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Every parent's journey, like their child, is unique. Yet, there are some common lessons that we all learn from our child. Here's what I learnt in the first year of being a parent.
While I was expecting my child, almost everyone I met told me that my life would change once I became a parent. Although I never believed much of what they said, I smiled and nodded in agreement. It was only later that I realised how right they had been!
Shortly after embarking on my parenting journey, things began to look different. As I began caring for my precious bundle of joy, I started realising that I was also learning more about myself each day. I gained a new perspective, noticed things I hadn't paid attention to before and had to re-prioritise in every aspect of my life.
Through the ups and downs of my first year as a parent, here are some of the lessons I learnt:
1. Sleep whenever you can: The old saying "sleep when your baby sleeps" is a myth. In reality, it's not always possible to do that as most newborns sleep for the better part of the day and feed through the night. It is one of the quirks of nature that a mother's body produces more prolactin (a hormone that boosts milk production) during the night, which makes nighttime feeds important for the baby. But, this prevents a mother from getting adequate sleep. So, take long afternoon naps and, if possible, add a mid-morning nap to your schedule as well.
2. Ask for help: Once you become a parent, you begin to realise that you need more than one pair of hands to cope with the situation. As a new parent, there are many things you'd have to adjust to - from new sleeping schedules to no 'me time'. This can make you feel emotionally and physically exhausted at times. During such situations, don't hesitate to ask for help. There's nothing wrong with calling someone to take over for a while (be it your spouse or a relative). After all, you do need that break to rejuvenate yourself.
3. Stop Googling: In this day and age, when information is readily available at our fingertips, it's hard to resist researching about what a newborn does or doesn't do. But, at times, this habit only serves to complicate matters further, as what we read or watch may make us feel worried and speculate. Remember, not all you read on the Internet is based on facts or science. In case of any concerns, it's best to seek professional advice rather than to rely on the Internet.
4. Remember that your baby is unique: It's surprisingly easy to forget this fact when you are inundated with advice on almost everything - from how your baby should eat to how she should behave. When it comes to parenting, everyone seems to know what's best for the baby and how you should go about it. You could do well to remember your baby will develop at his own pace. Build a strong bond with your baby instead of focussing on what others say and think.
5. Trust your instincts: It's natural for all parents, especially first-timers, to be overtly anxious about their baby's health and well-being. But, remember, you know your child best because you are her parent. So, trust your instincts and do what you think is best for your child.
6. Forgive yourself and move on: No matter how many baby books you read and how well you plan in advance, mistakes are bound to happen. And, that is okay, as parenting is a learning process. Learn to forgive yourself and move on. If to err is human, then, so is to forgive (especially for a parent).
7. Look after yourself: This point can't be stressed enough. New parents do everything for their little ones and often forget to take care of their own well-being and needs. Eat well, exercise and take small breaks whenever possible. Remember, one of the best outcomes of being a healthy and happy parent is a healthy and happy child.
8. Live in the present: Most new parents worry so much about getting everything right that they often forget to enjoy the company of their baby. But, time and tide wait for none. Your baby, who fits so easily in your arms, will soon outgrow them to assert his independence. So, while you are still your baby's universe, spend time basking in his love and attention. You will have plenty of time to worry later.
Each day is a new adventure and as a parent I am still learning, not only about my child, but about myself as well. As popular parenting coach Sue Atkins says, "There's no such thing as a perfect parent. So, just be a real one."
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