If I had to use just one way to define parenting it would be; Adjustment. That’s what I have been doing for the past 2 years, just adjusting.
I had to adjust to having a growing fetus in my body, my organs moving to create space for her, the discomfort of pregnancy and everything else that comes with it. The newness of it all threw me off. I am a big sleeper that finds comfort in lying on my stomach and all of a sudden I could not do that.
For months on end, I was a pregnant woman.
We then gave birth and that required even more adjusting. All of a sudden I had to get used to surviving on less sleep. And when I mean less I am not speaking about 2 hours less. I had to survive on a total of 2 hours per night.
This is the new reality for a lot of parents. Some are more fortunate than I was. “Oh, mine sleeps the whole night” was the worst line of them all. Especially when you are sleep deprived, dirty and as hungry as a rabid dog.
Parenting is, and always will be a new experience. regardless of how many times you do it. Every new person that is introduced into your life is just that, new.
The most important aspect of adjusting to this new reality is allowing yourself to go through the motions and being patient with yourself. We find ourselves in bad places because we are consumed by the guilt of not having everything figured out.
We want to have defined feeding and sleeping schedules. We also feel bad about not being able to make time for our family and friends because there is another human being in our lives that requires time, energy and affection. Now we have to hold, cuddle, feed and change a baby ALL the time.
We are expected to embrace this new chapter in our lives. Not just the baby, but everything else that comes with the baby.
Here are my tips on how to fully embrace this new journey:
Learn to ask for help
The reality of it all is that life does not stop just because you went through 12 hours of labour and just brought a new baby home. The house still needs to be cleaned, errands still need to be run, the family still needs to eat and bills need to be paid. If you have never been a person that is dependant on others, now is the perfect time to be. No-one and I mean no-one is expecting you to be a Super Mom. Sure, some ‘friends’ (mostly without children) will still expect to be able to join them every evening for your gym session, but if you had to choose between sleep and a flat tummy, we know what you would go for.
Our partners are more willing to help than we think. All we need to do is just ask. “But why do I need to ask, can’t he see that I am tired and need help?”. Well, it would not take much of your energy or time to ask him to bath and play with the baby while you take a quick nap.
It also doesn’t hurt to ask your in-laws to look after the baby while you go do your hair and have some ‘me-time’.
The worst you will get when asking for help is a ‘no’, and that has never killed anyone.
Do you know those friends that used to tell you how much they would love to babysit when the baby arrives at the baby shower? Start making a list of these people and calling them up when you need one. Haha. We all need to be men and women of our words.
Ask for food from friends, order take-outs, get someone to come to clean your house. You just gave birth to a full-grown human being, you have no point to prove.
Textbook parenting is not real
There are thousands of publications on how to parent your child. How-to guides on feeding, burping, sleeping, bathing etc. I have experienced the misery of feeling like I am failing at parenting because I fail to follow a simple textbook guide. With age comes wisdom, and the few months of parenting taught me that not every child is the same. Not every child wants you to hold them the same and eat the same thing. As tiny as they are, they are individuals with their own preferences. So annoying.
The trick with this is getting to know and understand your child. After that, you can tailor your parenting according to who they are. You are with them for almost 24 hours a day, so you know them better than any textbook. Embrace the relationship you have with your child, and parent them to the best of your love and ability.
And listen, some parents are the best students, and can follow the textbook how to’s to the tee. But this does mean it should be your reality. Some of us are terrible students.
Trying to be perfect parents takes away from the beauty of parenting. Parenting involves knowing and loving your child in a way that you will both thrive.
Embrace the moment you are in right this second. Even if you are on your third cup of coffee, with a baby that refuses to sleep. That moment is yours, and as terrible as it is, you will find yourself laughing about how much of a zombie you were, complaining to the adult version of your baby.
New sometimes sucks but change is good. Embrace the change.
Karabo Motsiri is a first-time mom, over-sharer, lover of life, chronic napper and married to her best friend. She loves a good party because the dance floor is her happy place. She enjoys good food, good conversations, laughs a little too hard, and cries during every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. She started her blogging journey because she wanted to share all the ups and downs of being a young modern mama in South Africa. Her blog Black Mom Chronicles has been featured on Ayana Magazine & SA Mom Blog. She has enjoyed airtime on Power FM and frequently writes for the parenting section of Saturday Citizen. She also works with MamaMagic on their Product Awards, Milestones Magazine, Heart to Heart blog, and the Baby Expo, which is South Africa’s biggest parenting expo.