Today, Arlene turns one.
As any parent can attest, that first birthday comes with a tsunami of emotions.
Accomplishment: You made it a full year!
Bewilderment: Wait… how has it been a year?
Dread: Only 17 more of these and she’s out of the house?!
Panic: What if she fails to launch?
As I compare the photos of Arlene’s first day on earth to what she looks like today, I can’t believe just 365 days separate that skinny alien baby from my current chubby, funny munchkin. But honestly, some days I can’t tell who’s grown more– Arlene or me. With that said, here’s the biggest lessons I learned in my first year of parenthood.
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You know zero about being a parent until you are one.
Read all the books you like, listen to every podcast, have yourself a 3 Men and a Baby/3 Men and a Little Lady double feature. Heck, go to school and get your degree in education or early childhood development. You may learn about kids, but you have no idea what it means to be a parent until you are one.
Breastfeeding is complicated.
I’m sorry if I silently judged you for breastfeeding your kid for “too long,” or “helpfully” suggested that you supplement with formula or donated breastmilk, or even thought the act of donating milk was “weird.” I remember thinking I’d try to breastfeed my kid for four or six months. Ha! A year later and I’m still flashin boob wherever I damn well please, gazing into my beautiful child’s eyes (which are the PERFECT distance from mine– nature designed that one right!), dreading the moment we end this intimate, special bond.
Working when the baby sleeps… yeah, right.
Babies are little blobs that sleep all day long. How hard can working at home be?! As it turns out, it’s practically impossible and only gets harder as they become more mobile. Hence, we hired a nanny for 15 hours a week. Which is still not enough time to get half of what’s on my to-do list accomplished.
Navigating the world with a baby is magical.
I never really liked babies before I had one. Imagine my shock when I realized when you walk through the world with a baby, people light up like a recently adjourned AA meeting. Strangers hold doors open for you and awwwww at you in line at the grocery store. The sketchy guys at the bus stop don’t holler at you, old ladies unapologetically tickle your kiddo’s toes without asking permission (who touches a strangers baby, honestly?!). I had no idea how much other people adore babies until I had one.
Babies are exhausting.
Caring for a baby 24/7 is the most exhausting work on the planet. Even if you have a babysitter or nanny or grandparent stepping in to help, you’re trying to cram eight million things into those hours that you used to take all week to accomplish. Babies are beautiful, but relentless.
Your adventures don’t need to be over.
I put off having a baby because I wasn’t ready to hang up my old adventure pants. I wanted to explore the world, hike Machu Picchu, eat my way through Thailand’s jungle markets, strike complicated yoga poses on a pristine Seychelles beach just so I could brag about my amazing life on Instagram (JK I would never do that… and by that I mean the yoga pose part). I’ve been to all seven continents and I can say without a doubt that parenthood is my greatest adventure yet. Every single day, I learn more about myself and am absolutely amazed at what Arlene soaks up. It’s like realizing I’ve been farsighted this whole time, and just got the coolest pair of glasses that make everything around me pop.
Any activity without the baby is a vacation.
Grocery shopping, a spinning class, a shower, getting a benign growth burned off your face at the dermatologist– it all feels like a luxurious spa vacation sans baby.
A baby unlocks places in your heart you never knew existed.
I know a lot of parents dislike when people compare their dog to a child. Before Arlene, I loved my dog at capacity. But babies open the most vulnerable and tender places in your heart. Places you never knew existed and ache every time you look at your tiny person. Yes, even places an adorable puppy cannot nuzzle its way into.
I love being a mom.
I worried I wasn’t qualified for this job. Newsflash: nobody feels qualified. As it turns out, I love being a mom. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done (the late nights, the cracked nipples, the constant chasing, the worry) while simultaneously being the easiest (I mean, look at this kid).
Nothing can prepare you for parenthood. But I’m glad I went for it because it’s easily the best thing I’ve ever done.
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I’ve learned way more lessons than this, and I am sure you have too. Share below, yo!