Newborn? When does it get easier?!
Parenting is never ‘easy’…but when does it get easier?
Expect advice and opinions…lots of them!
Since having my first child I’ve been given a lot of advice…mostly unwanted! It’s really tempting to follow that advice when your handed your new baby and suddenly realise that you don’t actually have a clue what you’re doing.
Taking YOUR newborn home for the first time is both terrifying and amazing at the same time. However prepared the pre-baby you thought you were…you’re now wondering what on earth you’ve let yourself in for! (I was anyway!)
New parents are extremely vulnerable…they’re tired, over-whelmed and often feel an immense pressure to ‘get it right’.
It’s easy to begin parenting in a way that goes against your instincts or beliefs simply because your afraid you’ll get it wrong. Parents want so desperately to ‘get it right’ that we’ll often try anything and listen to whoever shouts the loudest.
Leave him to cry or he’ll never fall asleep on his own…
He’ll never go in the stroller if you don’t force him now…
He’s ok (while holding my screaming baby) he’ll never be independent if you don’t make him go to other people…
These comments may seem harmless…possibly even helpful. But, at the root, you are being advised to ignore your child’s voice…your child’s needs.
My least favourite piece of wisdom that’s imparted on new parents has to be…
“It gets worse…you wait until he’s (insert random age here!)
I have to admit, it terrified me the first few times I heard it. How could it get any harder than two hours sleep a night, projectile poop, constant feeding, going to the loo while holding a baby, eating dinner while holding a baby…all while your still recovering from actual labour!
When my first-born was a month old I was told “Ahh, I wish they stayed little…you wait until he’s older”
At 15 months, I was told…”you wait until he’s two”.
At two…it was “you wait until he’s three”.
At three “you wait until he’s a teenager”.
What!? Who keeps moving the goal posts!? When does it get easier!?
Does it really just keep getting worse and worse until you finally wave them off to Uni?!
I don’t want that kind of relationship with my children.
Accept that your life is different now
The more I heard the words ‘you wait until…’, the more I came to realise that what most people were actually trying to say was…being a parent is hard-work. It’s hard when they’re 6 months, 4 years, 11 years, 15 years, 18 years and probably even 37 years.
As parents we will never be responsible for nobody but ourselves again. We will never be totally ‘care-free’ and able to kick back and relax without giving a second thought to anyone else ever again. There will always be someone who needs taking care of or something that needs to be done.
That was part of the deal when we signed up to bringing a tiny human into the world.
It’s a lot to get used to. It’s actually pretty daunting! It’s also pretty exciting!
Make small changes
A tiny newborn baby is capable of bringing about massive changes in a parent’s life. Changes they weren’t necessarily expecting!
Try bringing a little control back into your life by making a list of some small changes you can make everyday to make things easier for yourself…
- Starting every morning with your favourite drink.
- Taking a walk with baby in carrier or stroller.
- Resting/ exercising/ watching tv/ reading while baby sleeps (i.e. not housework).
- If you breastfeed then consider co-sleeping! (Read this US/ UK if you’re in doubt!)
- Joing a group – you’ll either love them or hate them. Try one. You have nothing to loose…you may even manage to drink a warm cup of coffee!
- Finding some online support groups (Facebook is great for this) or follow a blog that echoes your parenting style.
- Stocking up on healthy snacks (who am I kidding…chocolate!) Make sure you have quick and easy food in the house!
- Batch cooking all the meals for the week on one day. Lasagna, pies, casseroles, soups all freeze well.
Parenting as kids get older
Now, I’m about to offer you some dreaded parenting advice…this isn’t the bad kind…I promise!
You wanted to know when it gets easier…
The reality is that the way you choose to parent will have a direct impact upon the relationship you have with your child as they get older…and whether it gets easier!
We choose to practice ‘gentle parenting’ which may sound like a fancy way of saying ‘let them do whatever they want’…but it is most definitely is not that!
It takes effort…every single day!
Short term, it would be so much easier to man-handle a screaming toddler out of the park, force them into the car seat, scold them for shouting and drive home.
But we’re working on our ongoing relationship…making sure we keep a connection. A relationship built on love, mutual respect and kindness.
So, I’ll sit with my children as we work things out together. Everything takes so much longer this way…but we sit…we process…we learn.
