There is something about being pregnant or having a new baby that seems to serve as an open invitation for parenting advice. There is no doubt that the most universal parenting advice I hear is to "sleep when the baby sleeps." This actually IS good advice, since newborns do sleep a lot. You would definitely get a decent amount of (broken) rest if you always chose to sleep when your little one did. But...
There are always things to do.
Maybe an older sibling to take care of. Groceries to buy. Laundry. Oh the laundry! And you need downtime to yourself as well. Time where you are not dedicated to the well-being of your favorite new little person. Maybe a chance to have an adult conversation with visitors or to catch up on your favorite show with your partner.
So while sleeping when the baby sleeps *sounds* great, it just does not happen often enough.
The other bit of wisdom that I hear most often is to "enjoy every moment." Another impossible task. Of course, the fact that you just gave birth to a tiny human is amazing! And you absolutely should try to snap a mental photo of every little newborn detail because they will fade away faster than you can imagine.
But to tell you to enjoy every moment of life with a new baby is just setting you up for failure.
You will not enjoy the sleepless nights.
You will not enjoy the moments where you just cannot figure out how to make your precious one stop screaming their little head off.
You will not enjoy the copious amounts of bodily fluids that you will be dealing with on a regular basis.
Hopefully you can have a good sense of humor about these things. Make a few memories, have a few laughs. But enjoy? Not necessarily.
The truth is you do not have to enjoy every moment of parenting to be a good parent.
Personally, I have two favorite tidbits of encouragement to give to new parents.
First: Do not compare.
This is really, really hard, but babies and even families are not easy to figure out. It is not like comparing your handbag or shoes. Personalities, preferences, parenting styles, all of these factors and more will come into play to determine your reality. If your BFF tells you that their angel is already rolling over at 5 weeks old and your peanut can hardly hold their head up: smile, tell her how lucky she is, and remember that your babies are completely different people. Your baby and your family are unique.
Second: Lower your expectations.
Your newborn is going to require a lot of time and attention. In order to focus on them, you will have to balance things out by doing LESS in other areas. This means that laundry, cleaning, cooking, and even self-care, may have to wait to some degree. Perfection is impossible to achieve when your standards are too high. If you are feeling frustrated or disappointed about where you are at, take a moment to assess and figure out if you are setting your expectations too high. Chances are you need to lower them. And then lower them again.
Your family, no matter how many members it includes, is going through huge changes! You will likely find that you just do not have enough time to get everything done. A postpartum doula can help you keep up with your to-do lists while you and your family adjust. A change in routine can be jarring, but you will find a new normal. Be kind to yourself.
Written by: Kirsten Ludwig