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“Jacob was 10 months old when I went with my mom and a friend to high tea,” says Joy Groblebe. “My mom barely dipped her finger in pistachio ice cream and put her finger in Jacob’s mouth. I went ballistic because kids can’t have dairy until they are a year old. When baby No. 2 came along, she was eating strawberry popsicles at six months.”

Talk with just about any mom or dad about being a first-time parent. Many of them will actually laugh out loud as they think back to those early years.

As a first-time parent, you are probably highly motivated to raise your child well. Since your child does not come with an “owner’s manual,” you rely on friends, family, books, the internet and your own ideas about what is appropriate and what to expect from your child.

While resources are helpful, there is no cookie-cutter approach that works magic with every child. It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to be the perfect parent and being uptight all the time. Not only does the baby pick up on this, it is exhausting for both mom and dad.

Cut yourself some slack and cut your child some slack. Instead of trying to be perfect, most experienced parents will encourage you to do your best and be good with that. You will make mistakes; everybody does.

Here are some additional words of wisdom from parents who have “been there, and done that”:

  • Relax. Babies do best with calm, confident parents. It gives them a sense of security, serenity and peace.
  • Sleep when the baby sleeps. No child will remember whether the house was clean or whether the laundry was in drawers or a pile on the couch, but they will remember that you played with them and spent time with them.
  • There is no “perfect” or even a “right” way. Don’t beat yourself up for what you (or others) assume to be a mistake. In general, just lighten up and have fun with it. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy the journey!
  • Avoid judging others’ parenting or saying “I will never do that.” Each child is uniquely created and responds differently to parenting … what works on one of your children may not work with the next.
  • Love, hold and snuggle them as often as you can because they will be toddlers, preschoolers and then teenagers in a blink!
  • Respect your children and they will respect you.
  • Pray for and with them.
  • Recognize that as little humans, they’ll have bad days just like you do.
  • As tempting as it is to want to buy stuff for your child, they quickly forget all the things you buy them. They’ll remember the time and experiences they have with you for much longer.
  • Keep your marriage first and your child second.
  • Surround yourself with people who will encourage you, give you a break when you need it and listen when challenges arise.

The birth of your first child can be exhilarating and intimidating all at the same time. Taking these wise words to heart will help you avoid unnecessary meltdowns and encourage you to enjoy your child.

Jake and Lou Anne used to live in a loft and have people over all the time. But once they decided to have a family, they moved to a house in a quiet neighborhood. And, their friends came over significantly less often.

“It was definitely a dramatic change for us,” said Lou Anne. “It was hard to give up our two-seater convertible, but we knew it wasn’t a family car. We had hoped we could keep it and add a family car, but since we couldn’t predict our expenses after Cara’s birth, we traded it in.”

Their daughter arrived in October of 2005. Even though she was an “easy” baby and had a great temperament, she still rocked her parents’ world.

“We were pretty on-the-go kind of people before Cara arrived on the scene,” said Jake. “That has come to a screeching halt. Lou Anne and I really enjoy each other’s company and spending time with our friends. It has been an adjustment just trying to figure out how to have time together, much less work in our friends,” Jake said.

While Jake says the changes in their life have truly have been just that – changes, not sacrifices – many couples know that bringing home that new bundle of joy can cause everything from joy to total frustration. Even when you know that life is going to be different, going from spontaneous and carefree to a schedule and being responsible for someone else can throw a good marriage into a tailspin.

In her book, Childproofing Your Marriage, Dr. Debbie Cherry says there are two major threats to the marital bond when couples have their first child: lack of time and lack of energy.

Intimacy can be greatly affected by:

  • feelings of grief at losing couple time,
  • sensing disconnectedness from your spouse,
  • feelings of jealousy about the amount of time and attention the baby receives, and
  • the loss of energy from caring for the baby.

If a couple does not recognize these threats and deal with them openly, they may begin to feel even more alone and isolated from each other.

“You really can’t measure the love and joy that comes with having a baby,” Jake said. “At the same time, I think it is really important for Lou Anne and me to have time together. We consider personal time, couple time and family time equally important.”

