Allie turns one next Monday and it’s so incredibly bittersweet. On one hand, I’m sad. Sad that my baby isn’t really a baby anymore. Sad that she’s not a tiny, cuddly little newborn anymore. Sad that this chapter of her childhood is over. And on the other hand, I’m excited. Excited for the toddler years and all the fun and joy that comes from those years. Excited to continue watching her grow and develop and explore the world around her. Excited to learn more about her and her personality. Her likes and her dislikes and everything in between. It’s a bittersweet time and this first year has gone by so unbelievably fast.
This past year has been one of the most incredible years of my life. While many women fear motherhood, I was always so unbelievably excited for it. I never planned on being a mom. Growing up, if you had asked me if I wanted kids, I would have said no. Or maybe. It was never a definite ‘yes’. But here I am at 26 with a beautiful daughter and I couldn’t imagine my life any other way. I was born to be a mom and that becomes more clear each and every day.
My first year of motherhood has been a rollercoaster full of so many amazing moments and so many sad and stressful ones. But one thing’s for sure, it’s been full of so many lessons. Here are 12 lessons I’ve learned in the first 12 months of motherhood.
1. Everyone Has Their Opinions
. . . And you have to learn to take those opinions with a grain of salt. These comments start the moment you announce your pregnant. Which sucks because at that point, you don’t even have a physical baby yet. But everyone feels the need to give you advice and ask invasive questions. Sometimes questions on topics you haven’t even thought about yet. So it can be really overwhelming and frustrating in the beginning.
Generally speaking, I’m pretty good with ignoring the rude comments. But sometimes it’s a bit harder. Like when I get comments on our choice to formula feed or sleep training or even the fact that I let Allie play in the grass (yes, I’ve been “mom shamed” for letting Allie play in the grass . . . ). The mom shame is real and unfortunately, every mom experiences it at some point or another. But it’s so important to learn how to take those opinions with a grain of salt and listen to your gut first and foremost.
2. It’s Okay To Trust Your Gut
Speaking of listening to your gut, do it! I know some moms take longer than others to develop their maternal instincts, but I promise you they’re there. You DO know what’s best for your baby. I set a rule for myself very early on in motherhood which is to only listen to myself, Zack and our pediatrician when it comes to Allie’s care and what’s best for her.
Occasionally, I’ll ask friends and/or family for their input. For example, Allie went through a phase where she seemed to be transitioning to one nap a day instead of two so I asked a few friends how old their kids were when they made that transition. I’ll also ask friends for advice on traveling with her or what their favorite sippy cups are. Basic things like that. But at the end of the day, I base all parenting choices off Allie’s developmental cues, my gut feelings and advice from our pediatrician. This makes motherhood so much less stressful.
Related: Baby Bartlett Is Here!
3. Every Baby Is Different . . . And Baby Books Are BS
Don’t get me wrong. Baby books can be really helpful for some new moms. But every baby is different and no child is going to grow and develop at the same rate the baby books say they’re going to grow and develop. Allie never ate the amount she was “supposed to” according to the charts. She was always taller than the charts said she would be and developed at a relatively quicker pace as well in most areas. She’s just about 12 months old and has zero words, but according to the books she should have 3-5 by now.
But that’s okay. All babies are different and to me, having the baby books can cause more stress than necessary. So we avoided them like the plague and allow Allie to grow and develop at her own pace. She’s the leader when it comes to her development. I just follow along and help her when needed.
4. Sleep Training Is HARD
In all honesty, I think sleep training was easily one the hardest things we experienced in the first year. Everyone seems to think we have some magical unicorn baby who sleeps perfectly, but I can assure you that’s not the case. I sleep trained our child from birth like it was my full-time job (based on HER developmental cues). It’s a 24 hour, 7 days a week commitment and it SUCKED. It still sucks because let’s be real, there are so many things that can affect a child’s sleep. The training never actually ends. But so far, it’s always been worth it and I am so glad I take the time to promote good sleep habits and teach her how to sleep (now if only I could train myself! haha).
Related: Allie’s Birth Story
5. I Have Much More Patience Than I Thought
If you know me, you know I’m one of the most impatient people on this planet. Seriously. I’m the WORST. And while I definitely have my frustrating days or moments with Allie, my patience with her is never-ending compared to every other aspect of my life. Sitting in traffic will anger me instantly. But Allie refusing to take a nap takes about 20 trips up and down the stairs before I start to get pissed off. I am so thankful for this new patience of mine. I think patience helps so much in being a good parent.
6. Working From Home With A Baby Is Challenging
Oh man have I been on the struggle bus this past year with work. I quit my job as a toddler teacher back in 2015 to focus on my blog full time and by the end of that year, this blog was my full-time job. Then we moved cross-country in 2016 and I got pregnant and had a baby and here I am in 2018 just now getting back on track with my income. Trying to type up a blog post (as pictured above) or taking blog photos or sending emails can instantly become so much more challenging when you have a baby who doesn’t want to be put down.
