With my return to work and my son’s first birthday on the horizon, I can’t help but reflect on what my first year as a mother has taught me.
Some people say strange things to expectant or new parents.
Before I was pregnant, I didn’t realize how profoundly strange the things people say to new or expectant parents are. Most people react to news of an expected child with the same (but positive) canned responses: “Do you know the gender?”, “got a name picked?”, “that’s so exciting!”, et cetera; however, a surprising number of people we told we were expecting responded with an off-colour joke about how our lives were over with an accompanying story about their children’s worst moments that week. I often found myself thinking “Geez Brenda, can you hold your spoilers? It’s a bit late for me to be pumping the brakes”.
A lot of the advice other parents give me is bullshit, but I should listen anyway.
Most people genuinely want to help make my parenting journey easier. They want to demystify things that challenged or puzzled them, save me the headache and heartache of looking for what works. However, in my experience, although well-meaning, this advice is generally unsolicited and therefore challenging to receive well. I’ve also found that what worked best for our family was seldom a carbon copy of someone else’s solution. This makes sense — it’s no cliché that every child and family is different, of course the rules would be different. However, it was still important to listen. When I was tired, over my head, and desperate for change it was helpful to investigate those suggestions. While they often didn’t hold the answer exactly, they blazed the trail to what eventually worked. It also was good to remember that others had made it through whatever was challenging us that week.
Parental leave is no vacation.
I cringe now thinking how many parents I treated like they were walking into a sweet year off when they headed off on their parental leave. Granted my parental leave was different than most given that it happened during a global pandemic. There weren’t many reasons to leave the house, and there was less help available than I think I would have had if there hadn’t been this disruption. My partner worked outside the home so more days than not, it was just my son and I with nowhere to go. While there were an amazing breadth of indescribably happy moments (seeing my son walk for the first time, snuggling him while he slept at all hours of the day, playing with him endlessly…) there was an equal number of crushing moments. The last year of my life has been one of the most spectacular but also one of the loneliest and exhausting years of my life. It’s bittersweet to be returning to work in a week.
I didn’t know what love was before I met my son.
I knew this when I held him in the hospital. When he woke me up every three hours for months and I rushed to his bedside. When he smiled at me for the first time. But also when I found out that I would need to help him clear his nose with a nasal aspirator.. and that the manual ones are the only ones that really work worth a damn. I wouldn’t do that for anyone else. Period.
It’s hard to keep a straight face sometimes.
My son is starting to test boundaries and explore. It’s clear he’s starting to understand the word “no”, but it’s also clear that he’s inherited his father’s willful disposition. As frustrating as it is, there’s something deeply funny about the light of your life smiling at you when you ask them not to do something and willfully doing it anyway. I’m not sure if there’s a course for parental poker face, but man could I use it.
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