1) Read books if you want, but they won’t fully prepare you to be a parent. Go ahead and read books, it’ll help with the anxiety. When it comes down to it, something from within you comes out (no, not the baby) and your natural parenting skills kick in. Books prepare you intellectually, but the parenting experience is a largely emotional one.
2) You are entering the most rewarding and challenging job you’ll ever have. It’s that simple, within minutes you can go from tears of joy to tears of frustration. Parents who previously considered themselves unemotional find themselves wiping away tears when asked about the birth of their child. For the challenging moments, take a step back, get perspective, and get back in there.
3) Accept that you’re going to make mistakes, a lot of mistakes. Parenting definitely fits the “learn on the job” description. No parent is perfect. When you make a mistake, learn from it. When you make that same mistake for the hundredth time, keep learning.
4) The first few months are a blur, just survive and advance. For sports fans, I compare the first few months to March Madness. It doesn't matter if you win by 1 or 30; just make it to the next day. Keep advancing. If you are fortunate enough to have a child that sleeps through the night just weeks after birth, just be happy. Most parents experience sleep deprivation the first few months. It’s part of the game.
You will hear the funniest stories from the first few months. In our case, one morning the alarm went off and I cradled the alarm clock like a baby. My wife appropriately asked what I was doing and I responded with, “Ssshhhh, I think she’ll go back to sleep.”
5) Sleep when your little one sleeps. I can’t emphasize this enough. Your sleep pattern will already be screwy. If you are sleep deprived and your little one takes a nap, take a nap as well. Yes, there are things to do around the house. You will have to decide what's more important, sleep or household chores.
6) Taking a break from your infant doesn’t make you a bad parent. It’s okay to take a break; everyone needs a little time for themselves. As a matter of fact, if you acknowledge that you might need a break, it will make you a better parent in the long run.
7) Welcome help and support from family and friends with open arms. Don’t be a hero. If someone offers to cook a meal or clean the house, take them up on it if you feel you need the support. If family/friends offer to change a diaper, get them to sign a written contract. Then present it to them if they say they were only joking when the time comes for a diaper change. Having legal counsel present at that moment is optional.
8) You’re going to be one of those parents that put up pictures of your baby on facebook all the time. We all do it. Your kid is undoubtedly the cutest baby to ever wear a onesie with a funny message.
9) It’s okay if your child doesn’t eat, they’ll eat later. The baby’s weight will be the focus of many conversations. Just like adults, babies will tell you when they are hungry. It’s okay if he hasn’t fed for a couple of hours, he won’t shrink.
10) Comparisons to other babies are inevitable. Almost all conversations with other parents will start with two questions: 1) What is your baby’s name? 2) How many weeks/months old is he? You will then privately compare your baby to the other. This will happen for about a year, maybe thirty. Try to let that go; all kids mature at their own pace.
11) Once you have a rhythm and schedule, something will happen that will flip your schedule upside down. Just accept it. Learn to go with the flow or your head will explode.
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