As a first-time parent, there are always things you do because you’re a nervous newbie who’s learning on the go. Or in other words, new parenting is basically trial-by-fire and sometimes it can be explosive, especially those breastfed baby poops.
Here are a few things I wouldn’t do as a new parent if I had the chance to start all over again.
1. Throwing big birthday parties
Since my former husband and I started celebrating our daughter’s birthday with a big celebration, it means the expectations are set high. To pull back and say, “Oh, let’s just have family over for cake” right now would be an epic fail because expectations have fallen into place. This does NOT mean that I can’t say, “Hey daughter, parties are expensive. Let’s scale down this year,” but it does make it harder.
Truthfully, I have one child and I don’t mind celebrating her birthday in style, especially for the first birthday (which is really a party for the parents, but maybe I would’ve gone more low-key after that until kindergarten). Once you set the bar high with anything in life, it’s hard to lower it; it’s key in all aspects of parenthood to set realistic expectations for our children.
2. Not hiring a non-family member babysitter sooner
As a single mom, I have a babysitter that I can rely on now; however, when my daughter was first born it took me a long time (years) to find a stable babysitter who could stay with us for the long term. I had one wonderful babysitter, but she had to leave for a full-time position, and after that, I didn’t rush to find someone new, mostly due to financial reasons.
I should’ve gotten on top of that pronto because even if you’re broke you have to pay for good family care backup. Obviously, a family member will be more trusted than a stranger, but you can’t always tell your family what to do with your kid (because the person may not listen), and at the time, I had issues with my former mother-in-law.
Plus, my parents are older and don’t have the same energy they once did. Having someone to call as a “just in case” is a smart idea. There were many opportunities I missed because I had no reliable help and couldn’t leave my daughter alone.
3. Buying too many clothes
In the beginning, I went a little crazy with my daughter, and honestly, there were items left hanging with tags and bows, never worn. Now I under-buy and have to make purchases mid-season because I underestimated. Did my daughter need that many bows? Um, no, unless she planned on growing up to be a Christmas present.
Be careful to not go too crazy buying clothing, especially if you have a girl; they tear through clothes. Borrow from friends. Hand-me-downs rock. And don’t worry about it being a “hand-me-down.”
4. Worrying about small accidents
Toddlers and infants fall. Repeatedly. Guess what? They survive. But it drove me crazy watching my daughter toddle around and — smack! — hit her head on something. I felt like a bad parent when it was just a developmental stage and had nothing to do with me as a person. What parent can prevent all falls?
As long as it’s not a huge fall, your kid will survive. It’s hard when you’re a new parent, and it’s the first time you’ve had to worry about padding a coffee table and suddenly every area of your house looks like a danger zone.
5. Staying with the same pediatrician
I ended up switching pediatricians at the end of her first year of life, but I wished I had switched sooner. I felt skeptical of some of her first doctor’s advice and bedside manner, and I should’ve acted quicker.
Was he a stable doctor? Yes. Did he have good advice? Sure. Was he the right doctor for our family? No, and I should’ve trusted my instincts sooner. He wasn’t harmful but I doubted myself too much. Don’t doubt yourself! If a doctor doesn’t seem right to you or doesn’t work with your personality, switch ASAP.
6. Keeping everything too tidy and clean
It’s good for kids to get messy. Of course, both I and my daughter’s father are neat freaks and so is my child, but I wished I had encouraged her to make a mess more often. It’s freeing, and little outdoor germs and mud never hurt anyone but your carpets.
7. Not letting my daughter self-wean
I decided to wean my daughter for a medical reason at thirteen months old. There was nothing I could’ve done to change that decision. I feel very good about how I raised her as an infant and toddler and what I currently do with her today, but I would’ve been happier if I let her self-wean.
I felt strongly that she should decide when nursing was over, but my health dictated that we wean right away. It wasn’t terribly sudden or handled improperly but the process happened more quickly than I would’ve liked. Thankfully, my daughter handled it pretty well and didn’t seem distraught.
8. Introducing vegetables too late
My former husband and I did a modified version of baby-led weaning with our child, so she’s turned out to be a great eater. But I introduced raw veggies late, so she only prefers raw carrots. Introducing them at four years old is harder than introducing them at two years old or sooner.
She will eat them cooked (broccoli, carrots, peas) but to all parents: introduce as many new foods as soon as your child can handle chewing them. The later you wait to introduce them, the harder it is. I’m thankful we gave her a great variety of foods and flavors, but perhaps I just thought that raw veggies were more of adult food. Either way, don’t forget to add them to your little one’s plate.
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9. Worrying about comments from in-laws
I wish I had cared less about others’ comments about my parenting, but in particular, my ex-in-laws. It was wasted energy to worry about such things. If you have a family member or friend you never see eye-to-eye with, you most likely won’t see eye-to-eye with this person on parenting, so drop the small fights, pick battles wisely, and ignore unnecessary rude comments.
Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t let yourself get down, because you aren’t on this earth to please everyone and the most important person that should be happy is your child and you (and spouse if you’ve got one). Someone will always have something to say about your parenting.
10. Not keeping my mouth shut
Did grandma buy another stuffed toy? Just say thank you and zip your lips, and don’t complain to grandma. It’s useless; she will do it again, and again, and again. Instead, just re-gift or return the gifts for something you need. Someone will always get you useless baby stuff. Just trust me.
Laura Lifshitz is a writer, former MTV personality, and Columbia University graduate who writes about divorce, relationships, women’s issues, and parenting for The New York Times, Women’s Health, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, and more.