Expectant parents often spend months preparing for the arrival of their baby. There are parenting classes to attend, parenting books to read and plenty of steps to baby-proof the house. Then, as soon as the baby is born, there’s a whirlwind of activity and unexpected change.
Many new parents underestimate the intense helplessness and stress that accompany this life stage. What’s more, according to the American Psychiatric Association, some 85 percent of new mothers display symptoms of mood disturbance, ranging from the blues to postpartum depression. The good news is, most new moms and dads receive support from family and friends that’s sure to help ease the transition. With that assistance often comes a deluge of parenting advice. Take a look at these suggestions designed to help your household run more smoothly during those irreplaceable days, months and years.
“Looking back, I wish I would have known how to just enjoy holding my son, rather than being so nervous and neurotic about everything! I would’ve been much more at ease if I had simply enjoyed the discovery of raising him. I remember my older son’s first bath in the sink. My wife and I were nervous wrecks. We were self-absorbed, concentrating more on how we would look as parents instead of just loving our child. I see now that parenting is not about the perfect way to care for kids–or even the best way to care for them. It’s about loving the children God gave you as deeply as possible without all the fear and second-guessing that can cloud the situation.”
— Taj Hussain, father to Alex, 13, and Austin, 10
“It’s so important to choose your battles. I discovered that I didn’t have to push back on everything my child did that I didn’t want him to do. (Of course, always be conscious when it comes to safety.) Let the kids have some independence and know that it’s okay to ‘give in’ sometimes.”
— Missy Perkins, mother to Katie, 16, Matthew, 15, and Jack, 2
“One thing my wife and I never heard before we had our baby was that breastfeeding isn’t easy. I didn’t realize how physically difficult (and painful) it can be for new mothers, and was completely caught off guard by the emotional importance that my wife placed on that first feeding. Our son had trouble breastfeeding at first, and in a panic, I pushed for us to try formula. I’ll never forget the tears in my wife’s eyes–like I had given up on her and the important bond she desperately wanted with our baby. With a little patience and instruction from a heaven-sent nurse, our boy became a champion breast feeder. Looking back, I wish I would’ve been more sensitive, and helped my wife work through those early obstacles with confidence.”
— Alex Runner, father to Ben, 13 months
“I wish I would’ve known to start having family devotional times on a regular basis–even when the kids were very young. When a baby is big enough to be part of the dinner table, hold hands with him to pray. Read a children’s Bible together, and then grow that into a weekly devotional time. There are daily things families can do, like praying at bedtime and talking about Jesus and Bible stories at mealtimes. Then, as the kids get older, there are more formal things like object lessons and Bible teachings.”
— Linda Seldomridge, mother to Katie, 21, and Robbie, 17
“I realized early on that my son valued the time I spent with him much more than anything I bought for him. At one point, I was offered a job that had a higher salary. On the flip side, though, I would have to put in many more hours and be away from home more. I talked to my son who was 7 at the time about this, telling him that if I took the job we could take better vacations and buy more stuff. But if I didn’t take the job, I could continue being his soccer coach and helping out in his classroom. He didn’t even pause before saying he didn’t want me to take the job. I don’t want any other adult to replace my role in my son’s life. Spending time with him has always been most important to me as his dad.”
— Jay Fukushima, father to Jason, 17