Lessons My Daughter Taught Me Before Turning 1

by Emily Westbrooks

The first year of my daughter's life was an absolute blur of adrenaline, formula, dirty diapers, and utter happiness. I think most parents feel the same about their child's first year; they barely remember details but, by the end, they've doubled their skills and become the most efficient (exhausted) versions of themselves. And there are, of course, lessons your kids will teach you, both big and small, before they even turn 1 year old.

Becoming a parent is a crash course in baby-related skills, sure, but also in general life skills that will absolutely serve you well in the years to come. When my daughter was only a few months old, we had such a hard time getting her to nap and I obsessed about the fact that I just couldn't get her to sleep. I remember one particularly miserable day when she was only 6 weeks old and hadn't napped for eight hours straight. I thought I was going to lose my mind until it hit me: tomorrow was going to be a new day, no matter what.

It was a light bulb moment for me in my parenting life, but also as a person. Just because she didn't nap once today doesn't mean that's what's going to happen tomorrow, and worrying about it happening again tomorrow isn't going to change whether it happens again. Best to pack it in and try again in a new, fresh day.

Not all the lessons you learn by the time your kid turns 1 are quite that monumental. However, being able to change a diaper on an airplane seat without a stewardess realizing you're flouting the fasten seatbelt sign does give you a certain sense of satisfaction, if I do say so myself. So, with that in mind, here's a rundown of all the things you'll learn about yourself, your kid, and your life before they even turn 1.

That I Can Live On Little Sleep

I've always been the type to need a full eight hours of sleep each night, and in a perfect non-mom world, I'd still be that person. However, becoming a mom taught me awfully quick how well I can cope on very little sleep. To a point, of course.

Sometimes I was so tired my entire body hurt and I could barely keep my eyes open. Still, moms have superpowers when it comes to high functioning on very little sleep. Not something that you can keep up forever, but certainly something to be a little in awe of.

That I Can Get Way More Done Than Ever Before

Once you become a mom, your productivity multiplies by leaps and bounds compared to what you used to be able to accomplish in a given day. I feel like now that I'm a mom, my job is to just never stop moving. Part of that feeling comes from the endless energy my daughter exudes, bopping from one toy to the next all day long, and part of it comes from the to-do list of tiny tasks growing alongside that tiny human.

Either way, if I could have had half of that productivity in college I would've been a double major.

That Getting Nothing Done Except Raising The Tiny Human Is OK

Dishes can wait and laundry can wait and, honestly, most of the to-do list can wait and shouldn't be a reason to feel guilty if you've managed to mostly keep the tiny human in your care safe and sound all day long. That in itself is an accomplishment you should be celebrating with a donut or a glass of wine at bedtime.

That I'm Enough...

Whatever my flaws (of which there are many) I can confidently say I am more than enough for my daughter, and I have everything I need to be my daughter's mom. She doesn't need me to be superwoman, she just needs me to be me.

...And That She's Enough

My daughter doesn't need to be perfect or ultra high-achieving or Mensa scoring in order for me to be immensely proud of her. She is absolutely enough and totally perfect just as she is. And of course, it's just my job to teach her that.

How To Do Anything One-Handed

What a major life skill, right? The number of times I've peed while holding my daughter or made scrambled eggs with one hand is beyond counting. I'll draw the line at one-handed typing, though, there's just no efficient way to make that work while holding a baby.

How To Stop Getting Grossed Out. Like, Ever.

By the time my daughter reached the age of 1, I just don't think there was anything that could have grossed me out anymore. Icky diapers, having pre-chewed Cheerios stuffed in my mouth, wiping a sticky face with my bare hand, even poop in the bathtub is par for the course now.

How To Change A Diaper In Extreme Circumstances

In the dark (really helps keep everyone tired during middle of the night changes), on your airplane seat (don't recommend it, but sometimes necessary when they just won't turn that seatbelt sign off), you name it; I can change a diaper there. Not necessarily a major life lesson or a skill I would consider putting on my resume, but it has a certain MacGyver-like quality to it.

How To Let It Go

You can't do everything, and you can't do everything perfectly. You'll learn by the time your kid turns 1 that you just have to let some things go. Life goes on, your kid will survive (and most likely thrive), whether you let him eat the non-organic grapes one day or let her drink the water in the tub. Absolute perfection in parenthood isn't gonna happen, and the sooner you learn that lesson the better off you'll all be.

How Important Support Is

From your partner, from your family, from your girlfriends, from the well-meaning neighbor or you kid's teacher; support when you become a parent is crucial.

It's also important to nurture those relationships with things like date nights, family trips, drinking wine and commiserating with girlfriends during the witching hour while you count the minutes until bedtime. A support system is vital to making it through to the next birthdays your kid is going to celebrate.

How To Start Over

Starting over and wiping the slate clean was never my strong suit. Before becoming a mom I had a hard time not stewing over something that happened a week ago or something that I definitely couldn't go back and change, no matter how hard I tired.

However, being a parent teaches you quickly that some days you just have to go to bed knowing that you have a clean slate tomorrow. Your kid most likely won't remember that you lost it when they spilled the peas all over the floor or that you had to go lie down for 10 minutes before cleaning up the marker off the couch. Seeing every new day as a fresh start is an invaluable lesson to learn in parenting (and in life).