I have never claimed or strived to be perfect. I struggle every single day. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that for first time parents the first year can be amongst the hardest. There will be struggles and hardships throughout but when it comes to caring for a baby ‘hand on’ is the best teacher there is and the first year feels like a bootcamp of sorts. My drill sergeant cries a lot.
There are so many things I didn’t know until Diego actually arrived and I am a perpetually curious person so I did a lot of reading and talking in preparation for his arrival. Nine months in I am completely comfortable going out on my own with him. I remember the first couple of months when I doubted myself and felt incredibly nervous to be on my own with him while out and about.
After having my mom here for a month right after Diego was born I was terrified of spending the day alone with him. What if I couldn’t get him to stop crying? What if something happened that I didn’t know how to deal with? What if, what IF? None of my fears came to fruition and I suspect for most parents few do. However that first morning when my husband left for work and I stayed completely alone with this small person under my care I was overwhelmed. The great thing about babies is that they don’t give you much time to dwell on what could happen, they keep you engaged, they keep you doing.
There is a side of the coin I find a lot of people don’t mention and I suspect it isn’t because they don’t feel it but because admitting to it can be ill received by others. Parental frustration is a real thing. It rears its ugly head when you’re at your lowest. When you’re hungry, sleep deprived and in need of a shower but your little one refuses to settle down to sleep. I have been there more than I can count. I feel myself getting frustrated and angry. Angry at everything and everyone whose name I can recall. I hate feeling that way but when I do I am quick to catch myself and try to regroup. Flying off the handle has resulted in child abuse I am sure. Nothing excuses despicable acts against children but I can certainly see how a parent at his or her wits end can snap. It is for this reason that as parents it is important to be self aware and monitor ourselves. When I feel frustrated I have never felt anger towards Diego but I have felt anger. Anger at not being able to sleep and how I am where I am by my own doing etc.
My pity parties get set up really quick and they can last for hours. When I am alone and having an off day I simply walk away when the going gets rough. I usually change Diego’s diaper, sit him in his crib with a few toys and walk away. I sometimes put in my headphones and listen to a song or two before going back in to check on him. This gives me time to think, to regroup and to formulate a plan of attack.
Night time is a little trickier but the same principle applies. Wrestling a baby to bed can be very hard, especially when they are fighting sleep. Diego has taken to doing this as of late and it is not fun. Thankfully my husband is home when this goes down and between the two of us we have preserved some semblance of sanity. We have a sound machine with a projector and night light. Sadly this does not magically knock Diego out upon activation but it does create a soothing atmosphere that we can take with us when we travel.
I know there are people out there who probably have a waa-aambulance on their way to my house because seriously who talks about this stuff? Being a parent is something I chose to do and it is as difficult as it is fun and lovely. Just because we chose something doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and butterflies, right? I chose to go to university and that was fun, too. It was also hard. Everything we choose to do, as much as we love it does have its challenges. Whether it’s a job, school or volunteer work. The things that fulfill us do so precisely because they force us to dig deeper, work harder, and become better.