The couple spent the first year trying to get in the groove of how to do all three.

Time is a precious commodity, especially for new parents. Things that you used to take for granted – like afternoon naps on the weekend, taking your time in the bathroom, sex, watching your favorite sitcom or grabbing a bite to eat – become things that practically have to be scheduled into your day.

If you are a new parent, Cherry offers several helpful suggestions for you:

  • Develop a couple-centered, not a child-centered relationship. For the first time in the relationship, couples have to choose who really comes first. Starting here and now, determine that the couple comes before the children. If children are number one, their never-ending need for attention will eat up everything you have to give, and the rest of your life will suffer because of it. Love your children, provide for them and meet their needs. But remember that one of their most important needs is to have parents who really love each other.
  • Become co-parents, not compulsive parents. Moms and dads alike can fall into the trap of believing they are the only ones who can adequately care for their baby. Somehow they forget that many parents have come and gone before them and have learned to capably care for these helpless little creatures. Becoming a compulsive parent creates isolation and will eventually lead to parenting burnout. Breaks and daily support from each other are a must for parents.
  • Talk to each other every day. Check in with each other regularly. Talk about changing expectations and needs, and division of labor. Discuss your disappointments and fears about parenting. Communication involves both talking and listening. Be the best listener you can be if you want your spouse to continue to share his or her deepest thoughts, feelings, fears and needs.

“I think one of the most important things we keep in mind is that we are on the same team,” Lou Anne said. “I really depend on Jake. We try hard to be respectful of each other and to mind our manners. When you start stepping on each other’s toes, then it becomes a matter of ‘that’s not fair,’ and things go downhill quickly. Cara has been a blessing. Our goal is to keep our marriage strong so we can be a blessing to her through the years.”

For more insight on parenting, download our E-book “4 ways to stay connected after Baby” Download Here

As a mother, have you ever looked in the mirror and asked, “Who am I? Where did the woman I used to know go? Will I ever be known by my real name again, or will it always be _________’s mom from this point forward?” If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are in good company. Plenty of moms out there wonder the same thing.

Although being a mom is a great gift, a lot of moms struggle with losing their identity in the midst of motherhood. Let’s face it, from the time they are born, children require a lot of time, energy and brainpower. It is easy to feel like your identity is slowly fading away as you constantly focus on your family.

While many moms have resigned themselves to thinking this is just how life is, losing your identity in the name of motherhood isn’t helpful to you or your children. If your tank is running low because of all you do for your kids, more than likely your stress level is high, your fuse is short and the least little curveball can throw your entire day or week into a full-blown tailspin. You may even feel guilty about doing something for yourself  and think that it may add more stress to the already-complicated schedule.

On top of this, moms often play the comparison game. It may seem that one woman’s children behave better, she keeps a cleaner house or is better-equipped for all sorts of tasks.

If you are in the early years of parenting, moms who have been there have some words of wisdom to share with you. Here’s what they wish someone had shared with them during that stage of their lives.

  • Make sure you surround yourself with a supportive friend group that includes women your age and older.
  • Ask for what you need. Don’t assume your spouse or others know your  needs. Tell them.
  • It’s really important for your children to see who you are as a person. Consider what you really enjoy doing or are passionate about. Seek to create opportunities to engage in those pursuits. Even involving your children in those activities isn’t a bad thing.
  • Creating space to re-energize and regroup teaches your children the importance of taking care of yourself. Growing up in a family where children learn that the world does not revolve around them is healthy. 
  • In order to parent well, it is vital that you put your oxygen mask on first. You cannot give what you do not have. If you are always running on empty, it’s impossible to be the parent your kids need you to be.

In the end, you are preparing your children to leave the nest and be independent. But when the time comes for the kids to leave, many moms find themselves in an identity crisis because their entire world has revolved around being a mom. Maintaining some independence of your own and modeling care for yourself as you raise your children is crucial to your well-being and theirs. Then when the next stage comes along, you’ll be ready to take it on with confidence.

For more insight on parenting, download our E-book “4 ways to stay connected after Baby.” Download Here

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!