As I mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts, I am surrounded by children under the age of two these days. It also means, being around frenzied, sleep-deprived adults. They’re reading books, visiting sites online, getting (sought or unsought) advice from parents in India, craving time with and away from their kid, consolidating trips to the grocery store, doctor, and Toys “R” Us, and in general waiting for this phase to be done and over with.
Even though I don’t experience the craziness of the 24/7 “demands” that newborns thrust on their parents, I hear about it enough to make it real for me. And I find myself doling out advice to my harried friends every time we talk. Most of it is stuff they’d realize themselves were they not this stressed out. Their acceptance of my counsel gives me the confidence today to share some pointers with the world at large.
So, here are some tips for (relatively) new parents from the vantage point of a person who can still see things objectively:
- You are only one person — more often than not, I have to tell my friends to stop being the supermom or superdad. You can’t possibly do the laundry, cook five meals, constantly wash dishes, do the groceries, run other errands, vacuum the house, mow the lawn, and take care of a child all in one day. And if you have full-time professional demands — aaiyyaaiyyaaii! Schedule. Prioritize. Share responsibilities. Create a to-do list for the week and stick with it.
- Don’t overthink — What will other parents say? Can I dress my little girl in blue? Should I feed him eight times a day like the neighbors suggested? You know your child best and as long as he/she is happy and healthy what’s there to worry about? Listen to your instincts and focus on what really matters.
- YOU are important, too — For your child to be happy and for you to be happy with your li’l one, you need to make sure you devote some time to your own well-being, both mental and physical. Somewhere in that to-do list, put down 15 minutes of me time every day. When the kid’s asleep in the afternoon, watch TV, flip through a magazine, do your nails, play a little Wii golf, just sit and breathe. Yes, there are dishes to clean and clothes to be folded, but if you’re running around taking care of business all the time, you’ll drive yourself crazy. 15 minutes isn’t a lot to ask for, is it? And yet, it is just enough to bring back some sanity in your life. Those dishes aren’t going anywhere.
- Every bump on the head isn’t a medical emergency — They are kids. They will fall. They will hurt themselves. And they will be either obsessed with bandaids, or pull them out. As scary as it might be when your kid starts wailing each time he/she hits himself, every injury doesn’t merit a run to the emergency room. Not even 2 percent of such incidences (in my experience with my limited sample set of friends) merit a call to the emergency nurse line. Calm down. Think back to the time you were a kid — remember all those bruises you got speeding down the gravel road on your spanking new tricycle? Yeah. Your kid will survive, too.
- This is 2010 — These kids start swiping the moment they get their hands on an iPhone. They “get” video chat. They eat only when YouTube’s on. They dance to iPod tunes. They pull out keyboard keys before they learn how to hold a pencil. They are the most photographed generation of all time. This is the world they know. This is the world you’re exposing them to. So, stop fretting about their lost “innocence.” They’re still going to be as curious about eating mud or squishing snails.
- Stop apologizing for the mess — We get it. Kids want to play with adults. They seek attention. They will bring their toys one by one for adults to partake. And they might leave them sprawled all over. They will eat and spit out whatever they don’t like. They will wipe gooey hands on our clothes because they don’t know any better. They will periodically throw up. As they grow, they will learn. For the time being, stop saying sorry all the time for the mess they create. And clean up! 🙂
- Be disciplined — This is a big one! You have to be the role model here. Start a routine and stick with it. Kids catch on fast and if they see you’re slacking, they won’t care either. Be consistent with their food, their play time, their nap time, their discipline — it’s hard (who said it was going to be easy?) but once you’ve set the rules and stuck to them, life becomes so much easier to manage.
- Be a spouse — In all the work that goes into being a parent, folks forget they have responsibilities toward each other as well. You aren’t just mummy and daddy — you’re also husband and wife. Steal a moment to hug, to kiss, to be together. Talk — and not just about the kid. Listen — and not just for updates. Kids tend to bring spouses closer together but sometimes also drive them further apart. Remember to keep working on your marriage. Nurture each other.
- Take a break — As much as you love your kid, sometimes you just need to get away. Ask friends you trust to babysit (but remember not to impose), get a nanny, call your parents/in-laws, inquire with the playgroup, ask your spouse to take over for a day. Get out of the house for a while … go to a park, the mall, the library … wherever. Come back renewed. You’ll love being smothered with hugs and sloppy kisses when you enter the house.
- Enjoy it while it lasts — When they were three months old, you wanted them to start crawling. When they started crawling, you wished they’d start walking. When they started walking, you wished they’d talk. Now that they’ve started talking, you want them to say full coherent sentences. Before you know it, they’ll be all grown up and out of your nest. Cherish this time. Live in the moment. Even if it means 40 back-to-back iterations of Ba-ba-black sheep, sing it with them. It fills their heart with joy. It teaches you life is simple and happiness easily attained.
Got other tips for relatively new parents?