Can you believe it? Alexander Richard Royce is turning 1 this Sunday. Oh dear oh dear, where did the time go. I’ve been thinking back a lot to the time just leading up to his birth and sorta feeling wistful. After you’ve had kids, you begin to miss the incredibly mundane shit of your old life. Parenthood is so fundamentally weird, it’s amazing to me that so many people do it. But it’s also a time of extreme personal growth and discovery. I’ve learned a lot of things I hope will help other parents just starting out.
It gets better.
It’s what everyone tells you in the first couple months. First you have to get through the first month, then the first three months, then the first six months, etc… There’s always obstacles to overcome. But your baby doesn’t stay tiny and helpless forever. Alex is now a robust young lad. He can climb up and down the stairs without help. He actually climbs on everything and back down and we haven’t had a fall yet. He engages with the books we read him. He can play the glockenspiel (you know, sorta). He can hold his own bottle and feed himself food. He has a sense of humor and makes us laugh. Our jobs as parents are so much different now than they were when he was tiny. Yesterday I was tossing him on some pillows and tickling him and he was shrieking with laughter. When you get to that stage, it’s so fun and rewarding. We know Alex now.
You have to take it one day at a time.
In the beginning, when we’d be winding down for bed, I started to dread the next day. Alex was tough to figure out at first and when I was alone with him for 8 hour days it was terrifying and isolating. Eventually I learned just to take it one minute at a time. He’s fed and freshly diapered? OK. That’s good enough for right now. Then I would take it an hour at a time, and then a day. I still take it just a day at a time. Some nights he goes down for bed at 6:30pm, and doesn’t wake up for a feeding until 4:30am. Doesn’t sound ideal, but it’s better than the nights when he wakes up at 9:30, and then 11:15, and maybe he just doesn’t go back to sleep for hours. I take those small comforts and sustain myself on them. I know not every day will go well, but it’s just a day, and the next day will be different.
It’s weird the stuff I tolerate now.
Just a couple weeks ago I was putting Alex to bed by myself because Alan was out working late. I fed him some supper, diapered him, dressed him for bed, read him books and was giving him a bottle in the dark, our bedtime routine. And then it happened. He vomited all over himself, and me, and the chair, and the floor. I had no idea what to do but I had to do something so I laid him in his crib and even though he was an absolute mess and upset, I was calm. I smiled at Alex and reassured him that it was fine. I peeled my shirt off and threw it on the floor. I undressed him and put him in the bath. That’s the kind of scenario I would’ve dreaded thinking about finding myself in. When it happens though? You just go with it. I’ve dealt with monster poops and being puked on now more times than I can count.
Being a working mom makes me a better mom.
I know lots of women feel this way, and I know lots of women feel completely whole as a full time mom. This is something I struggled with. I felt guilty for wanting to get away, but just being a caregiver was not fulfilling for me. I had a longer maternity leave than most women in America, and that was valuable in getting to know this little guy, but it also meant that returning to work was something I really wanted and was ready for. Now the time I spend with him feels like better quality. We play and giggle together. I feed him his dinner. I’m happy to cuddle with him in the middle of the night for feedings. Part of it is just the passing of time and feeling more comfortable as a mom, but it’s also that I get to be creatively fulfilled now. And I like that I can do a coffee run and it’s not a whole thing.
Take lots of photos and video (don’t necessarily share all of them).
I mean hey, it’s your life, your kid. Share what you want. Since having a baby, I LOVE seeing other peoples’ pictures of their babies. But I personally feel self conscious about spamming my feeds with pictures of Alex. This year my Instagram has seen a lot of him, admittedly, but I always tried to accompany photos with an anecdote, or, when I posted a video, it had to be a GOOD video (like this video of him taking his first steps or this one where he sees the kitty after a nap.) But I can’t recommend enough taking a ton of photos and video for yourself. You will forget a lot about this time, and especially the little details. And take selfies (or better yet, selfie vids!). Of you and your kid. He likes to see himself and you’ll appreciate them later on.
Make time for #SelfCare. Seriously!
Since having a baby I have discovered (or rediscovered rather) that I fucking love being pampered. Massages, pedicures. Boom. Before the summer, I was getting a massage every 4-6 weeks. My body was broken from carrying, delivering and caring for this big baby. In weeks and months before he was born I was getting prenatal massages and pedicures. You do what you can to make yourself feel human, because motherhood definitely beats you down in the beginning. Doing something for yourself, even if it’s running errands without the baby, is healthy. TREAT YO SELF. And dad deserves a break too. Any time Alan expresses a desire to go hang out with friends or whatever, I support that. Parents still need to have their own lives. We have to recharge ourselves.
You lose part of yourself, but you find a new part.
The last year I’ve gone through an identity crisis and emerged as a more confident, capable woman. Trying to settle into the new role of “mom” was unbelievably difficult. i was trying to figure out how to fit this new identity alongside my old one. I sometimes really grieve for my old life. I worry sometimes that I had a baby at a time when my career was on the rise and I lost all that momentum and now I have to fight my way back in. There’s so much anxiety that comes with becoming a mother.
But ultimately, being a mother has improved my character. I’m more patient, more responsible, more driven, creative and focused, and I genuinely love doing “mom stuff”. And I’m finding that I can take the parts of me that I love from my old life and still have them as a mom. I like being a mom with tattoos and a cool creative career. I like listening to David Bowie with my baby and dressing him in my color scheme. I liked having a weekly photo. We found a way to fit Alex into our lives instead of having to change ours.
Finally, I want to share a bit of wisdom that someone shared with me when I was seeking career advice that I think relates well to parenthood too. Because everyone wonders if they’ll be a good parent and how they’ll possibly cope with this enormous responsibility.
If you can, then you should. If you must, then you will.