Everyone’s first year is different, but nobody’s turns out exactly like they expected. Hayley DeRoche is now a sage one-year graduate and can wisely offer advice for those about to take the plunge.
Photo by: tess_marie
I have been a parent for a year now, and what a year it’s been. It felt like I was simultaneously running a marathon while trying to drink hot coffee and not spill it all over myself while typing a novel with one hand on a tablet while I was, like, trying to learn to drive stick at the same time (yes I was running a marathon while driving, don’t question my simile!) all while worrying about someone’s future. The year felt endless. The year felt like the months flipped on the calendar at warp speed. There were definitely a lot of tears.
Find a group of parents who think you’re doing a great job.
Find your people. Whether they’re online or IRL or a combination of the two, find some parents who get you and support the hell out of each other. It’s easy to find parenting groups in which everyone puts on their tinfoil judgement hats. You don’t need that. You need a group of people who will tell you you’re awesome, that you’re making the right choices for your family, period, full stop. When I didn’t think I was going to make it to six months of breastfeeding (I’d wanted to make it a year), I was so grateful to have a group I knew wouldn’t try to tell me all the reasons why I needed to keep breastfeeding, why I was probably dooming my child to a life of sickness and low test scores, and a whole host of other things mothers are told. The day I officially stopped breastfeeding entirely came sooner than I had wanted, but I felt armed and buoyed by these women. You need a support network. Do not underestimate this.
The things you think you will enjoy about parenthood may not be the things you end up enjoying.
A year ago, I wrote an article about the things I was looking forward to about parenthood, as well as things that were making me apprehensive. And the funny thing is, the things I looked forward to ended up being things that sucked. A car ride together at the beginning and end of the day was the least peaceful thing on the planet. Imagine 45 minutes of screaming, and there you go. Music was out of the question. Similarly, when our daughter was about six months old, we gave up our “no TV in the house” rule and set the TV back up in the living room because she was finally going to sleep in the evening and we finally had an hour or two to ourselves before we, too, would crash. TV was exactly what we wanted. There is something to be said for good old zoning out. We needed that.
Do what works until it stops working, and then stop doing it.
Bedtime slowly became the time of day I dreaded most. Night after night of an hour or two spent trying to put her to sleep, we realized what we were doing clearly wasn’t working. So we stopped doing it and tried entirely new things. Things like no pacifier at all (because this meant no pacifier to drop out of the crib), a five-minutes-between-going-in-there rule, etc. And things got better. At some point, you have to acknowledge that something isn’t working, and then try to find a solution. Full disclosure: sometimes the solution is just as sucky as the original situation. But still! Be willing to let go of what you thought was the solution, and try new solutions. Life is a series of solutions that work, then fail to work, that are then replaced with newer solutions.
Forgive yourself for not doing everything.
There are so many things I wanted to try! Baby sign language! Baby-led weaning! Baby swim classes! Baby-led Rembrandt painting! Except it turned out that, just like with every other language I have tried to learn, sign language is difficult for me to pick up. Baby-led weaning didn’t work out because my kid is SMART and realized why put food in her mouth when OTHER people can do it for her?! Baby swim classes were all held at times I was at work or commuting home from work (and were also too expensive, but it feels better to say there was a time conflict…). I have to let it go. My daughter will speak eventually, and I won’t have to fret about the sign for more versus all-done. She will eat solid foods. She will learn water safety. She will learn all sorts of things, and these early things will become a distant memory.
— ∮∮∮ —
I wanted a daughter so badly. And there are still moments during which I question my sanity. But there are other moments during which I experience such utter joy. I never knew listening to her babble away would make my heart burst like it does. How does a simple “Yayayayay?” elicit such a response?! I never thought I would take up quilting just because I want to make her stuff — my love cannot be contained, it has to be shown (and sewn!).
You know, it’s funny — I never really liked my middle name growing up. It’s Joy. I always felt like, being a dry, wry type of person, it didn’t quite suit me. And now? I get it. It was about me…and it wasn’t about me. I get that feeling of ecstatic love that my parents must have felt, that joy. And maybe that’s another gift of parenthood — the feeling of unlocking some of the secrets of your own parents, too.
Iron & Wine says it best: Born bitter as a lemon, but you must understand that you’ve been bringing me joy.
My life is full to bursting with joy. There were a lot of tears, but they weren’t all bad.