13 Things I've Learnt Since Becoming a Mother
Recently, my daughter turned one and like many parents I’m sure, I’ve been feeling all of the feels. I keep staring at her in complete and utter wonderment, how can this little human be entirely responsible for the most significant year of my life?
Sunny has taught me more about myself than I could ever have imagined possible. I am stronger and more resilient. I am calmer. More patient. She has put so many things into perspective and she motivates me to do great things.
I am beyond proud of how she has grown this past year. She has gone from a fully dependent little love bug to a small human with a big personality. She is confident, brave and clever. She is sassy, friendly, and incredibly loveable—she waves to every single person (animal, plant, car, pram) we pass on the street. She is happy and healthy—and in the true balance of things, there is actually nothing more important.
On the good days, life couldn’t be sweeter. But there have certainly been moments of isolation, desperation, and frustration as well. Parenthood is one hell of a ride. It has been both the fastest and longest year of my life and I sit here reflecting on this wonderful, challenging, love-filled year and write this with the simple goal of sharing my learnings from my first year as a parent.
Look after your relationship
Seeing my husband as a father has made me fall even deeper in love with him. He is patient, gentle, mindful, helpful, selfless, and loving. He is everything I imagined he would be, times one million. However, first and foremost he is my husband so while our focus has been on our daughter this year, we tried to spend some one on one time together too. And when we couldn’t manage that, we kept our promise of always communicating with one another.
You will be tested in your first year as a parent, you will need to do things you’ve never done before, you will be challenged, you will be tired—and it’s easy to take those high level emotions out on the person you love the most. If you do one thing, make sure you communicate. Let your partner know how you’re feeling and encourage him or her to do the same. Be kind to one another and forgive one another. Happy couples have a positive effect on their children so by looking after your relationship, you’re also looking out for your child.
Take care of yourself
You will rarely have enough time to do everything life demands of you, but if you can do one thing, try to be as healthy as possible. Eating well and exercising will give you energy and trust me, you will need as much as you can get. Your body will take a battering—schedule regular check-ups with your doctor or preferred health practitioners. My osteopath and kinesiologist were on speed dial pre and post birth and I still see them both one year on because I can’t be the best mum or wife if I’m not the best me. Plus, make sure you book regular personal maintenance—for me that’s eyebrows and visits to the hair salon. Choose something that makes you feel good and gives you at least an hour to yourself.
Positivity is everything
It’s unfathomable to imagine how much is possible on so little sleep. I have always been a nine-hour a night sleeper so if you’d told me my bundle of joy would wake every two to three hours for eight entire months, I would have seriously questioned how I would survive, let alone how I would keep her alive. And then suddenly, you realise that you have. If I have learnt one thing this year, it’s that your attitude is your strongest asset. Go for a walk, get some fresh air, and see the good in every situation. Positivity and gratitude can move mountains.
Working together makes for a peaceful home
Teamwork has taken on new meaning since becoming parents. Josh cooks and I clean. He baths Sunny and I put her to bed. He surfs on Saturday mornings and I go to F45 twice a week. On top of the regular household demands, Josh is as hands on with Sunny as I am. We acknowledge that things are a little different and a lot more demanding, but we’re in it together. I trust him. I respect him, I admire him, and I am constantly learning from him. As we said in our wedding vows: “If you’ve got me, I promise that I’ve got us.”
Don’t knock it until you try it
Doing anything with a baby is more difficult than it was before, but nothing is impossible. You can still go out for dinner, spend weekends away, travel overseas, have long lunches, and spend the day at the beach—there will just be certain things you need to tweak a little. Things take more planning, but it’s all totally doable, the only thing stopping you is you. Don’t decide it’s too hard until you try it. What’s the worst that could happen?
The juggle is real
When you’re a parent, organisation is everything. I launched my own consultancy when Sunny was four months old. It was the perfect solution to being at home with my baby whilst continuing to kick career goals, and I am lucky enough to work with clients who truly understand the work/mum juggle. But it’s hard. Like, really hard. Imagine your busiest day at work, then times that by 100. Make lists. Schedule things into your calendar. Stick reminders on the fridge. Communicate with the rest of your household. Recognising the juggle is half the battle won. And there is a silver lining, when you’re stretched to your limits, you start to identify the unnecessary and everything you do in a day is with intent. There’s no time for any crap so it simply ceases to exist.
Nesting is a real thing
In the weeks leading up to my daughter’s arrival, my maternal instincts went into overdrive. I became a bit of a homebody when I was a social butterfly before, and there wasn’t a single cupboard in our home left unturned. I rearranged our drawers, colour coded our wardrobe, cleaned the bathroom within an inch of its life, bought new linen, decorated, then redecorated, then rearranged the baby’s room (at least five times), and vaccummed daily. I’ll be honest, a year on and the nesting hasn’t stopped. My husband has come home to far too many “I had to have it” pieces this year, from kitchen canisters to plants to bed linen, through to our Hampton Sofa from Lounge Lovers, while I continue my quest to create a space we love to call home.
Comparison will kill you
It doesn’t matter what anyone else’s baby is doing, your baby is an individual and he or she will do things when they are ready. With everyone from your mother to the local barista to #mumlife Instagrammer’s giving you their opinion and advice, it’s easy to get hung up on what your baby is eating, how much they’re sleeping, whether they’re sitting/crawling/standing/walking, and questioning why it’s different to someone else’s. Just remember, every single baby is different. They are unique. They are their own person and there is no ‘rule book’ for what happens and when. At the end of the day, absolutely no one is an expert on parenting (despite what they may say) so keep doing the amazing job you’re doing and listen to your instincts, always.
Babies don’t need as much as you think they do
Keep it simple. You can buy all the beautiful, artisan baby toys in the world but I can guarantee, your baby will be happy with a spoon and a pot. There are a gazillion gadgets and gizmos you could buy, but do you really need them? I’ve said it before, but I truly believe the one thing your baby needs in their first year is your time.
Everyone is different in their approach, but I believe whether you’re a routine mum or a go-with-the-flow kind of gal, you need to be open to change. Don’t get too fixed on any one thing, whether it’s sleep, milk, food, or anything else, because babies change a lot in their first year and what worked last week may not work again this week. Parenthood is constantly evolving and it’s a lot less stressful if you’re not hung up on how things should be.
Lead by example
Babies are sponges—they only know what you show them. It amazes me how quickly Sunny learns new things—she watches and listens to every single thing I do. And this in turn has made me more mindful. If I want her to be a kind, considerate, empathetic human, then I need to practice what I preach and ensure I’m leading by example.
Your friendships will change
I was recently chatting to a clever and inspiring friend of mine (and fellow first time mama), about the change in friendships once you’re parents. She hit the nail on the head when she said, “no matter how wonderful they are, childless friends will carry on with their childless lives in complete and utter ignorance as to how life feels for you now.” That’s of no fault of theirs it’s just that it is impossible to know the magnitude of parenthood until you have experienced it. Coordinating schedules becomes difficult and often, childless friends will simply put it into the too-hard basket. Know that there will come a time when this changes for them, and be the friend you know they’ll need and offer to cook them dinner, clean their house, or mind their baby so they can take an hour to themselves.
Never stop believing in yourself. You’re doing a great job.