Holy moly, being a new parent is tough. In addition to that brand-new life you just created — which you now have to keep alive — you’re contending with no sleep, hormones that make you cry and possibly a partner who may or may not have the same parenting M.O. as you. Plus, there are the 1 million people who come at you with conflicting parenting advice — and don’t even get me started on the internet.
Here are seven surprising tips you don’t often hear that may just be the key to your survival those first six months of parenthood. You definitely won't be getting this advice from your mom.
Whether you were the birth parent or not, if you have a partner, you are bound to rub each other the wrong way with a new baby around. Exhaustion plus important decisions equals friction, no matter how well you got along before baby. Give your partner a break and take a moment before snapping at something you disagree with. Remember that it may just be your tiredness speaking — and that the person whom you love dearly and with whom you embarked on this journey to have a child, is still that person.
It’s really easy to be crabby and upset about being so tired as a new parent. It’s really hard. But it is also possible to lean into that and allow the exhaustion to slow you down a little bit so maybe, just maybe, you’re being more present — enjoying the time with your baby more and worrying less about everything else (like the piles of laundry that need to be washed).
It took me about six weeks of being a mom before I broke down and had myself a good scream. I did it in the shower, where the water hopefully drowned out the sound, and then I took a deep breath and went on with my day. It felt so good. And it was so necessary. Being a new parent is incredibly stressful and emotional, and it's OK to let it out — a good cry or scream or a hugging session may be more healing than you ever imagined pre-parenthood. Besides, ain’t nobody got time to release tension via a wine-and-paint-by-numbers night with the girls anymore.
Maybe it’s making time to read the Sunday paper in peace so you feel like an adult human being who's part of the world again. Or maybe it's having a home-cooked meal once a week — or an orgasm or a hot bath. Whatever it is, pick something small and meaningful that you enjoy doing, and work with your partner or your other support system to help you do that on a regular basis. It will help break up those feelings of being a machine whose sole purpose is to keep Baby alive.
In the first few months of my baby’s life, I ran to Dr. Google every time my infant breathed in a different direction. Oh, my god. Is my baby dying?! I worried about every little thing. But allow me to remind you that the internet is a scary place — and while it can be very helpful for certain things, it’s way too easy to go down a Google rabbit hole and end up deciding a perfectly normal newborn rash is a sign of impending death. (P.S. Whatever it is you’re worrying about is probably normal. But don’t take my word for it. After all, I'm on the internet.)
Someone wise once said, "If you can’t beat 'em, join 'em." You might be trying to be a superparent right now, but it’s OK to admit that you can’t do everything. It’s OK to laugh at the mess in your kitchen or the fact that you haven’t shaved your armpits in three weeks. Find symbiosis in the rhythm and love that you have with your baby — and take comfort in the fact that the rest will work itself out with time (or not, and that's cool too).
Perhaps the most important piece of advice for new parents? Give yourself a break. Taking care of a baby is hard, and the last thing you want to do is be hard on yourself as well. Who has the energy for that?! Get a babysitter. Hand off your baby to a trusted friend for one hour. Go easy on yourself — and remember that you’re doing a good job, which is the best job you can be doing.
Above all, don’t forget to breathe. Seriously, literally breathe. Something as simple as three deep breaths can help clear the mind and bring back some of that perspective you feel you've lost so you can try to enjoy these early, exhausted, precious moments with your baby. Because time really does fly.
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