John and I survived a whole year of parenthood! How in the world did we do it? I’ll tell you one thing, it was a lot harder than we expected. Still, we made it! In fact, we think we might even survive several more years of this parenting thing. Maybe just until the teen years; then we’re bailing…
But all kidding aside, here are 5 reasons why we survived our first year of parenting:
We fulfilled our pre-baby bucket list.
John and I were married 5 years before we felt ready to have a baby. During that time, we strengthened our relationship and grew as a married couple. We made sure we did the practical things like ensure job security, sock away money in our savings, and become homeowners. But best of all, we LIVED! We traveled visiting wonderful places like Alaska, Hawaii, Italy, and Greece. We stayed out late with friends. We enjoyed quiet romantic dinners. We danced like no one was watching. We went snorkeling, biking, took helicopters rides, walked on a volcano, and even hitched a ride on a donkey. We did everything we wanted to do, whenever we wanted to do it, and having those fantastic moments, left us with no regrets when we were ready to make a baby the new priority in our life.
We were a team.
We faced parenting as team from the very start. I don’t think either of us would have it any other way. It took two to make our adorable little bundle and it would take two to keep her alive! I would breastfeed and John would change poopy diapers. I would pump and he would fill bottles. I would cook and he would clean up. We were up together during night feedings too (Who could sleep with that screaming?), again I would feed and he would change our little poop machine. Chores aside, I just really appreciated having a partner who could laugh with me and tell me, “Yes, that really did just happen…Poop really DID just go flying across the room.” I don’t think either of us could have done it alone!
As much as we love, love, love to be home with our daughter, we did not let ourselves become parental house hermits. We took time away from the baby both individually and as a couple. I think that made us better parents. If a family member offered to babysit, we said, “Yes!” We went on a couple of overnight getaways and enjoyed some local day trips. We spent time with friends and enjoyed date nights. We never escaped for long or shirked our responsibilities as parents, but spending some time away gave us the boost we needed to survive the difficult parts of parenthood.
We didn’t lose ourselves.
When becoming parents, we simply refused to put our own hobbies and interests aside as we raised our child. I’m not going to lie, for those crazy first few newborn months, there was only one focus and that was our daughter. But as she grew and changed, and we got better at our new roles, we made time to do what we loved. John took time to play music and take drum lessons. He went to Rutger’s football games and cheered for his nephew. He worked on the house, landscaping our property and planting a family garden. I made time to write in a journal and read, I got in touch with my crafty side again making tutus, headbands, and hairclips, and I tried new recipes and experimented in the kitchen. We stayed true to the things that made us the interesting people we are, and we did it without sacrificing our quality of parenting.
We set some ground rules.
Before becoming parents and also in the first few weeks, we set some ground rules that helped us not only survive as parents but I think it also prevented us from killing each other and maybe a family member or two. Here are just a few we agreed upon:
Rule Number 1: No one visits without calling first. I did not want to be caught off guard, sleep-deprived, struggling to breastfeed, and delirious, by a house full of Italians raiding the kitchen for espresso and biscotti and preying on the cheeks of my newborn.
Rule Number 2: Anything negative said at an ungodly hour of the night, was due to extreme irritability as a result of sleep deprivation, and should not be taken seriously, held as a grudge, and should be found forgivable in the morning.
Rule Number 3: Any food, left in the kitchen near the bottle warmer, would be considered fair game after midnight and terms like you snooze you lose, finder’s keepers, na na nah na na, and dibs can be used teasingly only during the time it takes for the warmer to count down.
But seriously, setting ground rules, really did help us navigate our first experience as parents. It also gave us an opportunity to discuss our parenting views and when necessary find a compromise.
These 5 reasons are what helped us survive the first year of parenting! It wasn’t easy, but we are so glad we made it. Now we’re onto phase two, parenting a toddler, and I’m sure there’s going to be a lot more fun in store.
How did you survive your new role as a parent? What worked for you? What are some reasons you succeeded?