The Secret to Enjoying New Parenthood
By Stephen Gross
I’m big believer in being truthful and honest about what it’s like having a new baby. It’s super important because not everyone was upfront with me or they only shared the pretty side of things.
When we first brought our babies home—I found it very stressful and I was completely overwhelmed. Fortunately, I surrounded myself with what I consider baby experts and they taught me a lot.
What I share here are not only what they taught me but what I learned through my own clumsy and at times messy experiences. These insights allowed me to be able to find more joy or at least a good laugh out of even some of the more painful parenting moments.
Don’t wait until the last minute to get your home and you prepared for the arrival of your little one. Having things organized ahead of time will make the homecoming and days after smoother and far more enjoyable.
Have Clear Expectations Upfront
Having realistic expectations about what it takes to care for a baby is important, and what you may experience good and bad. The first year of being a new parent is always full of challenges You are tried, stressed, maybe healing, may have a tsunami of hormones putting you on a roller coaster ride, and you will potentially experience a range of emotions that can literally shock you. Just know, we all have similar challenges—even if people don’t tell you. It may not bring joy, but knowing this can make those tougher moments just a bit less painful.
The Perfect Parent
OK—give this one up right now—it is so ridiculous and honestly, a complete lie. There is no such animal! All this does is make everyone feel guilty and stressed, which makes the journey far less enjoyable. If you’re doing your best as a first-time parent, you’re doing a great job. Remember those Instagram perfect parents aren’t real!
Get your Support System in Place
When they say it take a village—it does. Today’s village is different from our parents and grandparents, as families typically don’t live down the street. But, support is important, you are not going to be able to do it all yourself. If it’s not your partner, family or friends, look to find other parents, support groups or caregivers to lend a hand every now and again. And if you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Stop the Guilt
We all need to stop guilting ourselves and others and start being more supportive to one another. Being a parent is hard enough already without being beaten up by other people judging you, let alone your own thoughts. Understand that we pretty much all reach parenthood with the same amount of information—next to nothing. Know that we are all in the same boat, trying to do the best we can for our kids and learning along the way.
Get a Plan
This to me was a game changer. Getting our babies on a schedule for eating, sleeping, playing, etc.— changed my life! Life is busier than ever and packed with responsibilities, work, and family. Were pulled in so many different directions and inundated with obligations, it’s crazy. Getting on a schedule helped me get more control of life and calm the chaos. There are so many ways a schedule can help simplify things and reducing stress, giving you more time to enjoy your baby.
Keep your sense of Humor
Having a sense of humor about things will go a long way to reduce the stress, making your feel better and find more joy and laughter along the way.
Be loving to Your Partner
When you don’t feel 100-percent it can be hard being nice to others but those thoughtful little things, a loving back rub, preparing dinner, a kind word or just cuddling with one and other are really important and super empowering. You also need to schedule time for you and your partner together without the kids, yes, date night.
Don’t lose sight of fact that time does go by fast. What you are experiencing at the moment may seems like it will never end. At times, I wished my daughter and son would grow up and out of the early baby stages. But, you don’t want that. Those first couple years are caulk full of moments and milestones that once reached are gone forever, so don’t let them go by with enjoy them, celebrating them, document them with pictures, video or a journal, make those moments, magical memories. They will bring you joy for years and years to come.
It’s Not a Competition
Developmental milestones are important things to keep an eye on but overly focusing on these events, from cooing, rolling over, sitting up, walking, etc. can rob you of enjoying the journey and being present in the moment. I know this is easier said than done especially when other parents babies reach key steps before yours does. It’s important to understand that no two babies are the same, they progress at different rates, that is just the way it is.
Me too, Me too
My toddler’s words ring out in my head. As new parents you have to be careful not to lose yourself completely. The demands of work, kids and family can leave little time. You have to make sure that you schedule sometime for YOU. I hear you saying “When and how am I suppose to do that?” and yes, it is not easy but not doing it will have some pretty negative effects on you and then your family. You have to take care of you, too! Schedule some time to go to the gym, yoga, hair apt, spa, a walk, time with your friends or resentment will start growing.
Most of all know that you are not alone—I believe in you and know that you can do it.
Stephen Gross is an award-winning designer who has received numerous honors for his work in advertising, branding, and retail. He is author of The Simplest Baby Book in the World.
His creative vision and design talent has impacted some of the most creative and innovative companies in the world, including Estee Lauder, The Walt Disney Company, Warner Brothers, Universal, Fox, Nickelodeon, Hasbro, Mattel, Lionsgate, and A+E, among many others. From his experience as a creative executive for Disney and Mattel, Stephen has acquired a sensibility that understands what parents want for their children and learned how to talk to them in words, visuals, and graphics in an easy, compelling way.
He lives with his husband, Vincent, in Los Angeles with their two adorable children, who are now ages two and three.
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