Melissa recently asked me “What was the best piece of advice someone gave to you before you had your baby?”
The Best Baby Advice I Got
“It’s not a sprint.” I got that piece of advice early in my pregnancy, and it wasn’t until my daughter was almost 2 before I realized it was the best parenting advice I was given. At the time, I thought it was a backhanded comment and I was being chided for being so high strung.
I knew I was a perfectionist, and I liked to plan for contingencies, so while this understandably got on some people’s nerves, it served me well as a project manager. And it was why I was often put in charge of process improvement initiatives. “It’s not a sprint” is now one of my key parenting mantras. It’s not a sprint. Heck, parenting is not even a marathon. It’s…just life.
The first two weeks when my newborn daughter was still sleeping like a champ, I stayed up day and night, despite the choruses of “sleep when you can, sleep”, because I was so busy cleaning, and preparing and planning.
Now I know I really should have been sleeping because none of my cleaning mattered, none of the preparation prepared me for when my daughter refused to sleep again for the next 22 months, and none of my well intended plans came to fruition because baby came first and baby doesn’t care I had plans.
Now? Some days I go to sleep even though my house is in a state of emergency because it was hit by a rainbow tornado. It’s okay to wait to clean another day because it’s not a sprint. I can sleep first knowing we had fun making a giant paper Mache Easter Egg.
I now also know that some things just aren’t up to me. All my so called contingency plans had underestimated how much influence/ sway my little baby, now preschooler, has over me. Irrationally, my fear of her shiny little tears and the desire to see her giggle just get so much more weight in daily decisions than I imagined. Some days she is extra fussy and just wants to cuddle and read books together so I “couldn’t” get groceries and make dinner as planned. I just boil some frozen dumplings instead and it’s okay. It’s not a sprint; not every meal has to be three courses and balanced, as long as it is mostly and generally healthy in the long run.
The long hours I had poured into my work soon paled in comparison to the hours I am a parent (because it’s all the time- it’s not a sprint) and the pace I had taken was just not sustainable. For almost two years, I stayed fully engaged and this allowed me to limit screen time to practically zero. Right now, my daughter is watching Bubble Guppies and eating a popsicle while I type this. I just needed a break, both mentally and physically, and it’s a hot day, so it’s okay since a little screen time (and sugar today) can’t be more damaging for her than if I burnt out as a parent. I’m glad I got to sprint a few years, but now I’m at a better pace to enjoy what I hope is many many more years together…life.
“What was the best piece of advice someone gave to you before you had your baby?”