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the first 365 days

6 of the most important parenting lessons I've learned during my first year as a mum

‘Yes, there’ll be days when you bop your baby’s head off the door, they have yoghurt for dinner and use a tea towel as a bib.’

THEY SAY YOUR priorities shift when you have a kid.

I used to think that meant the big stuff – values, ambitions, hopes and aspirations. But as well as that, it’s all the teeny day-to-day things that are completely transformed.

My son celebrated his first birthday a few weeks ago. In between swapping Sunday brunches for sodden bibs and dinner parties for poo-namis, here are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past 12-and-a-bit months…

1. Read the parenting books, but don’t get lost in them

I devoured books, blogs and even research papers when my son was first born, so hungry was I for any information that would help us get a handle on this immense experience and responsibility. I still enjoy reading them, but quickly learned two things: Often, the best advice came from other parents and especially those with kids just a few weeks or months older than mine, the hard-won lessons still very much fresh in their minds.

2. Stop thinking about what you *should* be doing

Trying to do things by the book, or because it’s what other parents are doing, often led to frustration and tears (for both of us). No book, blog, think piece, instagram post, parenting expert or indeed, other parent has any idea what you’re going through, not really. No one knows what it’s like to have your baby, with all of their quirks, unique demands, challenges and yes, epic cuteness. In the end, I had to trust my instincts and believe that I was doing the best I could with the information I had. Amy Poehler’s famous motherhood mantra, “Good for her, not for me”, got me through more than a few moments of self-doubt.

shutterstock_377620549 (1) Shutterstock Shutterstock

3. Celebrate your wins – yes, even getting a wash on

A big productivity nerd, I used to love hitting the to do list hard first thing. Once my son was born, I had to surrender that for a few months, and instead be content if I managed to get one or both of us dressed before noon, with a stretch goal of putting a wash on (bonus points for actually remembering to take it out of the washing machine the same day).

4. Forget about your old life (and old productivity levels) for a while

What worked for me, especially in the early weeks, was to try to avoid comparing my “old life” to my current situation. Exiting the apartment with a freshly napped, freshly nappied, freshly fed baby began to feel like the biggest of victories, and that’s because it was.

5. Your baby will grow faster than you ever thought possible

It was the smaller developments that hit me in the gut: I remember having a little cry when one day I lifted my 7-month old and something was different – his legs were hugging me. He was holding himself up. That little bit further from babyhood, that little bit closer to toddlerhood. Even though there were impossibly long days when I was counting down the minutes until his dad finished work and I could take a breather, the speed at which he grows and changes still continues to take my breath away.

6. Even in the moments when you feel like the world’s worst parent, you’re doing a great job

There’ll be days when you bop your baby’s head off the door, they have yoghurt for dinner and use a tea towel as a bib. But your baby is safe and loved and – I promise – it gets easier with each day that goes by. The best bit of parenting advice I got was “everything is a phase.” Whether it’s breastfeeding, not sleeping, teething or refusing to eat anything but bread and pasta, it will all pass. With all the uncompromising demands of life with a baby, along with naps, washing and food prep it can sometimes be hard to remember to step away from the dishes, just take a moment to take it all in and remind yourself that you’re doing ok (and sure who doesn’t love yoghurt for dinner?).

More: ‘Nothing can actually prepare you’: 8 mums share how they dealt with their fears about giving birth>

Nathalie Marquez Courtney
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