By Alice Bradley, REDBOOK
1. For the first year of your child's life, you will be certifiably insane.
Okay, maybe just the first six months. But maybe longer! It really all depends on when your baby begins sleeping at regular intervals, and thus, when you can get some sleep as well. Not having enough sleep will turn you into an insane person. Who forgets to button her shirt. And then flashes the UPS guy.
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2. You will, at some point, get really mad at your baby.
See above, re: madness. You might look at your baby and think it's absolutely impossible for anyone to be angry at this plump-cheeked cooing wonder, but oh, you will. Of course it's not the baby you're mad at, it's the situation. The not-sleeping-and-crying-all-the-time situation. The oh-God-when-does-this-end situation. So all I'm saying is, if you're mad, it's understandable. Of course there's nothing to be done about it - the baby won't be able to comprehend your litany of complaints, nor will he care, really, even if he did get it. Babies can be self-centered! It's kind of their thing.
3. It might not be love at first sight. And that's okay.
Let's face it: newborns are weird-looking. They cry a lot. They're terrible at board games. And yet many mothers profess to have instantly fallen deep in love with their scrunchy-faced, pink, kind-of-boring babies. Who can say why this happens? It happened to me, and even I don't understand it. But it doesn't happen for lots of mothers. Not at the moment of birth, not in the ensuing weeks. It might be hormones working against you, or exhaustion, or maybe you were ambivalent about parenthood, or your baby kind of looks like your Uncle Roy who smelled like stale cigars. It's all okay. Because at some point, if you're anything like the vast, vast majority of parents, you're going to be smitten.
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4. Your child will be his own person no matter what you do (or not).
My son was stubborn and single-minded from the moment he was born, when he decided he absolutely knew where my nipple was, and it was in my ARMPIT. Stop trying to move me, woman, I'm trying to get a meal, here! Back off! I've got this! He's now eight, and just as determined to figure out everything his way. Although he's no longer rooting around in my armpit, thank goodness. Which is all to say, you're not forming your child's personality with each song you play for him or zoo you visit. He's already all there, getting ready to fully emerge as he gets older. It's your job to keep him fed, sheltered, and secure, and then stand back and watch it happen.
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5. It's not only okay to make mistakes: it's a good idea.
This is for when your child gets older, but it's good to get this in your head now. You're going to make mistakes. Not only is that okay, it's necessary. Your child needs to see you screw up. THEN (and this is the important part) she needs to see you recognize your mistake and either fix it and apologize. Too few people in this world are good at apologizing. You're going to mess up, as a parent and as a person. You just are. So at least when you do, you can model for your child how to graciously own up to your mistakes and correct them as much as you can. She needs to see that we're all imperfect, and imperfection is not the end of the world.
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6. First, take care of yourself.
We've all heard the airplane emergency instructions: first, you need to put on your own oxygen mask, and only then can you help others with theirs. You're not going to help anyone if you're unconscious. Make sense? And yet too many parents sacrifice their mental and physical health for the sake of their children. You're not doing anyone any favors. Get your health in order, make time to exercise, watch your diet, and don't hesitate to ask for the help you need - whether it's from friends and family or professionals. Your children need you to be healthy. Put on your oxygen mask first.
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7. Parenting gets both easier and far more difficult as your children get older.
You might think parenting an infant is as hard as it gets, and I'm not saying it's easy, but later on, you will long for the days you had a baby to tote around. Because when they get older, they become their own people with opinions and ideas and homework. Sure, they'll sleep through the night and even wake up and make their own breakfasts, but once you deal with your child's first bully, you will dream of that idyllic time when you never slept and your boobs leaked all over your new blouse. If your baby is teething, just imagine that moment when the orthodontist points to your kid's dental x-rays and says "Now here's why, over the next several years, your son's mouth needs to be completely revamped." Actually, I'm going to amend the above statement: it's not easier later, or more difficult, really - it's just different. Different, and a lot more expensive.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.