Being a new parent can be a fun and exciting experience. The first year for a new parent is full of awe and wonder at the new life you’ve created, but it can also be full of worry and anxiety. If you’re worried about making mistakes the first year (and every year thereafter), you aren’t alone! But fear not! Here is a top 10 list of mistakes made in the first year of parenting so that hopefully, you can worry a little less and enjoy a little more.
1. Not Taking Care of Yourself
The baby is here. You will now be bombarded with a million variations of, “How is the baby?” Let me ask you though, how are you? Sometimes, it’s easy to put your health and well being on the back burner to attend to the constant needs of your new arrival, but it can backfire in the long run.
Make sure that you take care of yourself as well – physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you’re feeling unwell, please seek medical help. Postpartum depression is real and it is sneaky and it is heavy. Make your health a priority. It takes a happy, healthy parent to raise a happy, healthy child.
2. Being Too Hard on Yourself
You’re having a horrible day. You’re crying, the baby is crying, the dog needs to go out, the house is a mess… you feel like an absolute failure. Now what? Take a deep breath and remember – we all have bad days. Every single one of us has hidden in the bathroom and had a good breakdown. No one is perfect. We are all trying to find our way through the maze of parenthood.
If you’re unsure you’re doing a good job and constantly questioning yourself, that means you’re an amazing parent. Offer yourself some grace, patience, and a whole heaping plate of forgiveness. Everything is OK. You’ve got this. You are enough. Tomorrow is another day.
3. Buying Everything Brand New
New baby, new stuff! I can tell you I, as well as tens of thousands of other first time parents, fell into this trap of a money pit, too. There are so many things your baby will need in her first year of life that you are never going to use again unless you have other children. Some of these items include – but are not limited to – clothes, toys, furniture, bouncers, high chairs, pack-n-plays… see where I’m going with this?
You’ll eventually realize much of the stuff you have accumulated will sit in a corner, collecting dust, unused. You can find almost all of the baby gear you need second hand through generous friends, online baby swaps, and consignment stores. Save the difference for a fun vacation, date nights (see number 8 on this list), or some much needed mommy/daddy fun money. You can thank me later.
4. Not Being Honest About Your Expectations Of Others
Being a first time parent can be overwhelming. Figuring out the needs of a tiny human who can only communicate through crying is challenging enough. What about what you need from others? Sometimes you don’t even know, but it is crucial to speak up. If you need a timeout, take one. If I or my husband need a breather, all we have to say is, “We need milk.” It’s a no-questions-asked code for “I need some alone time out of the house.”
If you need visitors to leave so you and the baby can rest, tell them. If you don’t want any visitors at all, say that, too! If you have certain expectations of your spouse so that you can focus more on the baby, let them know. It is important to keep the lines of communication open so that everyone involved can understand your needs and expectations while you’re trying to navigate these uncharted waters of parenthood.
5. Comparing Your Child’s Milestones With Other Children
You just overheard Johnny’s mother brag that Little Johnny has learned to roll over! “He’s so precocious!” Silently, you panic because your little bundle is the same age and hasn’t even thought of rolling over. Stop yourself. Every single child develops at a different pace. Comparing milestones will only cause you stress and anxiety. Instead of blaming yourself for what your child isn’t doing, rejoice in what they are doing and what makes them unique.
If you’re concerned that your child is having delays in specific areas, it’s always a good idea to speak to their pediatrician. But remember, milestones are a guideline for your child’s development. They are not absolute.
6. Not Being Prepared For How Much Your Body Changes
This one is for the ladies, but being prepared for the changes your baby momma will face after childbirth is definitely good for everyone. Some of the more noticeable changes include loss of sex drive, stretch marks, belly bulge, wider hips, permanently bigger feet, change in breast size, shape, and composition, hair loss and texture change, hormone fluctuations, vision problems, dental issues, skin dryness, color change or breakouts… the list goes on.
