If you're Type A, you can probably relate: I made to-do lists by the time I was 2; I can’t stand clutter; and I have to be the best... at everything. My driven personality has always worked out well for me. Naturally, I assumed I’d be an amazing parent. After all, I’d wanted to be a mother for as long as I could remember. Not so fast, Type A mom. Apparently, I discovered, parenting can’t be won or conquered by reading all the books or studying all the parenting manuals (so not fair).
While most things in life (at least in mine) can be achieved by putting in the time and effort, it is not so with parenting. For example, my first baby was a crier, and no amount of studying (Why is she crying? Why won’t she stop? What percentage of babies cry as often as my baby cries?) was going to stop her from crying. This was my first failure, and my biggest one yet.
Another big flop? Her schedule. I like to have my day set to a nice, working schedule. It makes me happy and comfortable. So obvi, I wanted to install that sense of comfort into my daughter. It would make everything run smoother. But she simply wouldn’t put up with my schedule. Nap every two hours? No way. Tummy Time for 20 minutes a day? Nope. But the books said...
It was a struggle between my inner book nerd, who had been taught and trained my entire life to follow the rules, and my new baby, who wanted nothing to do with said rules.
To say that my anxiety started rising would be an understatement. Without my structured life, without my to-do lists, without my instructions, how could I raise this baby? I felt like I was going rogue for the first time in my 30-year-old life. It wasn’t fun, especially when accompanied by a baby who wouldn’t stop crying, who wouldn’t sleep and who didn’t seem the least bit happy with me for a mother. This was not what I had expected. I had always been a star student, so why couldn’t I excel at this?
I hired a night nurse to teach me how to swaddle correctly, how to 'shush' my child and how to set-up the proper sleeping environment... I also outsourced my baby-proofing, hiring someone to put up baby gates, as I wasn’t too confident in those skills either.
I’m not alone (see, statistics help sometimes). Seventy-three percent of people say that parenting is their biggest challenge, according to a national parent survey by Zero to Three. And 70 to 80 percent of women will experience the baby blues, if not postpartum depression, which affects 1 in 9 women, according to the CDC. Perhaps that’s because unlike nearly everything else in life, from school to work, parenting has no set rules (just don’t kill your baby). There are no manuals. No “try hard, and you’ll succeed.”
So what’s a Type A new mom — or really, every parent — to do? First, admit that the struggle is real, and unlike any struggle you’ve ever experienced.
My next step was to outsource. If I can’t do it, then maybe someone else better suited for the job can? I hired a night nurse to teach me how to swaddle correctly, how to “shush” my child and how to set-up the proper sleeping environment (move the bassinet outside my bedroom door, where she wouldn’t smell my milk, triggering unnecessary wake-ups). I also outsourced my baby-proofing, hiring someone to put up baby gates, as I wasn’t too confident in those skills either. Outsourcing makes me feel like I’m getting work done. Sorta.
Step two: Get rid of the apps, the timers, the books. They were stressing me out too much. And while I had previously relied on these devices to help, their conflicting info was wreaking havoc on my psyche. Should she nap only at home, or whenever I could get her to sleep? Which book was correct? Ahhhhhhh! Getting rid of everything that I assumed would be helpful was super difficult for me, but it was shockingly helpful in the long-run.
I followed my daughter’s lead instead. When she was tired, I put her to sleep. When she was hungry, I fed her. No, it wasn’t actually that simple — she still cried, I still struggled — but we were doing better.
Stop listening to advice.
We were adjusting to each other. My infant slowly learned that she should start having some sort of rhythm to her day. Yes, she changed that rhythm every month or so, which was infuriating, but I guess it was fair. I mean, you don’t see many 4-year-olds who take a nap every other hour, so she was just trying to get with the program.
Step three: Stop listening to advice. I’ve always loved advice, from advice columns in magazines, to my mother’s constant advice (~ nagging~) to my friend’s wise words. But since parenting and mothering is so different for every parent and every baby, it’s too hard to apply that advice on my situation because it’s definitely not one-size-fits-all.
My daughter didn’t start walking until she was almost 2. My mother’s advice: Something must be terribly wrong. My friends’ advice: Hmmmm, how old is she again? That doesn’t seem normal. The books: She should be walking by now.
The old me would have been stressed beyond belief. The new me? Well, I’m still me, so I was still slightly obsessed. But I also trusted the process. My daughter hadn’t failed me yet.
It was baby steps.