Becoming a mom or dad is one of the most fulfilling, yet challenging experiences in life. Many parents struggle with getting used to the changes in their lives and finding a healthy balance between family, work and their own independent selves. We have lots of experienced parents here at KinderCare headquarters, and we wanted to share our tips for adjusting to life as a parent.
Make peace with the changes in your life.
- You may have given up certain activities or hobbies to make time for baby. Keep in mind that as your child grows older and more independent you may be able to pick these activities up once again.
- If you aren’t a scheduler or super-organized person naturally, you may need to become more disciplined about managing your time. If you have a partner, communication will become more important than ever to keep your lives running smoothly and head off potentially stressful situations. Talk with your partner about the best way to manage your busy schedules. A shared whiteboard calendar in the kitchen, for example, is a great way to keep track of activities, drop off/pick up responsibilities and social obligations. If you’re both online frequently, you could set up a shared online calendar for the same purpose.
Find family-friendly fun.
- Many new parents complain that they can’t go out anymore. Locate family friendly restaurants in your community so that you can get out and enjoy a break from cooking once in a while. Look for places with a kids menu or kid friendly food, crayons and coloring pages, and a casual, well-lit environment with a bit of space between tables.
- Great family-friendly activities can be found at places like libraries and community recreation centers. Your library may have story times for different age groups, which is a great opportunity to meet other parents and expose your baby or child to language through reading. Check your local parks and recreation website to find community centers, which often have baby and toddler gyms, swim lessons for babies and up and art activities for older children. Websites like Red Tricycle and Yelp, and local parenting magazines you can usually pick up for free at child care centers or other places parents frequent, are also great resources for finding things to do.
- Find other working parents and build your “village.” It is invaluable to connect with other parents and share your experiences, tips and advice. Look for mom or dad groups on Facebook, or find groups on moms.meetup.com, dads.meetup.com or momsgroups.org. Or introduce yourself to other parents at your child’s care center and arrange a playdate.
Stay connected with your partner.
- Make time for date nights on a regular basis. Ask a friend or family member to babysit, or check out a service like Care.com to find a qualified caregiver.
- If you both work in the same area, go on lunch dates. This is a great way to have a break during the work day and reconnect without being interrupted.
- Have a routine bedtime for the baby or children, and allow yourself and partner to have some grownup time before you go to bed, whether it’s just catching up or watching a movie.
- Allow each other to maintain some independence. Before you had a child, each of you probably got to do more of what you wanted to do. Try to make that possible for each other. Give each other a little bit of space when needed, to go to the gym, go out with friends or even just read a book.
- Talk about topics other than your child. This seems obvious, but especially with a new baby, the child can become all-consuming for some parents. Make an effort to talk about your day at work, the latest news headlines, weekend plans or anything else non-baby related.
Take care of yourself.
- You will be a better parent, partner and worker if you take the time to take care of yourself. This means eating well, staying hydrated and getting some kind of exercise on a regular basis (even if it’s something as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work).
- If you can afford it, get help with housework or other chores like yard work. Treat yourself to a massage or spa visit every once in a while. You can often find excellent discounts at deal websites like Groupon or Living Social.
- Adjusting to the lack of sleep is without a doubt one of the hardest aspects of becoming a parent. Try to nap when the baby naps on the weekends. If you have a partner at home, take turns getting up with the baby so that the other person can rest. If you’re a single parent, ask a friend or relative if they can come hold the baby for a while so that you can rest.
- Don’t be too judgmental of yourself. Nobody is perfect and nobody can do it all without help. You may have to stop doing some of the extra things you used to have time to do if you were an extremely busy person before becoming a parent. Evaluate what’s important to you and cut out the distractions or obligations that just don’t matter as much anymore. Remember, it’s okay to change and it’s okay to ask for help!