The truth is there is no perfect way! My best advice is to honor your limits, lean into your story, avoid comparison, and just do your best to love your people well.
There is no greater miracle in this world than what occurs when you become a parent! Adding a person to your home is magic and chaos mixed together in the most beautiful of ways. Not much can prepare you for the massive heart-expanding change of parenthood, but trusting some of the hard-earned advice of parents that have gone before you can help.
Finding a tribe to support you in this new season can be essential to your ability to thrive as a new family. As you begin this journey, strategically reach out to find parents in the same stage of life that you can trust and commiserate with! These people will become your people through all the seasons yet to come.
Soak in all the firsts together. Your home is a sacred place, and these new experiences are sacred moments that you will hold as treasures in your heart for your lifetime. The old saying that the days are long but the years are short is so true when it comes to parenthood. Those early days can feel endless, but the years somehow fly by! While we can't stop time from slipping away, we can do our best to be intentional with the space that our family calls home. This starts with year one and continues to grow as your family grows! Here are a few ways to live with intentionality during your first year as a new parent:
1. Trust Your Instincts
I vividly remember coming home from the hospital with our oldest son and having to go to the bathroom. I was paralyzed because I felt I couldn't leave this baby in the other room, but I wasn't sure if it was okay to bring him to the restroom with me. It was an overwhelming moment of realization that I had to take care of this precious, tiny human for the rest of my life without the help of a nurse!
Babies do not come with a manual, and every one of them is different! Some nurse or take bottles easily. Some sleep well, while others take years to develop good sleeping habits (to their parents' horror). Some babies are really fussy, and others are easygoing. One thing we know for sure: God did not make a mistake when he made you their parent! This is true however you become a parent - God puts families together!
I found out quickly that I had a host of mom instincts that would lead me through my first year of motherhood. I also made lots of new friends that were parents that my husband and I learned from, I talked to my mom, and I, being more of a researcher, read books. There were also a lot of prayers that helped me through the scary or exhausting seasons. God has and will equip you with the instinct and people to help you better navigate the sleepless parts. He will see you through this great adventure he has entrusted you with!
2. Make Space for Rest
Adding a human to your family is exhausting! Babies take 24/7 care, and on top of that, adjusting to becoming a parent is an overwhelming task. The best thing you can do for your new family is to make space for rest. Take as much time off as possible from work, don't overcommit by adding extra projects to your plate, and be cautious about overscheduling your nights and weekends.
This is not just so you can physically rest (which is super important), but it allows you a chance to emotionally catch up with all that is going on in your little home. It gives you time to enjoy being a new parent, and potentially the most important thing is that it will provide you and your partner space to be together as a family.
I did not take this advice when I became a new mom. My husband and I were those crazy people out and about with our new baby days after I got home from the hospital. Thankfully we were both teachers, and my son came conveniently at the start of summer break, so we had several weeks together at home. But after that, we dove back into all the things. I worked and was in school to get my teaching license, we both were involved in church, and we spent the same amount of time at the gym and socializing. I remember getting to my son's first birthday completely exhausted and feeling really disconnected from my spouse. I was also pregnant again!
It took a long time for us to realize our lives needed to slow down (at least a little) to accommodate these precious people we were adding to our family. Our marriage suffered because we powered through not seeing that new limits to how we spent our time as parents were really necessary, and I don't think we are alone in making this mistake. It's not to say you can't keep doing what you love as a parent, but love protects! Protecting the time required to invest in your family and personal well-being is a meaningful way to show each other love.
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3. Lean on Your Partner
Parenting can be all-consuming (and this seldom changes, except maybe once they move out). The first year you are so smitten and so tired it can be hard to have eyes for anything other than your precious little one. Yet, a whole year without investing in your marriage can be devastating!
While babies don't keep, and there is a sense that you want to soak in all the baby snuggles you can, the fact is you will be their parent for the rest of your life. Striving to find each other in this all-consuming season is crucial because it is a skill your marriage will need to survive the rest of your parenting years together. My kids are still all-consuming (often more so than when they were babies), so for me to be able to talk to my husband during the week, I have to be intentional, or all waking hours will get sucked up by work and kids.
Another important piece to the mix is to respect each other's parenting styles. Most dads are more comfortable with babies crying, are more adventurous, and approach parenting differently than moms do. While moms come with so many unique and fierce instincts, we have to make space for our spouses to be involved in caring for our little ones. Let dad give the baby a bottle in the night so you can get some extra hours of sleep, or let them try to soothe your tired infant their way. Dad's respect the intense sense of duty their wives feel when it comes to their children. Work together to carry the new load of parenthood.
It took me almost to baby #4 to learn how to do this well. This time around, my husband changes diapers, gives baths, gives bottles, cuddles, wears, and is 100% capable of meeting the baby's needs without me telling him exactly how to do it. Guess what? Sharing night feedings with your spouse makes the whole having a baby thing so much easier on moms, and I appreciate my husband more for his help. I also am better able to enjoy having a baby because I am not a walking zombie. The bottom line is to figure out how to see and support each other in this season of change!
4. Realize There Is NO Perfect Way to Parent
Here is a truth I have learned the hard way. There is no perfect way to parent! When you bring home that new bundle of joy, a sense of duty drives you to want to find the perfect way to raise this human. This is actually a remarkable instinct because parenting is an amazing honor! But, the truth is that perfect parenting is a mirage.
I have now had babies that spent their first year in daycare while I worked full time, some I worked part-time, some I stayed home with. Some I gave birth to, some I have the honor to care for that were birthed from another mother, some I nursed for over two years, some have been given the bottle from the beginning, and some did a little of both. There have been pros and cons to each other in these parenting scenarios.
When I worked full time, I was sad to leave my son, but in many ways, the time we had at the end of the day was more precious because I knew my time was limited. I also had space to interact with others which helped my mental health. When I worked part-time, I was happy to bring in some income, but I felt I was failing at being both a mom and an employee. When I stayed home, I loved being with my kids, but I struggle (still) to stay mentally healthy and to appreciate my children as much as I should.
Nursing was beautiful but so very taxing. I am proud to have given them that gift, but bottle feeding gives freedom to not carry the whole burden of infancy on your shoulders. Also, bottles are necessary when nursing is not possible. Giving birth was a gift, and adopting feels like the highest honor and privilege I have ever been given in my life. The truth is there is no perfect way! My best advice is to honor your limits, lean into your story, avoid comparison, and just do your best to love your people well.
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Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.