Being a new parent is one of the biggest challenges you’ll ever face in your life. Yet, it’s also the most rewarding and joyful experience you’ll ever have. Many things will come to you naturally thanks to your parental instincts and intuition. And though there are some things you won’t get right the first time, you’ll learn along the way. We’ve put together a list of 15 common mistakes every first-time parent makes, so that you can be a bit more prepared for when your little one comes along.
15 Not accepting help
When you’ve carried your child in your body for nine months, held them and fed them day after day, it feels really weird and scary to give them to someone—even just for a day. But, the next time your parents or your in-laws offer to babysit for a few hours or even a few days to allow you to go on a vacation or just relax, you should say yes! Why? Well, for starters, you’re probably making your relatives a bit frustrated/annoyed by not sharing your bundle of joy with them. And, perhaps more importantly, you could use the time off. When your baby decides to spend a few months waking you up in the middle of the night and you’re not getting enough sleep, you’ll wish you had help.
14 Crying when the baby cries
It goes without saying that mothers have a special connection to their babies. They seem to know when something’s wrong with their kid and feel their pain. Right after you’ve given birth, your emotions are all over the place thanks to hormones. Combine that with panic and the confusion that new parents feel and you’ve got a recipe for a really ugly situation. A lot of first-time mothers actually cry when their baby cries. Don’t do this. Please. Not only does it cloud your judgment and prevent you from helping your baby to stop crying, but it actually makes them feel even more stressed. That’s right—babies can pick up on your emotions. So, a stressed-out mommy will likely lead to a stressed baby.
13 Not taking enough pictures
You probably didn’t think it was possible, but time actually goes by faster when you have a baby or two. They grow up so fast; you’ll be left wondering where all of those years went. Though you might think that you could never forget your child’s first words or where they took their first steps, in five years or so, you probably would forget if you didn’t record it somehow. That’s why it’s important to preserve the precious memories. You could take photos and keep an album or combine them with momentos and make a scrapbook or memory box. You should also write things down and take videos (of milestones or anything that would make for a laugh at their high school graduation party or wedding). Long after your kids have grown up, you’ll be glad to have these to look back on and share with your family and friends.
12 Taking too many pictures and panicking over missed moments
On the other side of the spectrum, it can also be a mistake to take too many pictures. This seems to be the problem plaguing Generation Y, thanks to social media. Taking pictures is great (for reasons mentioned above) until it begins to take over your life. You should never force your kid to take pictures—seriously, it doesn’t matter how cute you think their outfit is, if they’re crying and fussing, put the camera down because they clearly aren’t enjoying themselves.
You should also relax a bit and not throw a fit if you missed taking a shot of a special moment. Sure, it might suck, but if you were actually enjoying the moment with your child then it’s nothing to be upset about. There will be plenty of other special moments and more firsts—first steps, first Halloween costume, first time riding a bike, first time losing a tooth and so on.
11 Buying too much clothes
Ahh, baby clothes—they’re just so darn cute, aren’t they? It’s so ridiculously easy to get carried away buying a ton of newborn clothes because, well, you’ve seen how tiny they are. Mini anything is just irresistible. The only problem is that it’s a total waste of your money. Babies grow faster than you can imagine, so that cute newborn onesie that you bought might fit for about a week or two until it becomes too tight. So, there’s really no point in buying one in every color. Plus, you’ll probably receive a ton of newborn clothes as gifts. If you must buy clothes, you should always invest in bigger clothes that they can grow into. You should start with clothes for 0-3 months or even 3-6 months.
10 Panicking over every little cough or hiccup
Just because your baby sneezes one time, it does not mean that they’re getting the flu. Calm down. Even a healthy child will display symptoms (blotchy skin, diarrhea, etc.) that can send you into panic mode. Again, calm down. While you should be cautious when it comes to your baby’s health, there’s no point in getting paranoid over every little thing. That being said, be prepared for emergencies by keeping an infant emergency kit filled with things like gripe water, antihistamines (as recommended by a doctor) calamine lotion, nose drops, cotton swabs and infants’ acetaminophen (as recommended by a doctor), and tongue depressors. You can find a list of more things to add to the kit here. You’ll feel a lot calmer knowing that you have these supplies nearby.
9 Ignoring your marriage or relationship
Going from a couple that goes on dates twice a week, has three-hour long conversations during the day, and cuddles while watching Netflix at night to a couple that has to take care of a baby is one of the biggest challenges for a relationship. It’s really easy to just go to bed after a long day taking care of your baby instead of spending some time with your significant other or ignore them during the day because your attention is all on your baby. But, you have to make a conscious effort to keep your relationship alive. If that means getting a baby-sitter once a week so you and your significant other can go out on a date, then do it. Or, you can even get creative and plan a stay-at-home date.
