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…
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?