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Nina In New York: 31 Tips From A Mom Who Survived Her (First) First Year

Baby Eating

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
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By Nina Pajak

This week, I closed the book on the first year of my daughter’s life and the first year of my life as a mother. The past twelve months have been, in a word, miraculous. Here’s another word: tumultuous. Oh wait, another: humbling. Hang on: joyful. Hm. None of these quite cover it. Confusifab? Amaxiety? Wondersplat. Hysterilove. Spectacuflail?

You get the idea.

This year has taught me an unbelievable amount about life, about babies, and about the human capacity for love, as well as the human capacities for adapting, need, stress, patience, stupidity, humor, and poop. Fifty one weeks ago, I knew a fraction of what I know now about parenting, and I’m sure that fifty two weeks from now I’ll know exponentially more (and it will still not amount to much). But this first year is a particular doozy for all new parents, and though nothing can replace actual experience, I’d like to do my bit to help those who are now embarking on raising a baby. At the risk of adding yet another “advice for new parents” list to the virtual pile, I’m going to do exactly that anyway. Here’s just a smattering of what I’ve learned (in no particular order). If some of this sounds incredibly stupid to veteran moms and dads, that’s because it is, and I am. I hope you find it helpful and/or makes you feel like a better parent than I.

1. No matter how smart and accomplished you may have been up to this point, having a baby will make you realize how incredibly dumb you actually are. Accept this as fact, learn to compensate and forgive yourself for it, and the rest becomes a little easier.

2. Do not wake a sleeping baby, unless you urgently need to move him or her (this doesn’t include needing to leave to be somewhere on time). Do not poke her to see if she’s still breathing because she’s never slept this long before. Enjoy the extra hour of peace, or there will be hell to pay.

3. When your baby is napping, do not open her squeaky door to get her hamper even though you haven’t eaten all day and can think of at least 10 things that need to get done that don’t involve possibly disturbing her.

4. Do not hold infants directly over your face after they have recently consumed vast quantities of milk.

5. When your baby is happily cooing and looking around the room, it is not a good time to put an over-the-head onesie on her.

6. In fact, avoid over-the-head onesies until your baby is at least three months of age. It remains a mystery to me why they are the norm, other than being part of an extensive conspiracy to make new parents lose their minds.

7. Women, it’s okay to feel crushingly sad postpartum even though you’re really very happy, too.

8. Aforementioned crushing sadness doesn’t always go away in six weeks, as most online sources will tell you. This does not make you a bad mother or a freak.

9. It’s okay to give your baby formula! He won’t whither and die, he won’t turn to stone, and your photo won’t be hung next to Joan Crawford’s in the Mommy Hall of Shame.

10. Carseat straps adjust for height.

11. Never go anywhere without a change of clothes. For the baby and for yourself.

12. The moment you turn on a movie, the DVR, the shower, or put your head on a pillow during your baby’s nap, she will awake. Best to sit in a hard chair and do nothing. The longer you can withstand this, the longer she will sleep.

13. Contrary to what some celeb moms would like us to believe, breastfeeding and “running after” the baby will not melt away dozens of pounds within two months. NOBODY HAS TO RUN AFTER NEWBORN BABIES. THIS IS A LIE.

14. Childbirth is painful, but the weeks following can be worse. Accept help whenever it’s offered, in whatever form it takes.

15. Don’t hand an 11-month-old a pen.

16. You can’t do it all. At least, not well.

17. Baby toys are fine and good, but nothing beats an empty water bottle, a set of keys, a direct mail postcard, a dirty shoe, a dirty anything, or actual pieces of dirt.

18. Your kid is going to lick something disgusting out in public, and she’ll probably be okay.

19. It’s alright to be rude to strangers when they try to touch or hold your baby. And they will.

20. Subtract three degrees of impressiveness—or add a few weeks—to any milestone another mother declares her child has accomplished. If you read BabyCenter message boards (which you shouldn’t because they’re inane), this goes quadruple.

21. You don’t need an eighth of the baby crap you’ve accumulated, but you’ll buy ten times more of it anyway.

22. Furniture is overrated.

23. So are baby books.

24. So is homemade baby food puree.

25. Don’t hand a 1-year-old an unlocked phone unless you’re OK with him calling your ex, changing your language preference to German, liking everything on your boss’s Instagram account, and deleting half your apps, including the ones you didn’t think could be deleted.

26. You will not agree with your mother on whether the baby is over- or under-dressed for the weather. No one ever will.

27. Your boobs will never look the same. Sorry, girlfriends.

28. Having a baby doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t continue living your life as an adult. It just means your life and the way you live it is permanently altered and essentially unrecognizable to your former self.

29. Two human women who chose to procreate at the same time won’t necessarily always wind up being BFFs, and that’s OK.

30. In the work-life balance equation, an excess of life can be just as stressful as an excess of work.

31. Don’t give chocolate to a baby 20 minutes before bedtime.

Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!