I googled everything from the moment I suspected I might be pregnant. There were the typical searches for signs of pregnancy, then how to find relief from symptoms, then baby shower ideas, how to get enough protein, maternity dresses, how to breathe during labor, and 85 ways to pack the diaper bag. You name it, I searched it.
What I thought I needed as a new mom was different than what I expected.
I was pretty surprised by the things that I became curious about once I actually gave birth to my child. Whether or not ‘baby detergent could cause irritation if it’s scented’ was something I looked into after observing my child’s skin sensitivity. I was anxious to find simple tips for how to handle those first trying months of motherhood. I’d made it through my pregnancy but I was filled with questions (freezer meals anyone?). Here are ten tips to help you navigate this wild, crazy, beautiful season.
1. Crying doesn’t (necessarily) equal an emergency
It’s like mom-code–if you hear your child crying, drop everything and save them! By everything, I mean everything. Drop dishes, groceries, or better yet hop out of the shower and slide across the floor.
Mama Bear to the rescue.
I can’t count how many times I’ve checked on our baby with one eye open. Not for any reason other than that I was covered in soap and shampoo. I was torn between checking on him and experiencing that burning sensation in my eye for the next thirty minutes. I felt taking care of him meant keeping an ear out for him and when I heard him wake from his nap, shower time was over.
I’ll never forget the first time I decided to finish my shower, no matter what. Before this point when I checked on him he’d be sad because I was gone so I would comfort him and he’d begin happily babbling away. But he’d never be in any danger. When I stayed in the shower for the first time, his echoing cries hurt my heart.
It was a much bigger internal debate then I expected.
When I was done with the shower, he was where I’d left him. Surprise, surprise!
No scars, bruising, or general discomfort aside from perhaps a dirty diaper or a desire for that post-nap feeding.
It was tough, but I realized that my reaction to his crying said more about me than it did about him. I reflected on all the times I’d nearly fallen onto my back trying to rush into a situation that would’ve been the same 5 minutes later once I’d dried off, finished the dishes, or whatever I was doing.
From one mama who watches her child like a hawk to another, as long as you’ve left them in a safe place, it’s okay for you to finish your activity and then go address their needs. You’re no good to anyone if you injure yourself or forget about your own needs altogether.
2. A Little Dirt won’t hurt
I remember being at a doctor’s appointment and hearing the question, “how sterilized is your home?” They followed this up with saying it’s good not to go too crazy with sterilizing the home because it makes it more difficult to build the child’s immune system. Obviously this doesn’t mean that dirty dishes are helping your child.
But they suggested allowing the child to play outside and get their hands dirty, interact with other people, and not be so obsessed with protection that their body doesn’t begin to build antibodies. Isn’t it interesting the immune system is actually most protected due to natural exposure to pathogens through which it can build up a response, than it is within the body of an overly sheltered child that barely sees the light of day?
Our family loves taking walks and on our walk one day, I began allowing my son to walk next to me. He stopped, squealed, and made his way over to rocks. His eyes got really big and he reached his little fingers toward one, got a good grasp, and brought it -you guessed it- right into his little mouth. No, I didn’t faint, but I was pretty close! I explained to him that we don’t eat off the floor and we don’t eat rocks. He threw that one down and picked up another one. I held my breath fighting to restrain myself from running home to give him a bath. He looked at the rock and walked away with it, holding on tight. He never put it in his mouth.
He had such an obvious pride over his new possession. He joyfully held it throughout all of our interactions with other people and everywhere we went. When he finally laid down, it was only in a deep sleep that his grasp loosened on the rock.
He made a new inanimate friend and I learned another valuable lesson. Kids need and deserve the freedom to explore their surroundings.
Obviously you are there to make sure that they remain safe. It’s important in our efforts to teach and protect that we don’t stifle their imagination or desire to explore. Some parents can be so full of nerves that when their child is able to explore, they won’t because they’ve taken on the fear and caution of their mom or dad.
3. Hand-me-downs are a gift from heaven
I was obsessed with this dream in my mind. The dream was a vision of what my child’s life would be like from birth. I just knew we’d purchase all of his clothes, shoes, and accessories for every season of the year.
I felt the same way about my maternity clothes. My plan was to buy items that would double as both maternity clothes and regular clothes so that I would not have a closet full of useless items after giving birth.
People began buying items for the baby and donating their maternity clothing to me. Then they began donating their children’s old clothing to our baby. Literally, his closet is full of clothes up to 24 months and beyond. (He is 1 now.) He doesn’t need any more clothes until he turns 2 or 3. Some of the clothes still have tags on them from other parents who purchased so many items.
Here’s the truth–whether or not you accept gifts, you’ll spend a lot of money taking care of your child. Sometimes we deem ourselves as responsible if we cover all of the costs on our own. We are adults, we work, why not? I never understood the concept of a village. I figured unless we fell upon hard times, we didn’t need “a hand out.”
Whether you choose to accept donations from family or friends, you will cover your child’s education, daycare, shoes, hair cuts, medical expenses, diapers, potty training, toys, meals, vacations, and pretty much meet their needs for the rest of your life. Even when they’re adults, there will still be things they’ll depend on you for. I say this to say, you can turn your nose up when people offer help. It’s fine to take care of your own family!
But you are no less the main provider if you do decide to accept help. There will be plenty of opportunities where you’ll foot the bill all on your own so you may as well accept the help!
I don’t need to buy clothes for 3 years?? Sign me up!
4. Give yourself grace
You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to do your best!
I used to want to reach the ultimate level of happiness and never come down.
