Slideshow: Parenting Pictures - Top Surprises of Life After Baby Arrives
Reviewed by Kathy Empen, MD on Friday, August 26, 2011
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All Your Time Is Baby Time
You may have set the agenda once, but not anymore. Your baby's schedule is now your schedule. Sure, newborns sleep up to 18 hours a day. But that's broken up into small chunks. And between naps, there's feeding, changing, and a whole lot of holding going on.
Tip: After the first hectic weeks, babies take longer naps at predictable times. And you'll become a much better time manager.
You've Joined a Worldwide Club
Suddenly you've got a lot of friends. Strangers smile at you. Mothers at church ask you if you want to join them on a play date. Your boss asks you how your baby's doctor visit went. The club is called parenthood, and you have a lot of company. Enjoy it.
Tip: You'll develop a unique parenting style that is right for your family -- and may be quite different from your neighbors.
Your Relationship Changes
The dynamics have changed. There's one more person to interact with, and that means less time for just you and your partner. If one parent is providing most of the baby care, the other can feel slighted. And couples can get so busy they forget to talk.
Tip: Set aside time for just the two of you. Make a date and share what's happening in each other's life.
Night's No Longer for Sleeping
You remember when night was for sleeping, don't you? Well, your new baby isn't going to let you do that for a while. Until she sleeps through the night, you can limit your sleep deprivation by taking turns with your partner in getting up with the baby.
Tip: During the day, don't try to catch up on chores while the baby sleeps. Lie down and rest.
You'll Have Too Many Visitors
You know that family and friends will want to see the new baby. When they do, they'll bring endless stories about raising their kids and endless advice about raising yours. If you feel up for it, it could be fun. Be sure they aren't sick, and have everyone wash their hands before holding the baby.
Tip: If you're feeling overwhelmed with all you have to do, it's OK to say "Let's make it another time." Good friends will understand.
You Make More Faces Than a Baby
Babies learn by watching and interacting with their environment. It won't be long before you find yourself doing a lot of "silly" things to encourage your baby's learning. Smiling, sticking out your tongue, or making a funny face or sound will attract his attention.
Tip: After the first few weeks, you'll see him studying, learning, and eventually imitating your silly faces.
You Need Help
The constant attention that babies demand is exhausting. Ask for help from your partner. Each of you should have time each day while the other is taking care of the baby to do something that's just for you. Watch a favorite TV show, read a book, go for a walk, take a bath.
Tip: If you're a single parent, don't be afraid to ask for help from a friend or relative. Time away will let you recharge.
Babies Need Conversation
When you talk with your baby, two things happen. She learns and you bond. And the more you talk, the more those things happen.
Tip: Imitate your baby's vocalizations -- "ba-ba" or "goo-goo" -- then wait for your baby to make another sound, and repeat that back. This helps her learn the give and take of conversation.
Babies Are Expensive
The average middle class family spends $225,000 in the first 17 years of a child's life. That's just to provide food, shelter, and other necessities. It doesn't include things like increases in health insurance. Nor does it include saving for college, which is best started early. Babies necessitate a lot of financial planning.
Guilt Is Part of Parenthood
You told yourself you were going to be a top-notch parent – a calming, happy presence. But there are times when you simply don't want to do it anymore. Now you feel guilty that you aren't enjoying every second of parenthood. Don't. It's natural to want a break from baby.
Tip: Ask for help. When the baby's safe in his crib, call a friend. And notice all the things that are going right.
Children's Books Are Literature
If you didn't know children's books before, you'll fall in love with them now. Many are written with both parent and child in mind to entertain while they educate. Babies love to be read to, and it's never too early to start reading to yours.
Tip: Reading aloud will help your baby be a better reader when she's older.
You'll Make Mistakes
All those how-to books you read about parenting, and all those things you swore you would never do ... Maybe in a perfect world there are perfect parents. In the real world, the rule of thumb is you do what works. If your child's too old for a pacifier but it helps him sleep, you'll probably make the "mistake" of letting him keep it. Relax. That's not the kind of mistake that's going to hurt him. When in doubt, ask your pediatrician.
You Become a Judge
As your child grows, so does your role as mediator. It may not be what you want to do. Nevertheless, there'll be disputes between siblings to settle, boundaries to establish, time-outs to monitor. Discipline isn't the easiest thing to administer. But it's part of the job.
Tip: Set aside time to spend with each child individually, so they don't feel like they're always competing for your attention.
You Gain a Bathroom Buddy
It'll be a couple of years before you start potty training your new baby. But when you do, either you or your spouse will likely have an audience when you go to the bathroom. It's called parent modeling. And it's one way to teach what going to the bathroom is all about. A kid, especially a smart kid like yours, can learn a lot by watching.
Baby Love Is Real
It might not happen right away. But someday you'll look at your child and feel a depth of emotion you haven't known before. Just how boundless that feeling of love is catches a lot of parents, especially mothers, by surprise. You knew you were going to love this baby, but not so unconditionally. Enjoy it and make it last a lifetime.
Parenting Is Letting Go
It's the bittersweet in parenting. Every milestone is an accomplishment, and you can be proud you helped your child get there. But at the same time, every milestone means your child is more independent and needs you a little less. When she's tiny, won't sleep through the night, and can't do for herself, you feel like it will never end. Then it seems like it's the next day and she's waving goodbye.