When my 4 year old said to me yesterday ‘mummy I like spending time with you, but I really like being around my friends. It can’t just be you and me only all the time’ I actually had to go to another room and take out the tissues. Following this, she then requested to stay over at her friend’s house without merely – so much as a good bye hug and kiss! I had no idea I would already have to deal with this kind of independence from my one and only, at such a young age. It really did put things in to perspective and why it’s so important to savour the baby years.
They are not easy years as we all know. The first few months can be excruciating, lonely and difficult but maybe it’s worth taking a step back from it all and just learning to deal with one day at a time. It’s not a race as I always say.
These days there is so much pressure on a mother to breastfeed, enrol your baby into a million classes, make new mummy friends so your 5 month old is not left out, work, be a great wife and maintain a nice well functioning house. More than this, making sure dinner is on the table each night. Not to mention continuing work by having to feed through the night and put your baby back to sleep. There are days when it’s just too exhausting for words.
All this is true, but it will be over before you know it and then you’ll have a toddler and eventually a teenager who still loves you but would prefer to hang out with their friends rather than you and you will mourn these years.
It is these days that we need to take it down a notch and try and smell the roses a little bit more. How? Don’t try and fit too many things into your day. Try one outing rather than being out all day at different classes and activities, and play dates. In your baby’s first year the most important people in their life are their parents so for them you are ENOUGH. Taking them for a walk in the park so that they can see the trees and the sky is all the stimulation they need.
Build yourself a good support network so that you can share motherhood with like- minded people. That phrase ‘it takes a village’ always resonates with me because I still fundamentally believe and also see in my work the difference it makes when a mother has a supportive network around her rather than going through the path of parenting alone. Whether your support network includes, friends, family or your local community center it really doesn’t matter. Parenting was never meant to be done alone.
Try and spend quality time with your baby really focusing on their needs. Don’t try and please everyone around you all the time. Too many conflicting responsibilities just leads to stress so try to focus on one task at a time. In the early days, your baby needs you the most and by giving them 1-1 attention you are building their self esteem and also ensuring that you are catering for their individual needs.
Understand the difference between quality vs. quantity. Not everyone has the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time alone with their baby due to work commitments or merely just not enjoying the stay at home mum experience. Both are normal and completely legitimate. We are all different and therefore need to harness our individual needs and personalities. This is why I always suggest to mothers that it’s not the amount of time you spend with your baby it’s what you are doing while you are with them. So put your phone and laptop in the other room, be offline for a few hours a day and spend time together. It will be less stressful if the office knows to expect that you are unreachable for a few hours a day. Knowing you have these precious moments together will make the time you do spend that more enriching and less monotonous.
Take a lot of photos and videos of each development stage. It will be over before you know it! No need to overkill on social media but make sure you keep a memory of these early years.
Even on the worst sleep deprived days, when you feel you are at your wits end, sit down, take a deep breath and say to yourself they will be over before you know it and recognize why these years are so precious.