When I think about how my mom was 25 when she had me, I shudder. At that age, I barely felt like an adult, let alone one responsible enough to care for a helpless little human. When I had my first baby, at 35, I felt much more “ready” than I did at 25. At that point, I was fully grown. Then, I had a baby and realized I had a lot to learn. Luckily, my newborn taught me some mom skills before celebrating that first birthday that have continued to serve me well.
It didn’t matter that, by the time I started having kids, I was on a solid career path, my partner and I had zero debt (other than our mortgage), and I had a significant amount of life experience. However, I was an amateur mom that no amount of babysitting could have prepared me for. Still, beyond the typical diaper-changing and getting used to sleep deprivation, I developed a very specific skill set thanks to my tiny sidekick. Having a baby forced me to find creative solutions to problems I never dreamed of having, such as folding laundry while simultaneously putting your kid to sleep. (Pro tip: forget folding and use the rolling technique instead. It's just as neat and much easier to execute with a baby in tow.) I was basically MacGyver Mom.
So if you think you have a handle on this mom thing, get psyched about cultivating these new parenting skills. You might not be able to put them on your resume, but you’ll make a hell of a Girl Scout troop leader.
Holding The Baby While Eating
My favorite food when my kids were newborns was anything I could eat with chopsticks. I could use the utensils with one hand, and hold the baby with the other. Did I drip on the kid’s head? Absolutely. Was it worth it? When dumplings are involved, yes.
In the beginning, I had a whole program for getting settled into a breastfeeding session. I had my spot on the couch, a certain arrangement of pillows for my back and arm, the nursing pillow, the footstool, the glass of water, the burp cloth, and the remote. But inevitably, the doorbell would ring with my diapers shipment or I’d need to pee. I quickly realized that my kid didn’t care where I was, as long as she was able to stay latched on, so I would wander the apartment freely, taking care of whatever one-handed tasks I could while I nursed her.
Mastering The Messy Bun
Before, the style was a choice. Now, it’s a necessity. There is no time to do anything with my hair. In fact, hair actually conforms better to being in a messy bun when it’s kind of greasy, which meant it was my go-to daily look.
Sleeping With My Eyes Open
You know in those first few weeks home with a newborn, how you’re so focused on just keeping this small baby animal alive that you never really sleep, and even when you do, you are not fully asleep because you can sense every movement or sound? I’m really good at that now.
I may not have washed my hair every day, but I couldn’t stand the thought of going too long without bathing. Having a baby taught me that I could actually take short showers. I used to languish in the hot water (apartment living means never having to directly pay for heat or hot water), but those days were over. With a newborn, who could demand to be fed just 10 minutes after a nursing session, I learned how to get in, get wet, suds up, and rinse in under two minutes. I just pretended I was in my high school locker room.
Ha. Just kidding. Seriously, no one knows how to do this. Swaddling magic is reserved for the wonderful nurses at your local hospital or birthing center. They use it all up and moms are left with nothing.
However, the baby will teach you that you should keep trying, and never give up, because being wrapped like a burrito means your newborn is living her best life. (Also not true, and anyone who tries to convince you that swaddling is a game-changer is not your friend.)
New Yoga Poses, Like "Transferring Sleeping Infant To Crib"
I didn’t expect my dance training to come in handy with a baby, but it did when I needed to contort myself into weird positions to not rouse my newborn from sleep when I tried to get her into her crib. The slow, calculated arm movements and unnatural spinal twists were a workout, but if that’s what it took to get my kid down for a few interrupted hours of shuteye, I was willing to be stretch past my comfort zone. Literally.
One-Handed Diaper Change
Because the other hand is covered in the slop that blew out of said diaper. They don’t tell parents this but you really need three hands to properly change a baby.
Performing Manicures With My Teeth
I remember reading in some baby book that infants’ nails are so soft, you can just chew them off and avoid the risk of cutting them with clippers. I was horrified. That sounded disgusting.
Then I caught some of my daughter’s tender newborn skin with the clippers and I’ve been trimming their nails with my teeth ever since.
Identifying Unnecessary Ikea Furniture Parts
The desk. The changing table. The dresser. My husband and I assembled all of the nursery furniture ourselves, and we had a considerable number of screws leftover. But the items stayed sturdy and it only took several years, when our second child was a toddler, for something to practically tip over (and it wasn't because of any missing parts). The kid was a climber.
When your kid sleeps in your room for the first few months of your lives (or longer), you want them to stay asleep. My partner and I learned to be very, very quiet when it was time to get busy.
Of course, we were usually awakened by hungry wails as soon as we drifted off afterwards.