8 Letting your baby play with your phone
Babies love phones. At first, it’s really cute to hear them attempt to mimick you speaking on the phone and it’s fascinating to see them (surprisingly) press the right buttons sometimes. But, it’s not so great when they delete all your contacts and apps. Or worse, if they call someone like your boss or 9-1-1 (and it does happen). The reason that babies like the phone so much is because they see you on it all the time. So, to stop (or prevent) their phone obsession, you should limit your own phone use (especially when you’re within their sight). Also, be consistent with your rules. If they’re not allowed to play with your phone at home, don’t give it to them while at the doctor’s office or in the mall. Otherwise, you’ll confuse them.
7 Staying up after your baby has fallen asleep
Finally! The crying has stopped and your baby is asleep. What to do now? There are three types of parents. The first type will stare at the baby for an hour to make sure they’re really asleep or check up on them on them every 10 minutes to make sure that they’re breathing. The second type will be so relieved that they’ll do everything that they couldn’t do when the baby was awake—watch an entire season of their favorite show on Netflix, read 10 chapters of a novel, cook all their meals for the rest of the week. Both of these types of parents will realize sooner or later what a huge mistake they’re making. That’s because before they know it, the baby will be up again and they’ll be exhausted. That’s why you should be like the third type of parent, the one that actually sleeps when their baby is asleep.
6 Not making time for yourself
Just as you shouldn’t neglect your relationship with your significant other when you have a baby, you also shouldn’t neglect yourself. It’s so easy to get caught up taking care of the baby, running errands and doing chores or work that you forget about yourself. You should make it a priority to spend at least half an hour a day alone or doing something that you loved doing before the baby came along (like reading magazines, working out, or having a bubble bath). You’re probably wondering how on earth you’ll find the time or the opportunity to do that, but you will. It might mean asking your significant other or a relative to watch the baby for a couple hours while you head to the spa or getting a babysitter. It isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. If you don’t make time for yourself you’ll become robotic, exhausted, and joyless—which will affect your parenting and your baby
5 Overestimating your free time
So, the time has finally come for you to go on maternity leave. If you think that you’re about to embark on a relaxing vacation with your newborn, think again. In reality, you’re about to embark on a new job—the “stay-at-home mom” job. This job description includes: attending to your infant’s every need (feeding, changing diapers, etc.) while doing all the other chores you did before. So, you’ll have to re-think your plans to work out or organize scrapbook albums while the baby’s napping and catch up with your friends on weekends. Your baby will have an unpredictable schedule and even the little things will take up more time than you think it will. It’s nothing to worry about, though, just set realistic goals (perhaps one or two goals each day instead of an entire list). This way, you’ll be satisfied that you at least accomplished something.
4 Forgetting the essentials when you go out
There’s a reason that diaper bags are so big. It’s really crazy how many things such a small person needs. Anywhere you go, you should always bring the diaper bag, stocked with all the essentials. What are the essentials? Well, you’ll definitely need a lot of diapers (duh, that’s why they’re called diaper bags) because babies go through about 8-12 of them per day during their first year. Don’t forget to stock up on baby wipes! You should always pack rags and a change of clothes, too, because you never know when your baby will spit up or vomit. The last thing your baby needs is to be sitting or laying around in wet clothes. This will only make them uncomfortable and cause them to cry, which is the last thing you need.
3 Not giving kids enough space
When you have a newborn, you just want to spend every moment with them. If they’re playing, you want to play with them. If they’re sleeping, you want to watch them (because they just look so cute and peaceful). It’s easy to get overly-attached to your first child. But, if you continue to do this as they grow up, it can be problematic. Your child will begin to think that the only way to have fun is if you’re there. And when it comes time for them to go off to school on their own, it’ll be a real challenge. So, you have to teach your child that you’re not going to be there every second of the day. Give them their space. Let them learn to play with other kids and to play alone.
2 Comparing your kid to other kids
It’s tempting to compare your kid to other people’s kids (or even to your other kids). Social media makes it even easier for us to do that—with people making announcements left, right and center about how their kid got the highest grades in their class or earned their black belt at age 10. That’s really good for those kids and those parents have a right to be happy and brag a little. But, you shouldn’t feel bad if your kid hasn’t achieved what other kids have. Why? Because everyone is different. Every child has their own interests, talents, and rates of development. So, if your child isn’t a genius at math maybe it’s because they just aren’t interested in being a genius at math. Maybe they’re an art prodigy instead. You should encourage your child to do what they love and set realistic expectations for them, based on their abilities, not other kids their age.
1 Assuming you’re doing it all wrong
It’s hard work being a parent. Don’t make it harder by putting pressure on yourself to get everything done and do everything perfectly. The truth is that your baby will cry, it doesn’t matter how perfectly you do everything. Crying is just in their nature. You also can’t expect them to get on a schedule and be happy all of the time. This doesn’t mean that you’re doing a bad job; it just means that both you and your baby are human. Most parents have to deal with these issues, too, and their kids turn out just fine. So, take a deep breath in and out and relax. Things will be okay, you’re not screwing up. In most cases, you’re just experiencing what it means to be a parent and learning new things along the way.