I always envied your pictures on Instagram and Facebook: they were windows into another airbrushed, glamorous life. You were running marathons, speaking at conferences and hoisting glasses with tables full of friends. You posed in leather on your Vespa, looking amazing, with your beautiful wife smiling and holding onto your waist.
And now, you’re posting status updates at 4 a.m. as you walk your brand-new stroller back and forth in your living room, hoping the baby will fall asleep for more than 10 minutes and wondering what the hell hit you.
Welcome, friend. This Is Parenting.
Actually, it’s only partially parenting. Where you are now is more like a pleasant variant of post-traumatic stress syndrome. You have a new small being in your house. He’s cute. He also has no sense of when it’s day and when it’s night, or really anything at all. And right now, you actually probably feel a lot like him: dazed and bewildered.
It’s only compounded by the endless stream of people voicing their opinions and giving you unsolicited advice about everything under the sun. Ignore their advice, please…but take these ideas in the spirit in which they are given.
1. Stop And Smell the Spit-Up.
No, not literally (ew). But take the time to stop in every 24-hour period–let’s not get fixated on those antiquated labels of “night” and “day”–to stop and look around. This is your new little person. You made him. He relies utterly on you to take care of him. He is loud and demanding. Inexplicably, he takes millions of years to burp.
People will tell you that, even though it doesn’t feel that way at 2 a.m., or 2:06 a.m., or 2:34 a.m., this time goes “so fast.”
Well, I’m here to tell you that that is right up there with “the earth is flat” as one of the biggest lies ever, ever told.
When you’re up all night with a newborn, time drags by like a drunk turtle with a limp. You may have noticed that all the people who say the time goes by fast are people who are looking BACK on that newborn baby time.
So I’m not going to tell you that the time goes fast. But the time does, in fact, pass. And as your kid gets bigger, you will scarcely be able to believe that you could once hold him by balancing him on your forearm.
And all this will one day feel so far away, even to you, that you will tell someone else who just had a new baby, “Enjoy this time–it goes so fast.”
And they will secretly want to punch you in the face.
2. Take Care of The Kiddo.
You probably think I mean the baby–and I do, of course, but I also mean someone else: your wife. She’s still gorgeous in all your pictures, naturally, but if she is anything like how I was after having each one of my babies, she’s vacillating dramatically between exhaustion, disorientation, happiness and tears. Within a five-minute time frame.
These endless babycare hours are exhausting. A spouse or partner is a convenient target, as always, for frustration and crabbiness that sleep-deprivation wages on you. But that mama gave birth, which is sort of like a marathon plus a Tough Mudder plus 79 sessions of PMS rolled into one package, and just became a parent for the first time. And then she’s expected–maybe she even expects it of herself–to bounce right back to her regularly-scheduled-program emotional self.
Let her take a nap or two. Don’t snap at her because she didn’t put away the toothpaste. Be kinder than usual, even. Love her even more than usual. She deserves it and then some.
3. Be Kind to Yourself Too.
Things are going to be disorderly, chaotic and kind of screwed up around your house for a while. Possibly forever. Five kids later, I still occasionally leave the house without a diaper (what am I thinking??), because I am exhausted.
But I also make sure that every day, I take time to myself to breathe, whether it’s on a bike (ambitious) or falling asleep on the toilet (standard). “HOW do you have TIME to do THAT?” people often say to me. I make time. Period. And it’s for my own good.
Never let anyone make you feel bad for getting a sitter, or even getting a sitter so you can take a nap. Never let anyone make you feel bad for feeling as overwhelmed as you do: like I say, even as the parent of five kids, the first kid is by far the hardest.
Remember this: There is no shame in self-care. Because the better you feel, the better you can take care of the people who depend on your happiness and love.
4. You’re Going to Be OK.
You’re never going to be yourself the way you were before you guys had this kid. Ever. Sure, you’ll be back on the Vespa, or traveling to exotic destinations, at some point–but you have added a new, irreplaceable dimension to your lives by becoming parents. You have signed on for a lifetime of responsibility, trust, love and fear. It’s awesome in the literal sense of the word.
You will never be the same, and it’s OK. You’ll be you, but better.
Just maybe a little less clean.