How to Survive the First Year of Parenthood
You’ve been waiting for a long time to finally meet your little bundle of joy and then suddenly they’re here and everything is wonderful and scary. Change is hard when it’s just one thing, but a baby changes everything! From your household routines to your relationship, to your friendships, to your finances changes abound! You’re a parent now, and everything is different, how are you going to survive this?
Any time people talk about being new parents you hear the complaints, less sleep, less money, less time with your partner, less everything else. It can seem overwhelming but it is do-able. With some minor and a few major adjustments you’ll get used to your new life. It just takes a little bit of pre-planning and a whole lot of flexibility.
The money situation is tense
Between hospital bills, changing grocery needs, and everything else that comes along with a newborn money can get tight.
Take advantage of any freebies you can from the hospital, hand-me-downs from friends, or even community services. Start socking away money in an emergency fund and look into apps that earn you passive money that can be used for diapers or the occasional latte on a bad day.
Breastfeeding, if possible, is a great money saver. You will need to budget to cover the extra calories that you need, but your insurance should cover a breast pump and you can ask for bottles and sundry at your baby shower for when you’ll need to store milk.
Network with other new parents. Babies just a bit older than yours might have hand-me-downs for you to use and babies a bit younger might take some of yours. Since babies grow so fast, most hand-me-downs are still pretty new and in good condition. Thrift shops and consignment stores are great places to fill in gaps in baby’s wardrobe as well. Don’t forget you can sell your gently used baby clothes back to the consignment shop for a little money as well.
The days are long and the nights are longer
Babies are notorious for making space for themselves, both in the womb and out. They need constant attention it seems, and can’t sleep for very long in the beginning without needing to eat again. It’s enough to drive a sleep-deprived parent up the wall, but there is hope! Plan ahead to mitigate the drama. Some families take shifts, so, one will go to bed early while the other cleans up after dinner, does a few loads of laundry and entertains baby then shift change! The night owl takes from midnight to morning, making sure to comfort and feed, change and cuddle so that the other partner can get a few hours of sleep, this is a great time to get caught up on laundry. Of course, if one parent is nursing this whole shift work gets a little hairy. What one family did was the non-nursing parent would take the second shift and made sure to change and cuddle the baby during that time, so mama could go straight back to sleep after feeding.
Even if your family can’t handle taking shifts, perhaps some designated napping times. They say that you should sleep when the baby sleeps but what if your baby never sleeps? It’s time to make a game plan so that everyone is only a “little bit” sleep deprived.
It takes a village and a heap of grace
Early on you’ll probably get offers from relatives to come to hold the baby while you shower or nap and you might be tempted to decline, do not. Nobody expects your house to be perfect and if they do, it’s best they get over it. You’ll need that help in the early days more than you realize and you don’t want to burn bridges because eventually you’ll need a date night and it’s easier to get a babysitter if they already know your child.
It’s great to have help from family and friends who will bring by dinners, watch the baby while you navigate your first couple of postpartum showers and be supportive enough to change a few of those first week’s diapers, but beware of unsolicited advice. Everyone will have an opinion on everything you are doing or not doing with your baby. They bring in their assumptions from when they had a baby, when they were younger, what they were taught and some of it might be actually useful, but most of the time it will just come off as nitpicky, condescending or downright rude. Practice now how to shut it down without hurting feelings.
What worked when your partner was a baby may or may not work for your little one. Every baby is different and science has moved on a lot since your parents had their children. Remember that parenting choices are close to everyone’s hearts so try not to be dismissive, but keep in mind that this is your baby and those boundaries get set early on.
Finding balance in this new world
It can be tempting to spend 24 hours a day 7 days a week focused completely on your new baby, but it can also backfire. The first month or so you may not have the time, energy, or desire to venture out which is normal, don’t forget to keep in touch with your life before baby. Schedule a movie date with a friend after your 6-week check-up. Take in a brunch date with your partner to celebrate. Make sure you’re taking time for you, and that your partner is as well. The stress of so many changes at once can throw anyone for a loop, so don’t forget to engage in some self-care. It’ll be easier if you make a game plan now and have an idea of how that will go down, but remember that a baby’s greatest gift is surprises so try to be as flexible as possible. Set reasonable expectations, and don’t sweat it if you need to change plans.