Over the years, I've received requests to write about staying positive as a parent or about how to be a good parent, but, since I'm not a parent and never plan to be one, it's not a topic I have any business writing about. However, over the weekend, I became an aunt for the first time so now it's time for me to sharing all of my positive parenting tips! I'm kidding. I don't have a clue what it's like to be a new parent, and, even those who have been new parents don't know what it's like to be my sister and her husband, new parents to this specific new little person (who I already love so much!!).
It seems to me having all the seasoned parents offering you, a new parent, advice would get old pretty quickly. Yes, intentions are good, and, yes, someone who has already been a parent has insights and experience, but I'd imagine that hearing, "When I had my first baby..." isn't always helpful. Plus, you can literally google anything so it's not like, as a parent, you really need the unsolicited advice of other parents. I started thinking about what I'd want if I had just had a baby, and, based on my understanding of what it's like — amazing, surreal, terrifying, exciting, overwhelming, exhausting — I thought I'd offer some encouragement rather than advice.
I drew the illustration above (also available in the shop if you know any new parents who might need it!) awhile back in preparation of the arrival of my little nephew, but here's a more in-depth take on what I was thinking while brainstorming some of these little bits of encouragement... (And, to be honest, most of us, parents or not, could use these reminders!)
LEARN AS YOU GO.
Parenting looks incredibly hard, and it seems to me that, no matter how much research you do, no matter how many parenting books you read or courses you take, a lot of the time you're going to have to just learn it as you're experiencing it. It seems like one of those things that, no matter how much you prepare, you're still going to be learning all the time. As a new parent, I'd imagine that this is important to remember because it probably seems, at times, like you don't know what you're doing. But, just like any other super important job, no matter how prepared you are, you're still going to learn as you go along because you're dealing with a brand new, unique little person.
PERFECTION IS A MYTH.
There is no perfect parent. There is no perfect parenting technique. Every parent is unique, every family dynamic is unique, and every baby is unique, so, while there are tons of great ideas and tips for being a good parent, there's no one-size-fits-all, "perfect" way to do it. Plus, parenting is a full-time, 24/7 job. If you're doing something literally all of the time, it's impossible to do it flawlessly. Being a parent is like being a person. You do the best you can with whatever skills and knowledge you have and you usually keep getting better and better at it. Parenthood (and personhood) is a crazy concoction of success and slip-ups, of trying your best and trying to figure out what the heck is going on. No one is doing it perfectly and that's perfectly okay.
Even if you know that perfection is a myth, it's probably pretty tough to be a parent and see all of the "perfect" representations of parenthood online. All of the mommy bloggers and the Instagram celebrities showing off their post-baby bodies, their perfectly lit little bundles of joy, their immaculate nurseries. I'm obviously not a parent, but even I get envious when I see how neat and tidy and perfect those lives look online. But none of that is real life. There is a behind-the-scenes to every perfect image shared online — the baby's post-photoshoot meltdown, the messy side of the room not shown in the photo, the not-Instagrammable emotional highs and lows of caring for a newborn. Parenting looks like the hardest thing ever and I bet there is no one, no matter how gorgeous their online presence looks, that isn't having a tough time with it.
TAKE TIME FOR YOU.
To be honest, this probably falls more in the "advice" category instead of "encouragement," but it seems like something that would be important as a new parent. Obviously, the baby is going to get a ton of attention and focus, but the parents deserve to get some alone time, to have a break, to relax (or at least try to) for a little bit. It's probably not an easy thing to do (and greatly depends on the situation and how much help the parents have available), but it seems like a good thing to at least strive for when becoming a new parent. Because, just like any relationship, the more you take care of yourself, the easier it is to take care of others. (That being said, new parents shouldn't beat themselves up if they can't find time for, or don't want, "me time." Everyone and every situation is different and new parents should do what's best for themselves and their baby.)
YOU HAVE WHAT YOU NEED.
Considering what a massive and new undertaking parenting is, I bet most new parents feel some level of unpreparedness when they're given that adorable little swaddled baby. I'm guessing most parents feel they're lacking in something because being completely responsible for another human being is pretty much the most important job, and how in the world do you accurately prepare for such a thing?! But, when it comes down to it, if they've got love and are doing the best they can, parents have what they need. Just think of all the people who are, or have been, parents. Sure, some of them are terrible at it, but tons of them have done an amazing job. Babies mostly need love and food and if you can provide those things, you've got what you need to get started making an awesome human being.
FEEL HOW YOU FEEL.
When making the illustration, this one was the most important for me to include. From what I understand about parenting, it's both incredibly amazing and terrifyingly overwhelming, particularly the first time you do it. And it seems to me that one of the toughest things about it is being expected to feel a certain way about it. Everyone around you is so happy and excited about your new baby, but they all get to go home and go back to their normal lives, while you, as new parents, continue to have your life completely changed forever. (Not to be dramatic or anything, haha.) I'm guessing that a really tough part about being a new parent is feeling a crazy range of emotions, while also feeling that you should just be overjoyed and grateful. So it seems to me that one of the best bits of encouragement for a new parent would be a reminder that they should just feel how they feel (and a reminder that you can feel conflicting emotions at the same time and still be a wonderful, loving parent). Change, even when positive, is a lot to deal with and new parents should be allowed to literally feel all the feels.
I couldn't be more thrilled to be an aunt for the first time! If you're an aunt or an uncle, I'd love to know if you have any tips or advice. Also, if you're a new parent, congratulations! :) If you — or any of the more experienced parents— have any additional bits of encouragement for me to pass along to my little sis, let me know in the comments below!
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