these days I don’t really follow anyone like that, they are just too different to me, we care about different things. I like the people who share the messy with the amazing, the ups and downs of life, because life is never perfect all of the time. Ironically, before parenthood I was wondering if perhaps I should unfollow you because of your glamorous home and outfits which made me feel a bit like I should make more effort, but in parenthood I realise we are exactly the same and I love following your stories because I can absolutely relate and I really appreciate that unlike many people, you are honest about the fact that motherhood has been tough for you at times. I have found it so much harder than I imagined, when others online (and even my sister) seem to just take it in their stride, so I find it really reassuring that someone who I think is ace has also had a hard time of it too, especially in terms of juggling the parenting/work divide. Keep it up – for every person you look at wondering how they’re doing so well, there’s probably someone looking at you thinking the same thing! xx

    May 18, 2019
      • Laura


        I wish I’d not spent so much money on crap and bought different versions of things trying to find the best one. Or listened to friends recommendations, then realised they didn’t suit us. Or bought second hand toys that were not in the ‘excellent’ condition as promised. I wish I’d taken on others anxiety and stress less and just seen that they were just as clueless and struggling, not judging me. And I wish I’d judged others less (probably because of my anxieties too!) when all my friends were using formula and sleep training, they were just desperately trying to do the best too.

        May 18, 2019
  • It’s not vain to want to look nice in your first photos together. I’ve already thought this – we’re just over 3 weeks to go until baby is due! And I totally agree about not wanting to live in a mess. We’re desperately trying to finish up the last of the DIY so we can keep on top of just the normal house stuff!

    May 19, 2019
  • Oh my God, Amber, you are my favorite blogger in the world from now on – everythink you talk about, I just felt (and feel!) the same. Except of the dummy thing – my son is 15 months old, and I am still fine with it. But – the missing photos of me and my newborn! the dirty house! the perfect insta pictures of perfect mums! How I wish now, the first weeks after the birth of my son wouldn’t have been the hardest weeks of my life – but they were. This small things you describe would have made everything a little bit easier. And – I also thought, newborns sleep a lot, ha! He slept no longer than 40 minutes in his first 10 weeks of life (day or night). The hours he didn’t sleep, he cried. Wish you all the best- and excuse my English.
    Juli from Vienna

    June 18, 2019
  • Liz


    All the yes to to all the things.

    Especially the hiring a cleaner. I told my husband within like 4 weeks of having my second that if we do end up having a third we are hiring a cleaner to come in once a week for the first 6 weeks at least.

    A clean house makes all the difference in the world to your mental state in those newborn days.

    June 19, 2019