We’ve sat for a good hour at the side of the road. Baby in carrier…toddler a raging heap on the floor. When you allow kids to ‘feel’ they feel BIG and it can sometimes even look as if you’ve ‘made it worse’…but allowing those emotions to flow is never a bad thing.
Allowing your child to feel things, to understand what they’re feeling and to know that you are there for them in their ‘worst’ moments is key to parenting ‘getting easier’.
My boys are still young and I know we have loads of developmental stages to learn from together. There will always be tantrums, tears and drama but we’ll get through it together with kindness and compassion…and we’ll come out stronger.
Tips for happy kids and a happy you!
1. Be kind…remaining calm and compassionate can be challenging (especially if you were dealt with differently as a child). But, it’s so important to try your hardest to remain respectful and to apologise if you get it wrong.
I find it helps to remind myself how utterly frustrating it must be for a little person who has very little control over anything that happens to them.
2. Listen…even children who are pre-speech are able to communicate with us…to convey their needs.
Listen to what they’re telling you and help them to communicate appropriately. Talk to them about their emotions…even if you think they’re too young to understand.
When a toddler throws dinner on the floor at the end of the meal…try saying “You’ve had enough. You need to pass your plate to Mummy when you’ve finished. Let’s clean up together and we’ll try again”.
3. Give them a way out…You’ll notice in the example above we say “we’ll try again”.
All kids are different but we’ve found this is so important with our son. If he thinks he’s ‘wronged’ someone, his behaviour will sprial until he has a tearful meltdown .
We’ve learnt to avoid this by helping him to find a way out. To “try again”.
So, if Daddy has to shout “STOP” because he pedals off too fast down the road on his bike. You can see little ones emotions are all over the place. He’s upset that Daddy raised his voice. He’s angry. Choose to lecture him now about road safety and I can guarantee a full-blown meltdown within two seconds.
Three words (four technically!) “let’s try again”…and he pedals off happily.
No-one is perfect, we all make mistakes. Use these mistakes as opportunities to teach rather than punish.
4. Be patient…sometimes you will feel like it’s just not working.
No-one is listening. Meltdowns are frequent.
But, gentle parenting takes time. It’s not the easy option (especially when people are watching). But,it’s worth it.
I felt like I was stuck on repeat telling my 2.5 year old that “we don’t hit when we’re cross…you can squeeze your hands or have a cuddle but I can’t let you hurt”.
I said this A LOT and then one day…he squeezed…he didn’t hit!
5. Don’t punish…if we’d have punished in the above scenario…would he have been so willing to change his actions?
A child who is put on the naughty step to think about what they’ve done only learns to internalise their emotions.
They’re very unlikely to sit there developing empathy with no adult guidance.
Items that might help to make things easier…
Now, I’m not going to advise you to buy some miracle product that will solve all of your problems. I spent a small fortune on all the parenting ‘must haves’ that then laid unused in an empty crib! But, I want to share a few of the items that we actually found useful with our babies…
Humidifier – it took us far to long to buy one of these. They are amazing when babies have blocked noses and are struggling to sleep at night. (Ecyluptus oil for snuffly noses and lavender for relaxation).
Baby Beanbag My first born would only sleep on me but I could lay my second born down on a beanbag for his naps. This beanbag was the only thing he’d sleep on as it gently cacooned him. But, I’m not promising anything…there’s very little you can do about ‘how’ your baby sleeps.
Nursing Pillow – not just for breastfeeding mums. These really help to support your shoulders and arms when you’re holding baby for long periods
Tula Carrier – we never went anywhere without this carrier. I quickly learnt to breastfeed in it and wore it to get anything done or leave the house!
So, I haven’t dealt with 7, 8…13, 14…year olds yet…what do I know!? I know that if you can deal with sleepless nights, 4am wake-ups, explosive nappies in a car seats and constant teething…then you can deal with anything!
Parenting babies is physically exhausting…carrying, nursing, soothing. As kids grow older try to keep a sense of humour and don’t take things too personally and it will get easier.
Kids are hard work…but they’re also totally awesome!
So for any new parents who are asking themselves “when does it get easier!?”
Let me assure you that it does get easier…every day…
Life will never be the same again…but it will get easier.
(Then you’ll start planning number 2 and start panicking about that instead!)
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