A wise man once said, "The greatest teacher failure is." (Well, a wise puppet, anyway) And when you're a first-time mom, failure is inevitable. And that's an obvious statement except for when, well, it's not. Because you have no idea how much there is to do and how much you can screw up. But I'm here to tell you that that's fine. Inevitable failures are built into parenthood and, good news: first-time mom mistakes will help you parent your second, should you choose to have one (no pressure, I'm not your mother-in-law).
Here's another cool thing about parental failures: even though some of them will be just breathtakingly spectacular (thought most of them will be completely understandable and mundane), your kid has no idea. Back when I was in high school I did theater, and my director would tell us, "If you mess up, and you're going to mess something up, the worst thing to do is panic. Because the audience doesn't know better and they probably won't even notice." And I know he wasn't just trying to make us feel better because this one time we accidentally skipped an entire monologue from my senior play by accident, and no one was the wiser.
Kids are similar. As far as they're concerned, everything you're doing you meant to do because that's just the way things go. And the good thing is, no matter what we do, we can learn from it. So with that in mind, here are some excellent and common failures/learning opportunities:
"I'll never give my baby formula!"
"I'll never co-sleep!"
"I'll never let my baby use a pacifier."
"I'll never let having a kid interfere with my social life."
"I'll never feed my children processed food."
Look, it's good to have plans and principles. And I'm not saying that you can't stick to a pre-parenting conviction as a parent. But understanding that so many of these declarations came from a place of complete ignorance will help you realize your parenting mission statement for baby number two: whatever works.
Secretly Think You Can Do It All
I feel like even first-time moms these days have the humility to publicly state, "I know it's going to be hard and I'm not going to be perfect," but, deep down, they secretly think, "It'll be hard but I have it all figured out." No judgment, dudes. I'm describing myself here, though I'm positive that pretty much all of my mom friends would agree that they felt the same. And guess what? We were so, so wrong.
Second time around, you will give up on the idea of being a perfect parent or things going smoothly. Ironically, this will actually get you far closer to perfect that you got the first time around.
Judge Other Moms
Because with time and experience you realize that, by and large, moms are just doing their best. Now, I'm not going to pretend to be a saint here who has never side-eyed another parent. But the difference between now and my first-time mom days is I do it far, far less. I guess I'm trying to say that my side-eye threshold is much higher. And I know that other parents must side-eye me and they have their reasons and I'm cool with it, because I just assume they give me the same grace I give them.
A live and let live attitude is going to take you farther, as a parent and a person, than constantly scrutinizing and, therefore, believing you're constantly under scrutiny.
Reject All Advice As Stupid
So not everyone does this, but woe to they who do. I understand the urge to dismiss the advice that doesn't vibe with your "vision" on motherhood or your personal goals, but as you gain more experience as a parent you learn that, yes, there's more than one way to do this whole mom thing. This mindset (and sometimes even the advice itself!) will help you with baby number two. I'm not saying heed everyone's advice. I'm not even saying all advice is good advice, because I've received some profoundly bad advice. But I am saying that listening to others won't hurt.
Take Any Advice As Gospel
By the same token, believing every word from an auntie or your mom or friends or a particular parenting book is just as unhelpful. I think a lot of first-time moms want something to be true so they just believe it really, really hard. By the time kid number two rolls around you've usually figured out it's all very subjective.
Buy Impractical Clothes
This is such an easy trap to fall into, particularly as a first-time mom. You finally get to shop in the baby section and OMG ALL THE CLOTHES ARE SO TEENSY AND ADORABLE! Look at this frilly little dress! It's like a doll dress! And look at this little vest and bow tie! They'll look like a little cad! Without knowing that children DGAF about what they're wearing and will almost certainly poop all over it (the one time they fit in it, I might add, because they grow like weeds), one can very easily wind up buying a ton of these kinds of outfits and not enough onesies and cozy, if unremarkable outfits.
Second time around you will not do this. And, if you're lucky, you can reuse some of the million and seven froo-froo but flawed outfits from your first kid.
Panic About Milestones
I feel like so much of first-time parenting is just learning how to run on "baby time." Because "baby time" and "adult time" runs very differently. For the vast majority of milestones in babies and toddlers, the swathe of normal is massive... but a first time parent, breathlessly waiting for their child to do, like, anything, sees the early end of the milestone come and go and if their kid isn't, say, rolling over or pulling themselves up or walking or whatever, they start to panic.
Second time around you realize that they'll get to it when they get to it.
(The confounding factor here, however, is if you had a baby who hit all their milestones early and then your second child is a little more chill about it.)
Forget To Bring A Spare Outfit
You will make this mistake once, my child. Once. Because you know what's not fun? Trying to make pants out of paper towels after your child destroys whatever they were wearing.
Compare Your Kid To Other Kids
It's understandable that you would compare kids your first go-around. Think of it like going to a yoga class for the first time. You don't know all the moves, so you start looking around the room to see what everyone else is doing. But babies aren't downward dogs and after a while you find out *spoiler alert* they're all different and that's OK.
Your second child is going to do what they're going to do whenever they want to do it and in their own way.
Freak Out Over Every Sniffle
Granted, I say this as someone who has had good medical experiences with both my children, but first child it's like, "They are tiny and fragile and I don't know what is normal and not normal and I read somewhere on the internet that three sneezes in a row is a symptom of a rare disease that turns your skin purple and does he look like he's turning purple to you?!"
You learn just how strong and resilient babies are after number one. In my experience, things are much more relaxed with number two in this regard.
Any Car Seat Mistake
Because, honey, some mom on Facebook will let you know what you've done wrong and tell you immediately (hopefully nicely, but that's not a guarantee) and, ultimately, this is a good thing but trust me: car seat pictures on Facebook are to moms who know about car seat safety like blood is to a shark.
Thinking There's A Big Parenting Secret You Don't Know
This is the biggest and most wonderful difference between being a first-time mom and moving forward in your parenting journey: when you start out, you're convinced that, at some point, you'll be imbued with The Secret Knowledge that makes you feel like you're no longer an amateur or imposter.
Guys, that day never comes.
But, eventually, you realize it has never come for anyone and we're all just winging it and, actually, that's kind of OK.