I would make elaborate dinners that never burned, my hair would always be photoshoot ready, everything about me would be exemplary, and I wouldn’t need to remain a student of life. I’d get to the point where what I’ve learned is enough to carry me through every season I had yet to face.
I learned the hard way that you can apply what you’ve learned to new seasons, but it’s the season itself that teaches you how to get through it. I could study every marriage book and attend every conference but it will still be the process of marriage itself that is my greatest and most consistent teacher. Read more on this here.
5. Don’t let your child overheat
Whether you are inside or outside, this is important. In every photo of my child, he is wrapped in blankets. Even in the middle of the summer. The poor kid was pretty much always sweating.
Well it’s commonly believed that babies have trouble maintaining their own body temperature. Their temperature can easily drop so it’s recommended that they remain in clothing and covered often.
What I learned is that each person has their own normal body temperature range. For some it’s 98 degrees fahrenheit, for others it’s 94 degrees, and it may be higher or lower than either of these for different people. I measured my child’s temperature over the course of a few hours, noticed his temperature remained more or less the same, and I made the decision to dress him appropriately for the weather but not to overdo it. This decision came under scrutiny but I didn’t see the point in having him on the verge of heat-stroke just because of old fashioned child care rules.
I learned an important lesson recently about the child’s risk of overheating outside. On walks, I used to cover the car seat with a receiving blanket to shield my child from the sun. I read that this can create a furnace-like level of heat for the baby and put them at severe rick of overheating. Though they are shielded from the sun, the heat is still making it’s way through and there’s no way for the air to escape. Be sure to be cognizant of the temperature in the car seat, air the car out (preferably with the air conditioner) before putting the child in the car seat, and take intentional measures (breastfeeding/bottle feeding more often when it’s hot out). If you’re thirsty, your child is likely thirsty too!
6. Pull out or plan for what you need before you need it
We were blindsided by the winter…and the heat! I felt like we just looked up one day, it was snowing, and our child only owned short sleeve onesies and shirts that he was quickly growing out of.
While it’s still warm pull together your child’s current winter clothes for their age as well as a few larger items to account for their growth spurts.
While it’s still cold, pull together your child’s current spring clothes for their age as well as a few larger items to account for their growth spurts.
7. Get your child’s feet measured every 2 months
Stuffing them in shoes that are too big may mean they can fall and practically roll down a hill. Not that I know this from experience.
Okay, this happened with my family recently. And it was heart breaking. My poor boy didn’t know what hit him and I watched the whole thing happen in slow motion.
As you get their feet measured, you may find that a few visits have the same size result as the visit before. This is okay. It’s better to check and not need new shoes than it is to forget to check. Especially while your baby is too young to effectively articulate that their foot is uncomfortable in any particular shoe-it’s up to you to figure it out!
8. Don’t leave yourself behind mama!
I’ve heard of this happening, I’ve seen it, and I’ve done it myself. Moms often put themselves last.
Why? Because we are awesome, willing to do whatever it takes, willing to sacrifice, ready to fight for what we believe in, and more than likely our own needs barely come up on our to-do lists.
Between the kids’ needs, household needs, work, spouse’s needs, family needs, etc. the last thing on your mind is how badly you need to get your nails or hair done. I get it. I’ve been there. Frankly, it’s a daily process for me to figure out how to keep up with myself!
At the end of the day, don’t forget that before you were a wife, mom, friend, sister, employee, boss etc., you were a woman first! Take care of yourself, make sure you’re eating right, get enough rest, and take time to spend time with God. Take the time to get a healthy understanding of who you are, how you’re doing, and what’s on your own mind!
9. Community is everything – but take your time
Pregnancy is not just an exciting time for you. Family, friends, and loved ones may feel they are on this wild journey with you. They can’t wait to help, give advice, share stories, serve you, and cuddle your baby!
It can be incredibly helpful to allow others to serve you!
I can also be draining if you aren’t ready for it.
If you need alone time, don’t feel guilty about voicing that. If you disagree with their advice, don’t feel like you’re a bad parent for not doing it their way. If they want to raise their child a certain way, that’s their life to live. Don’t apologize for having different beliefs, goals, or a different vision.
Remember people give advice from the perspective of their own experience. Sometimes that’s helpful because you can avoid facing certain hurdles. Sometimes it can feel smothering if they have a ‘my way or the highway’ approach to giving advice.
I’ve encountered conversations that took a load off my shoulders. I’ve encountered other that didn’t make me feel like it was a safe place to share my perspectives. I’ve had to use wisdom, discernment, prayer, and guard my heart unapologetically.
It’s what I would recommend to anyone reading this!
10. Your husband should not be left behind
What’s the point of a happy two year old and divorce papers?
Before you all got to this point in your life, there he was. It was all about the two of you falling in love, dating, and dreaming together. Sure, a family may have been part of the vision but you were busy laying the foundation for a beautiful future together.
Once your children are independent and ready to go out into the world, you don’t want it to be the case that you’d thrown every bit of energy into raising your kids that you don’t know your husband any more. There is an art to finding a balance between being a super mom and a super companion to him as well.
Be intentional about continuing to build your relationship and friendship. Be intentional about keeping up with how his day went, what’s on his heart, how you can serve one another. Be intentional about doing what matters to him and articulating what matters to you. Don’t grow weary in well-doing because in due time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up. (Gal 6:9)
You don’t reach your 50 year anniversary by accident. You don’t reach it because you cared about one another. You don’t reach it because you live together. You don’t reach it because of anything other than diligent work done each day by both of you to place the other person’s needs above your own. Be as intentional about them as you are to googling the best hat to buy for your baby’s first time in the pool.
Here is a shareable image below!