Wednesday, November 17, 2010

successes & failures

Melissa over at Dear Baby did this great post a couple of days ago about what things she and her husband have been doing swimmingly as parents, and what things they feel they need to keep working on. It was entirely relatable and honest, and got me thinking about how Mikey and I have been doing at measuring up to our own parenting expectations. We spent 9+ months waiting for this little bear to arrive, and much of that time was spent dreaming about what it would be like to raise a child--we set goals for ourselves, identified what was most important in our parenting approaches, and promised to do our very best to do right by our daughter.

Now, 7 (almost 8?!) months in, seems like as good a time as any to reflect on what we're doing well and what we are struggling with.

The tough stuff first: What we are working on.

1. Backing off. We spent Natalie's first months coming to terms with the fact that we were solely responsible for keeping this little life alive. We did everything for her, and she required so much care and time that we were pretty much like her own personal satellites--hovering and orbiting around her at all times. Now that she's older and doing stuff (like, umm, just this past week she started cruising her way around the living room after pulling up to standing against the couch), we still need to be vigilant about keeping her safe, but we need to work on letting go a bit to let her really explore. She's an independent little thing, and makes it very clear that sometimes she wants us to get up out her grill, thank-you very much. I'm slowly learning that I need to back off and let her figure out that falling down, getting stuck, and bumping into things are part of life. Beyond baby-proofing and monitoring as best we can, we are trying to incorporate a little less hovering in our lives so that our free-spirited little budgie can check out her world unencumbered. At least part of the time.

2. Measuring up. I'm definitely struggling with this one more than Mikey. To be honest, I'm not even sure what I'm trying to "measure up" to... I just know that there are times when I feel like I'm not doing the right things, or being The Best Mommy In The World. Some of this definitely has to do with getting sucked into the comparison game in the blogging world, which is a price of discovering such an amazing network of people who are experiencing the same things and giving great advice and asking all the questions I have. While I love the opportunity to read about other parents and their experiences, I do have these twinges of jealousy, anxiety, and insecurity when I see other moms who seem to really be able to do it all--family, work, romance, social life, clean house, great vacations, fabulous wardrobe... it can make me feel like I'm a step behind, which is not the example that I want to set for Natalie. I'm working on my confidence, but I know it's a work in progress.

3. Couple time. Ugh, I hate to even admit it, but Mikey and I are falling behind in the romance department. We find that we're so exhausted and legitimately busy with other things that we don't plan much alone-time. Most of our time for just the two of us is limited to the couple of hours between when Natalie goes to bed and we go to bed, and that time is often consumed by chores and cooking and collapsing on the couch to veg a bit. We've always been the type of people who hold hands and snuggle and say "I love you" all the time, but the bigger acts of romance have kind of slipped away since Natalie arrived. We're working on choosing a couple of reliable teenage baby-sitters & utilizing the Nana-sitting service to get our date night on a bit more regularly in the near future.

4. Watching our language & consistently setting a positive example. We knew this one would be tough, and we were right. All through my pregnancy we'd say things like, "Oops, guess we won't be able to say [or do] that once the baby's here." Things like dropping f-bombs or getting visibly frustrated while driving or making snide comments when we're tired. If we're on the road and grab fast food, we realize now that we're setting an example for our child. When we swear after stubbing a toe or burning dinner, that's a message that we're sending Natalie. If I play the "I'm feeling fat today" card, that's information that she will soon be aware of. We know it's important, and we're working on it, but it remaines a challenge to be our best selves all the time.

Second, the positives: What we are pretty good at.

1. Finding balance. It took a while, but we have finally gotten into a pretty consistent routine and learned that it takes a balance of productivity and relaxation, family-time and alone-time, spontaneity and planning, to make this life work. In the beginning we (read: I) wanted to do it all, and it took some time to really come to terms with the fact that some days (read: most days) I simply will not get everything accomplished that I want. And that's okay. These days I'm much more comfortable making choices throughout my day that are a mix of necessary and just for fun. Some days that means blogging instead of doing the laundry, other days it means making Natalie's baby food instead of watching the TV show I've been looking forward to. Some days Natalie and I are out running errands and visiting new places, others we never get out of our pajamas and just scrape through the day. It's a balance, and we've learned to love it instead of loathe it.

2. Sticking to our guns on the important stuff. This is a big one. We've had to be flexible and learn to adapt when faced with the reality of having a child. Some things we thought we had made hard-and-fast decisions on went right out the window: Pacifiers? Bring 'em on. Co-sleeping? Sure, why not. But other, more-important-to-us-stuff, has meant doing what we think is best even when it's not what is easiest. We're determined to make our own baby food, to limit the number of toys Natalie has, to read stories every day, to keep the television off, and to find creative ways to keep Natalie entertained and stimulated. We're still working on dedicating time to family meals, but that's another big one we're going to prioritize. There have been times when it would be easiest to just give up on some of the goals we set for ourselves, but for the big things we value most I'm proud to say we're sticking it out.

3. Loving unconditionally. This is probably a given for most parents, but I think it's worth mentioning. Mike especially makes a point every day to express how much he loves Natalie, whether she's cranky, into everything, or uncooperative, and despite how tired and frustrated he may be at the time. It's so important to us that Natalie realize as she matures that even when we are disappointed or upset, our love for her is a constant in her life.

4. Anticipating what we'll need. Another one that has taken practice, but I'm finally pretty confident that we've got it down (knock on wood!). When Natalie was first born we would either pack up our entire house every time we went to the grocery store, or realize halfway through a long road trip that we had forgotten something (or things) vital to keeping her happy. Now that some time has passed, we are a great team at packing up what we know she'll need for various occasions--breakfast at a restaurant, quick errands, a walk, an overnight at Nana and Poppy's, and more. Our big test--Thanksgiving!--is coming up, so we'll really get to put these new skills to work. I'm pretty confident that we'll know what we need to make it through the trip.

5. Doing our research. From the minute I found out I was pregnant, Mikey and I have both been doing our homework about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. I guess it's just our nature, but it's something I value so much about our parenting style. For each month, milestone, purchase, and more, we do our research. Whether it's checking out other mommy blogs, scouring What to Expect, calling the pediatrician, or looking at the AAP website, we continue to take the time to learn all we can about how to parent. While there is certainly something to be said for instinct, I can say with great confidence that we would not be making the best choices for Natalie if we weren't remaining diligent in learning all we can about how to raise a child. This is our first time creating and shaping another human life, so we have a lot to learn. Our decisions for Natalie are considered, options weighed, and ultimately we do what will work for our little family.
So those are our "successes & failures," or, "doing wells & working ons." I'd love to see your own lists and learn what is working for you!


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