The Good, Bad, and Ugly New Parent
I’ve only been a parent for about 6 months. I’ve been caring for a life that is not my own for just half a year. My younger self would say Meh, that’s not very long.
Ohhh but it is. It’s very long.
You see: if you measure time in days, 6 months is really not very long.
But if you measure time in wisdom, 6 months is infinite.
When you become a parent, you learn, and you learn fast. You learn numerous things about your son or daughter, of course, but most of what you learn when you become a parent is about yourself. The wisdom you acquire in as short as 60 minutes spent with your child is enough to fill a 100+ page book…at least for me. I could fill mine with things that would make you laugh, things that would make you cry, things that would make you relieved, things that would make you angry, things that would make you happy, and things that would make you jump out a window (or at least consider it).
Okay…so jumping out a window may be a bit extreme, but that is parenthood. Parenthood is extreme. You hopefully won’t be jumping out any windows, but I’m not ashamed to admit: those words have come out of my mouth.
I want to jump out a window!
My husband has heard me say it, and he did not like it. I didn’t like it either. It tasted awful on my tongue. So why did I? Why did I say it?
As I mentioned before, when you become a parent, you learn about yourself, and you learn fast, and well…brace yourself.
What you learn about yourself may not be pretty. New flaws surface. Old flaws resurrect. Existing flaws fester and boil.
I’ve learned: I’m still not patient.
Just 3 weeks into breastfeeding, I said I’m done! I want to quit! if Bennett didn’t latch just right.
I threw a pacifier at the wall when Bennett woke up crying for the fourth time in 15 minutes.
I muffled screams in my pillow after he refused to sleep in his crib.
I slapped my thigh with a cotton prefold when I couldn’t stop his flailing legs long enough to secure the diaper.
I’ve learned: I’ve already let myself go.
I used to spend an hour getting dolled up just to go to the grocery store; now I just make sure my boobs aren’t leaking through my shirt, my leggings cover most of my wooly mammoth leg hair, and the rat’s nest on my head is pulled back tight enough that you can’t really see the greasy roots.
I used to wake up early to work out and get a good sweat going; now I’ll squeeze in the occasional stroller walk around the neighborhood, which gives me a side ache in approximately 20 minutes.
I used to have decent style; now I’ll wear the same XL thermal covered in dog hair for 2-3 days straight and hope no one rings the doorbell.
I’ve learned: I’m lonely.
I talk to my dogs more than my girlfriends, so in the rare event that I get out to be social, I often get tongue-tied and sound like a bumbling idiot.
My family and friends are 17 hours away, so I settle for hour-long phone calls with my mom and sharing my life in pieces through Snapchat.
I often count down the hours until my husband is home from work, so I can have an adult conversation that doesn’t involve squawking, screeching, or making fart noises.
I’ve learned: I’m weak.
My son acquired a cold at just 2.5 months old, and to me, that meant I failed to protect him.
I’ve let myself feel defeated when I didn’t have the answer; once, Bennett was crying hysterically, non-stop, in my arms, so I just held him, and I sobbed, while he sobbed, and then called my husband to come save us.
I fully believe that if I had to, I could not do this–parenthood–on my own.
In just 6 months, I’ve learned all that. I’m not particularly proud of many of these things I’ve learned about myself, and I know I need to work on a lot, if not all, of these things. But I forgive myself. Parenthood is tough. There are physical struggles and mental struggles. Sometimes, you become a person you don’t recognize: a person who chucks pacifiers and looks like a train wreck. It’s not pretty, but don’t let it ruin you. We’ve all been her, but don’t be her forever. The key is that you’ve recognized your flaw; now learn from it and move on.
Because you can’t quit parenthood.
Patient or not, lonely or not, weak or not: you will wake up tomorrow and still be the parent. I’ve been the angry, impatient new mom who screams into her pillow. I’ve recognized it’s OK to be her sometimes…in the other room. But throwing a pacifier? Not OK. Not having all the answers? Totally OK. Crying about it? Not worth it. Looking and smelling homeless? OK in moderation. Jumping out a window? Never OK. Wanting to quit? Totally normal. Remember, parenthood is extreme. You’ll see yourself at your worst and at your best, but what’s important is that you don’t let it ruin you. I’m only 6 months old in parenthood years, and I’ve already seen the good, bad, and ugly in myself. But I also know, at the end of the day, that little one who drives me up the wall, disrupts my precious sleep, and steals my shower time…he needs me, no matter what state I’m in. It’s up to me who I want him to see.