Don’t be discouraged by the metamorphosis your body may experience after childbirth, but embrace it. Many of the alterations are temporary and those that aren’t should be worn like a badge of honor. Look at your body! Look what it made! You earned those stripes, those softer spots, those perfect imperfections. You are incredible!
7. Not Asking For or Letting People Help
This is a huge one that I am most definitely guilty of. I have a type A personality, and I am a neat freak. Pre-baby, if I didn’t do something then it wasn’t going to be done the way I wanted, and I would just have to do it over again. Post-baby… forget that. As Elsa says, “Let it go.” Set your pride and perfectionist attitude aside and ask for help.
If someone offers you help and you could use it, accept! You definitely can’t do everything by yourself anymore. Just because someone may not do it the way you would, it will still get done and will free your hands for something else, like baby. You may even be surprised to find that the person helping has a better way to do something!
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8. Putting Your Relationship With Your Significant Other on Hold
The first year of parenthood can drive a wedge between even the strongest couples. It’s hard to find that time to recharge your relationship batteries, what with the lack of sleep, raging hormones, differing opinions, and little alone time for long talks or sex.
Just like it’s important for you to have time for yourself, it is also imperative to make time for just the two of you. If you have family nearby that you’re close to, utilize them. If not, set up a date day co-op with other parents so you can all take turns watching the kids while one couple has a date.
Start with a few hours away and do something the two of you enjoyed before junior. Once you’re comfortable leaving the kiddo for a little longer, work up to overnight dates or a weekend away. If leaving baby just isn’t feasible, schedule some together time as often as possible after the baby goes to sleep. Curl up, watch some Netflix, and connect with each other. Even schedule sex if you need to.
Remember, it’s not going to be like this forever. Once your children are more independent, you’ll be able to sneak away a little more often. Until then, keep that spark alive.
9. Trying to Listen to Everyone’s Advice or Opinions
Either solicited or unsolicited, everyone is going to offer you advice on how to raise your new bundle of joy. While most are well-meaning, the amount of information you receive will be overwhelming and often contradictory to advise someone else just gave you.
And then… there’s the internet. Anyone can put anything on the internet and present it as fact. Just like you take Aunt Mabel’s advice with a grain of salt, use caution and common sense when looking for help on the internet. Stick to articles with information that can be fact-checked. Good articles will provide links to sources for peer-reviewed research.
And if there is a health concern involved, find a pediatrician you trust and discuss medical issues with them. Do not rely on medical advice from a parent chat. What works best for some families may not work for yours. Don’t be bullied into doing something you don’t feel is right just because someone in real life or on the internet told you it is best, natural, holistic, safe, etc.
Most of all, trust yourself and your instincts. You know your child better than anyone.
10. Not Sleeping or Resting When Baby Sleeps
“Sleep when the baby sleeps” is advice that you will hear from literally everyone. That’s because it is decent advice disguised as a bad joke. I thought everyone was full of crap when I heard this repeated over and over because who can just fall asleep at the drop of a newborn baby hat? There are things that I should get done while the nugget is napping, blah blah blah. Unless one of those things is eating or showering, all the other nonsense can wait.
Here is what new parents need: food, sleep, an occasional shower, help, love, and forgiveness. If you can’t seem to actually fall asleep when your baby is sleeping during the day, at least rest – sit down, watch your favorite show, and eat a sandwich (or those cookies you’ve stashed for yourself).
Once a sleep routine is established, you can get back to doing the other things you think you need to do. You’re working really hard taking care of this new life, and you need to take care of yourself too (remember #1 on the list?). You deserve a break, so take it, and enjoy this time with your new tiny human.
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Alex Bennett is a part time veterinary assistant, part time freelance writer and proofreader, and full time mom living in the Hudson Valley, NY. Alex graduated with a degree in Anthropology, but she still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. She enjoys studying people and their culture, anatomy, biology and zoology. For fun, she enjoys reading, coloring, hiking, gardening, raising chickens, volunteering in her community, and spending tons of time with her family, friends, and pets.
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