Yesterday, we talked about things they don’t tell new moms. Today, I’m adding to the list.
- Your health and mental health must come first. You can’t take care of a baby if you can’t take care of yourself. When I talked in the last post about me being selfish and needing to put the baby first, I mean wants and desires –not needs. Sleep, food, doctor visits, friends –whatever is necessary for you to remain emotionally stable, physically healthy, and mentally sane is ultimately in the best interest of the baby. Now, if you say your sanity is dependent on a weekly trip to the spa, I’m going to chuckle. But as long as you’re not going to the spa using money that should go toward food and diapers, it’s all good.
- It will put a strain on your marriage. You just took two sinners in a marriage and threw a selfish, demanding, screaming child in their midst. How could that not strain a marriage? Don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t. How you deal with the strain will determine if it strains to the point of breaking. Strain can break you, but it can also make you stronger.
- It’s best for your child if you put a priority on your marriage. Notice I didn’t say make your marriage a higher priority than the child. I think people tend to go one way or another: marriage first at the expense of the kids or kids first at the expense of the marriage. Balance is key. Your children need to see you value your husband. This is incredibly important. But so is caring for and even protecting your kids even against your husband if you need to (this is usually the argument in favor of kids first: cases of abuse). Putting a priority on your marriage can take many forms, but in the end, however you do it, your husband should know you don’t value the baby over him. You still need to have a functioning marriage even after this child is grown.
- You’ll doubt yourself –all the time. This is actually a good thing –sort of. On the one hand, doubt can be very discouraging. On the other hand, without it we can easily become arrogant. Channel your doubt into introspection: evaluation what you’re doing and why. Reaffirm what you’re doing well, and change what you’re not. Used in this way, doubt becomes constructive and not destructive. If you stop doubting yourself, check yourself for pride.
- Most of your plans won’t work. Everything you thought you knew about parenthood is soon going to be blown out of the water. It’s far harder and more complicated than you can imagine. You’ll quickly learn that you can’t follow a formula and that you just have to figure out what works best for you and your child. Even the plans that work today will have to be adjusted or completely reworked tomorrow.
- The criticism doesn’t matter. Critics are everywhere. At the end of the day, none of what they say matters unless you decide it does. You answer to God for how this child is,raised. So listen to the criticism –or don’t– but you ultimately get to decide what’s best for this child.
- The hardest moments can become your greatest memories. Bear with me while I try to explain what I mean. When your obnoxious and defiant 3 year old grows up to become a sweet, loving, respectful 14 year old, that moment when you struggled for 4 hours to get him to pick up his coat at age 3 becomes part of a wonderfully sweet story of change and seeing God’s change in His life. Look for God’s redeeming hand in your life. Look for the reason behind those trying moments. We’ll understand it better some day.
- The greatest moment in your life will be when that child chooses to follow God. For me, this was even bigger and more wonderful in some ways than my own salvation because my faith had extended beyond me. To see your children passionate about the things of God and standing up for right and truth on their own — there’s no earthly joy that can compare to that.
- Your baby screaming always sounds louder and worse than someone else’s baby screaming. I don’t know why this is true, but it is. People around you are likely not as bothered by it as you are. There have even been studies that support this. So, take a deep breath.
- Life’s sweeter if you can keep heaven in view. This is especially true in parenting. If you can keep an eternal perspective while raising your children, it makes the whole process simpler. How important will this be in 5 years? 10 years? Should I even make an issue of it now? Some behavior absolutely will need to be addressed, and other behavior will seem less of a big deal –especially if you don’t worry about what other people think. It helps keep us from making mountains out of proverbial molehills.
I’m not done parenting yet, but I’m far out of the baby and preschool stage. I’m sure I have a lot left to learn, but hopefully you can gain some insight from my little bits of hard-learned wisdom.