Dear New Parent,
As you await the arrival of your growing baby, I know you often ask seasoned parents you know for advice. And it seems that more often than not, instead of taking you seriously, we offer you comical warnings of what to savor now, like going out to eat without a time limit or peeing by yourself without an audience.
And while that stuff IS true, none of that offers you the essence of what you’re getting ready to experience. None of that is what I think you’re really asking us about. And none of that is even close to what I have really learned.
What You Really Ought to Know About Parenting
So, from a mom who takes your pleas for insight seriously, here is what I want you to know about parenthood:
I want you to know that from the moment your child is placed in your arms, you will be filled with a love so strong that you may feel unsure how to handle it. And in that moment, you may find yourself scared because you feel like you are falling. And you are. Falling madly in love, that is. But don’t let the fall scare you. Just embrace it.
Because that scary and immense love you feel is what will build up your strength for the journey ahead. A journey where there is no looking back. Only forward. Or down at your baby’s face. And I guarantee. You won’t want to turn away. So don’t. Just stare. They change by the day. EVERYTHING else can wait.
I want you to know that everyone will be quick to offer you advice. And while making friends with other parents is probably one of the smartest things you will ever do, remember that with your own baby, you get to do what works for YOU. Take advice when you want it. And never feel bad when you don’t. Mother knows best—the end.
I want you to know that you will suddenly find the meaning of selflessness. You will notice that your needs just dropped a wrung on the ladder. Making yourself happy becomes intertwined with making your child happy. Anything they need from you: your touch, your warmth, your time, your sleep. Your heart. You’ll give it. And give. It’s natural.
There will be laughter and there will be tears.
I want you to know that you will experience joy you’ve never imagined. Joy when you watch them learn new things. Simple little things that, to the average person, would not have meaning. Watching them learn to speak, feed themselves, ride a bike, hit a ball, or play some imaginary game you once played as a child will make you well up with a sense of happiness where you feel like you might burst. And you might. So smile to prevent from bursting.
What I want you to know is that you’re going to lose control. You will lose control of being able to manage your days. Your moods, whims, and needs will no longer dictate your day. Somebody else’s moods and whims will, which means that some days, you will feel like you’re riding a bull, and everything will feel totally out of your control. And at that moment, hang on tight. And enjoy the ride. It will not last forever.
What I want you to know is that you will feel brave. Braver than you ever imagined. The thought of something hurting them. A car hitting them. An illness sweeping over them. You will feel the strength to step into the street and push a car away. With no thought as to your pain. Only the prevention of pain for them. You are mama or papa bear. And you will roar.
There will be good days and bad days. And that’s okay.
What I want you to know is that you will feel pushed. You will be pushed beyond anything you ever thought to expect. You will come home from work exhausted and stressed. And that will be the night your child has one meltdown after another meltdown after another. And you will feel at your wit’s end. But somewhere deep inside you, I promise, you will find the strength to pull through in that moment. You will sing a song or read a book. And you will end that night smiling. You will amaze yourself that you did it. Then you will crash—possibly next to them in bed.
I want you to know that you’re going to think your child is the cutest. You’re going to think they are the smartest. You’re going to think they are capable of anything. And they are. Don’t stop believing that. Be their biggest fan. Their encourager. In life, they will be humbled. Others will tell them they aren’t great. So they need a #1 fan. Be it. And cheer as loud as you can.
What I want you to know is that you will mess up. You will. You won’t always talk nicely or always handle tense situations in the way you had planned. And you might say some things you regret. And when you do mess up, there is no need to sit and dwell. Grab them, look them in the eyes, sincerely apologize, and then move on with your day. They will forgive you just like you forgive them.
I want you to know that there will be times when you feel at a complete loss. There will be times when they are in a phase that isn’t easy. You will have tried every solution you know to try. And you will still feel like nothing is working. The only thing you need to know in that moment is that they will outgrow it at some point. But until they do, remember. This, too, shall pass.
It’s not easy being a new parent. But it’s worth it.
I want you to know that you will feel loved, unlike anything you could imagine. You will feel like a celebrity in your own home. As mom and as dad, their need and dependence on you are constant. You are the one that meets their needs and they trust you. And that trust is beautiful. And tiring sometimes. So when you are tired, look at their face and remember how privileged you are to hold their trust.
I want you to know that you will find strength you never knew you had. When you find yourself sick with the flu, laying on the floor of your bathroom at 1 a.m. puking your guts out, and you hear a little voice yell out, “Help, I’m sick,” you will notice that somehow beyond everything you knew was in you, you will be able to get up off that floor, find a bucket and go hold their hair as they puke. Then, you will finish puking once you get them back in bed.
I want you to know that you will not love every minute of parenthood. You will not. And that does not make you a bad mom or dad. That makes you human. So, in those moments when you aren’t enjoying yourself, know you aren’t alone. And to get the sweet, the sour moments must also come along. So, pucker up and laugh. Laugh every moment you can.
But above all things, what I want you to know is this. You got this. And you will do great. And because your child has you as their parent, your child will be GREAT one day, too.