I deliberately called this series “notes” instead of “tips” or “tricks,” because I’m thinking of what I’m sharing more as observations than prescriptions. Every baby and every family situation is so different, and I just want to share what’s worked for us and discuss what’s occurred to me along the way. Today’s post, especially, is pretty conceptual – thoughts on some of the paradigm shifts and ways of thinking that really impacted our first few weeks in a big way. If you’re looking for something a little more nitty-gritty, never fear — I’ll be back soon with a few more practical tips (yep, I’ll call them tips) from the first month and a half, and then I’ll follow that up with our favorite products from the first six weeks. Here we go!
Choose a job with paternity leave. There is nothing that made a bigger difference in our first six weeks than both John and I being home with June. With a two-on-one dynamic, we were both able get more sleep, stay more calm, bond with our daughter, and learn how to take care of her. From helping me with breastfeeding to handling almost all of the diapers, John did so much; my experience would have been totally different had I been alone, or even with a family member, during the day. There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a career, but if you know you want to have children, I’d recommend adding “family friendly policies” to the top of your list as you search for a job. This is often easier said than done, I know, and I don’t want anyone to despair if this isn’t their situation — but I feel like I can’t not mention it. Just something to consider.
Learn together. When I read Emily Henderson’s interview on Design Mom two years ago, this answer struck me as so true even then, and now that I have a baby, her genius has been confirmed. Apologies for including such a long quote, but it’s all so good! She writes, “I think that when moms know so much more about child rearing than dads, that they get intimidated and kinda give you the power, which causes lots of problems. Try everything you can to empower your partner as a father, to make him feel like he is good at it as you are, as often as possible. …Try to figure things out together, with a lot of ‘what do you think we should do about…? Where should we keep the bottles? How often do you think we should bathe him? How long should we let him nap?’, instead of you telling him what you guys should do as parents.
I think when women come up with child care systems and then just tell their partners about them, it can lead to them feeling like it’s just not their thing and then of course you bear the burden of more child care. Even if you think you know, try to learn it again with him so he doesn’t feel stupid and scared and then you are annoyed and feel like you can’t leave the house or he isn’t going to be able to feed or bathe your baby. It’s a cyclical process: Brian is a good dad because he feels like he’s a good dad. He feels confident and that he knows what he’s doing and therefore wants to do it even more. Most people don’t like to do what they aren’t good at, so help him be good at being a dad without making him feel stupid and he will want to do it more.”
YES! I love to read, so of course I read lots of books on pregnancy and raising kids. I’ve seen over and over, though, that my “book learning” is no match for John’s common sense, so it’s not at all hard for me to think of him as an equal partner. Still, keeping Emily’s wise words (and specifically using this vocabulary) in mind has been so helpful for our functioning as a team!
Remember, you will know more tomorrow than you know today. And you know more today than you knew yesterday. We had a lovely two-hour chat with our friends just a few days before June was born, and they said something that really stuck with me. Like us, they didn’t have too much “baby experience” before the birth of their son, and they marveled to us how much more they knew at the end of the first week of his life – like, light years different. That was so encouraging for me to hear, and I’ve found it to be true over and over. For example, from the beginning it seemed like people were constantly commenting to me about how I probably could recognize June’s different types of cries and what they meant. Uh, nope. Definitely not at first. But now I can! We’ve gotten to know June more every day, and along the way, we’ve learned so many things about HER as a baby and how to help her – what it means when she makes a certain noise while eating, when she wants to be held upright versus cradled, how to best settle her down for a nap. Babies change constantly (they like to keep you on your toes!), but your knowledge base is constantly growing, too. You’ll know more tomorrow than you know today!
Keep your expectations low. Perhaps because I’m admittedly not a baby person, I never had illusions about how wonderful the newborn phase would be. In fact, I expected it to be hard, frustrating, and exhausting, with little emotional feedback from our newest family member. I wasn’t depressed about this; I just figured it would be something we’d have to get through, and it would get better every day. And though there have been harder days, on the whole, June’s first few weeks were SO WONDERFUL! Because I had low expectations, every good thing felt like a revelation. Even the smallest victories and happy moments were a delight. If you can, really and truly keep your expectations LOW.
Unwrap each day. I wanted to write a whole post about this, and maybe I still will. But at the rate I’m going that won’t be until 2017, and it’s too important to wait until then! On the recommendation of our friends and our siblings, John and I watched “About Time” when June was three weeks old. Have you seen it? It’s a little perfect gem of a movie with Rachel McAdams and an older Weasley brother :) I don’t want to give too much away because I expect you all to watch it and I don’t want to lessen the emotional impact it will have on you — but just know that the lesson from this movie is one that has literally changed my life, and the way I move through my days. We couldn’t have picked a more perfect movie to watch with a newborn. You will bawl, but it will be worth it.
Ready for my next post? Here are seven very practical suggestions that helped us through the first six weeks! In the meantime, I would love to hear what you think about today’s five thoughts!!