It wasn’t until Allie was about 4 months old that we were able to get into a structured daytime routine and then from 6 or 7 months onward, I was finally able to break away a bit more to focus on my blog. We still have our challenging days (of course), but for the most part I’m finally back on track and doing so much better in this department. You just have to find new ways to manage your time better and make the most of nap times.
7. I Actually LOVE Being A Morning Person
You can ask anyone in my household, I was NOT a morning person at any point in my life growing up. When Zack and I moved out to the west coast, we were a little “jet lagged” with the time difference and honestly, our sleep very easily made a healthy transition. Rather than going to bed at midnight, we were in bed by 8pm. That same week we moved, we discovered I was pregnant so being as exhausted as I was during my pregnancy helped a lot in keeping myself on track with my new bedtime and then helped even more as we transitioned into parenthood. Allie wakes between 6 and 7am and while I much prefer the 7am wake up, I feel so much more productive during my day when we wake up early as opposed to when I used to wake up at 10am. Being a morning person ROCKS!
8. Always Take The Photo
My entire camera roll is photos of Allie . . . a good 6,000 of them. And in addition to that, I have three or four 32GB memory cards full of her as well. I am so thankful for every single one of them. It’s true when they say little ones grow SO fast. And this past year has easily been the fastest year of my entire life. Allie is a completely different baby in each and every photo and I absolutely love being able to look back on them.
9. Your Marriage Will Go Through Changes
If you’re married or in a relationship, know that your relationship will probably experiences some changes. Not necessarily bad changes! For us, we experienced a bit more stress in the last year than we normally would simply due to me not working full-time. I know it’s a huge strain on Zack being the only income at that time so we’ve definitely experienced our ups and downs this last year. Money-wise, it’s much better now that I’m back to my blog so that helps us so much.
In addition to new stressors, your relationship will sometimes come second. And while I’m a firm believer in always putting marriage first, it’s normal for it to be put on the back burner sometimes. You have to make more of a conscious effort to put your marriage first and take the time out of your day to focus on it. Since we live 3,000 miles from family right now, there’s no such thing as a date night. Which is totally okay! But it also means we have to find other ways to connect and other ways to find that alone time.
When Allie turned 6 months old, I moved her bedtime from 8pm to 6:30pm and it was such a game changer for us. I wasn’t going to bed feeling exhausted and it gave us more time together as a couple before going to bed. Rather than having an hour together, we now have 3 hours together. And while that’s not a lot, it’s plenty of time for us to reconnect with one another at the end of every day. So this time is crucial for us.
The important thing here is to make sure you’re communicating your needs and taking that time out of your day to connect with your significant other.
10. It’s Okay To Ask For Help
I know, I know. I SUCK at asking for help. But I’ve definitely gotten better about it these last few months. I’ll be honest, I love being Superwoman (or Supermom). I feel so much more successful when I’m able to balance all my various tasks on my own. Some days it’s stressful while other days it’s easier. But when I’m able to do it all myself, it’s such a huge confidence booster for me. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m a weirdo? But 9 times out of 10, I always try to tackle everything myself first before resorting to asking for help. And Zack knows this so he tries to back off as much as he can.
BUT it’s also so important to know your limits. If you’re stressed to the point where you feel like you’re drowning then you absolutely need to be reaching out to your spouse, friends, and/or family for assistance. The big thing for me is leaving Allie with Zack for a few hours on the weekends so I can have time to myself. Super simple, but it helps me so much. That way when I return, I’m feeling much more calm and ready to continue tackling my to do lists. And this goes into the next lesson . . .
11.Self-Care Is Crucial
I’m a firm believer in that you cannot take care of your kids unless you’re first taking care of yourself. I say this constantly whenever I talk about self-care. Like I mentioned above, something as simple as me getting out of the house by myself helps me so much. I love working out, soaking in the bath, having a glass of wine after putting Allie to bed, Netflix with Zack, blogging, running errands alone. For me, self-care doesn’t have to be anything big. I try to make it a priority every single day to take the time to focus on myself in some way and it helps a lot in preventing myself from feeling overwhelmed or burned out.
Your little one needs you to be healthy. Don’t feel guilty in taking a day off or going out with your girlfriends for a drink or whatever it may be. Never ever forget to take care of yourself.
12. Motherhood Is Beautiful . . . And I LOVE Being A Stay-At-Home Mom
I feel like this statement isn’t said often enough anymore. Everyone is so focused on talking about the challenges of motherhood these days so the whole motherhood arena has a bit of a negative vibe to it. But I absolutely love being a mom and everything that goes along with it. It’s been the most incredible, stressful yet beautiful job I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t trade a second of it for anything.