A friend recently asked me, “What have you learned now that you have 3 kids?” He and his wife are contemplating having their first. So what can I teach them with all my infinite, acquired wisdom?
I certainly don’t feel like an expert. I don’t have much figured out. And, honestly, I attribute a lot of this new-found easy-breezy approach to parenthood to laziness and exhaustion.
But, I guess there are a handful of lessons I could share.
1. Baby socks are, like, no. The dumbest ever. With the exception of Trumpette brand socks, I have never found a pair that stays on my kids’ feet for more than 30 minutes. And after the baby is coordinated enough to pull them off, it doesn’t matter what brand they have on. Die in a fire, baby socks.
This winter, because I get that it’s kind of like child abuse to take your baby out barefoot when it’s below freezing, Lowell rocked a pair of Robeez (faux) fur-trimmed booties. They stayed on, looked stylish, and kept him warm with no socks required. Literally the only pair of shoes he owns for now. (Because baby SHOES are even dumber than baby socks. PLEASE know this.)
2. Do not take the whole damn nursery with you when you leave the house. No. You don’t need a portable medicine cabinet for a trip to the mall. No. You don’t need 4 toys and 2 changes of clothes. YOU ARE GOING AWAY FOR 3 HOURS. Stop. Unload. Put in a few diapers, some wipes, a light blanket (so very multipurpose), and a pacifier (or, okay, 6 of those) if your baby takes them. Your aching back will thank me. Nobody wins Martyr MacGyver points for being the parent at the park with the Mary Poppins bag.
On that note, keep a diaper bag loaded and ready to go. Not hard to do when you don’t have so much to stuff in there.
And another related note, find a good chiropractor.
3. You will sleep at night. You ALL will sleep at night. You will. Eventually. Trust, I do not mean to make light of sleep deprivation. It is hell, and it is serious, and it leads to desperation. It can also lead to depression and anxiety. Make sleep a priority, for sure. Do not do this at the expense of feeling like a failure because your 6 month old isn’t sleeping through the night, though.
I’m not saying don’t try methods that you have researched to help make this happen. I’m just saying to remember that it WILL happen someday. And in the meantime, you nap the nap out of naps when you can, and don’t give a flying crap if everything else is falling apart around you. That pile of laundry might actually make a comfy place to lay your head.
4. That leads me to self-care. Take care of yourself! No, really. I know everyone says that. I mean it. Drink more water. Take it everywhere with you. Know the signs of postpartum depression and anxiety, and know that it can set in long after that 6 week postpartum mark. Ask for help. ACCEPT help. Eat. Do things you enjoy just because you enjoy them, even if they have nothing to do with your baby.
5. Buy GOOD baby stuff. Especially if you’re planning to have more than one baby. There are things we got for our first baby that didn’t last 6 months with him. Then there’s stuff like the Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair that I seriously think we will still have when we have grandchildren. Is it more expensive than plastic high chairs? Yes, but it is 10x more durable, washable, and useable. Really think about simplicity and longevity when you buy (or register for) baby items. Not only will you save money in the long run, you’ll keep stuff out of landfills longer.
6. Buy LESS stuff. See, you can afford to buy better baby stuff when you buy less of it. The more kids I have, the less crap I want in this house. We simply don’t have the room. Simplicity is the key to my sanity! Keep fewer bottles, sippy cups, and bibs in the kitchen. You don’t need one of each brand. Once you find what works for you, stick with it, get a few, and donate the rest. Babies don’t really need special baby plates or baby spoons or baby bowls.
And clothes? Just remember the more you have, the more you have to wash. Stick to cute separates that mix and match easily, from brands that wear well. Add in special outfits for special occasions, and remember that not every day is a special occasion. And, it’s perfectly fine for your baby to wear footie pajamas all day. Yup, even to the grocery store.
9. Purge. Constantly. Even if you’re consciously buying only good stuff, and less of it, it will still take over your house like a multi-colored-plastic-with-a-dash-of-wood-because-good-parents-buy-wood-toys-right? monster. Donate it, sell it, but think through if packing it away for future use is the best option.
Personally, we don’t have the storage space to save every item of clothing. I’m glad I didn’t waste the Rubbermaid tubs on doing so since each child was born in a different season, and there’s 5 years between the boys. I saved the good-quality, unisex stuff, and the special outfits that work for several seasons. They all take up just one bin’s worth of space. Remember that hand-me-downs come and go, and there are always good deals to be found on Craigslist and consignment sales.
8. Kids are resilient, and I believe there’s a reason they don’t remember the first few years. You will mess up. EVERYONE messes up. Welcome to the club. Let’s have a drink.
9. Don’t go lax on safety. Laws, regulations, and recommendations are constantly changing. What you did with your first baby may not be the safest option by the time the 3rd baby comes. For me, when it comes to stuff like car seat safety, I try to stay up to date on the newest recommendations.
10. It really does go fast… and also slow… and there is nothing you can do about it. Savor moments when you can, try not to feel guilty for the moments you want to time travel past bedtime that night, and always say yes to sloppy baby kisses.