I haven’t been a parent long, so I don’t have much advice to give, but I know if there was one thing I’ve learned it’s to do what feels natural and Is best for your family. Take advice, be willing to hear people out, be thankful they want to help, but make decisions for yourself. I was so scared of things people told me were wrong or would make bad habits that I ignored my gut on so many things. When I finally started doing things that felt natural and comfortable to me, whether or not they were the “right” things got so much better. You’re the parent to your child for a reason, you know what’s best for them. I believe that’s a God given ability, he gave us the ability to care for our kids and wants to help us navigate that. Trust that. If you’re loving and caring for your kid with everything in your everyday, you’re doing it right. I think if your child’s needs are met, they’re shown plenty of attention and love, and they aren’t being put in dangerous or harmful situations, the little stuff shouldn’t carry much weight. If you want to bathe them in the sink, the tub, or with you. who cares? As long as they’re safe. If you want to do baby led weaning or purées, as long as they’re safe. do which one makes more sense to you. It doesn’t matter. Just do what you feel is best. People will always have an opinion, whether it’s parenting, career, or what you’re going to eat for dinner. Opinions are fine, take them with a grain of salt, and remember it’s your baby.
As you know if you’ve read anything from my blog before, I hate clutter. I’m not against toys, at all, but I am against excess. Kids don’t need as many toys as we think. There are a lot of cool toys on the market and I get the hype, but that doesn’t mean your kid needs them all. They need interaction with a real person, independent play (cue the toys), and time to explore real life experiences. There’s a time and a place for everything and my issue with toys is not a kid having a toy and playing with it, that’s great, but the mentality behind it.
A lot of times, we just buy toys to keep our kids busy, so we can do whatever we have to get done. Yes, sometimes you have to work or do laundry, and you can plop them down with a toy to get it done and that’s all good. If that’s where it ends for you I think that’s totally reasonable. Life happens.
The hard thing for me to get behind is that the toy keeps them quiet and then that becomes a default. They’re being fussy, here’s a toy. I want to zone out for the next hour, here’s a toy. I don’t want to play right now, here’s a toy. This isn’t to shame anyone, we all need a break sometimes. It’s more to challenge you with why are you using your toys? Is it supplemental to their development or is it how you get through a day?
I know it’s not that serious, it’s just a few toys, what’s the big deal? I agree. They’re just toys. But for me it’s more about the parenting pattern that comes from that. I know you can’t always be what your kid needs, but I think it’s important to be there more than a toy. If you let them mindlessly play with toys during the whole day, what will change when they are toddlers, or ten years old? It’s harder to break a habit of constantly giving them something to keep them quiet or busy than it is to never start it. Kids more than ever need to be engaged with real interaction, they’re going to be around technology constantly and it’s up to us as parents to help them learn balance. If at two years old there’re switching from toy to toy just to keep themselves stimulated, at ten they’re playing video games for hours, and at fifteen they’re on the phone the whole time at dinner, we can’t wonder why. We’re teaching it to them. We have the ability to teach them differently though, and I want this to be more encouraging to you than anything. Don’t hear this as you’re lazy, don’t care, or I’m better. None of those are true, we just have to fight the urge (all of us, together) to allow devices raise our kids.
Do I think if you have toys in your house that will happen? Of course not. Just like phones don’t force us to waste our time on them. It’s not the phone, toy, or tv. It’s how we use them.
We have toys. We just try to be there to engage her with the toys so it’s interactive or we have a set idea of how much time we want her to play independently so we don’t just let a whole day or hours pass without engaging her. Take walks, explore the flowers and trees outside. I’ll take our baby to a store and let her look at the different things or feel textures. We have to be creative and balanced with our time if we expect our kids to be.
Tip: How we don’t get bored of the same toys: We have a toy box and if she has to many toys to fit in it, she has too many. It’s definitely hard to keep a baby entertained all day without a ton of toys so we try to have toys that are a variety. We’ll leave out 3-4 and then switch to a different few toys every couple of days. Her favorite toys are often things that aren’t toys, like water bottles, keys, paper plates, and a whisk. Anything that’s safe (not sharp, breakable, or small & round, that kind of thing) is fair game. Then you don’t have clutter when they get tired of the stuff because it either can be thrown away or already has a purpose. She loves her shape sorter, bath toy animals that we use without the bath, ball, silicone cup and straw, and books. We have one fisher price birthday cake toy that talks and sings.
Staying at home
I chose to stay at home with our baby instead of going back to work, it made more sense for our family and I felt super passionate about being at home with our daughter. I think either choice you make, stay home or go back to work and leave baby at daycare, people are going to judge your decision. “Oh, she just sits at home doing nothing all day,” or “she lets other people raise her kid”. You can’t win, I think you just have to see what works for you, if your career is super important to you and you worked hard to get where you are, great. If you love spending all hours of the day with your baby, great. If you need the money and have to work and your baby is in good hands, great. Every situation is so different and if you’re miserable being at home all day and annoyed with your baby, it’s not doing anyone favors. If you’re at work all day and want to be with your baby and it makes you unhappy, see what your options are. For us, the amount of money I would make would just go straight to daycare, and I felt good about staying home. Either set has its challenges and that’s part of parenting.
The hardest part about staying home for me, at least, is how lonely and misunderstood it is. When we first had our daughter my husband had weird, long hours and I was by myself most of the time, sometimes even at night. It was scary to be a first-time mom, alone at night with a baby, knowing almost nothing. I’m sure a lot of you can relate. We figured it out but because of the hours and lack of time to talk things out, I think what I did all day seemed simple to my husband. It was, changing diapers is a simple task, once it clicked for us breastfeeding was pretty simple, walking with a baby is simple. It looked easy, and sure sometimes it was, but there was so much more to it. When you’re used to having adult conversations, work you can see immediate results with, and time to take a shower alone and then suddenly there’s a (sweet & beautiful) baby needing you constantly on their schedule not yours, it’s exhausting in its own way. I think a lot of that gets looked over, again, because it’s nothing seemingly overwhelming or challenging. But, not knowing how to help your upset baby while you’re dealing with postpartum hormones is emotional. Going to the grocery store and getting everything, you need, getting in line and having to either listen to your baby cry while you check out or leave with no groceries is frustrating. You go from no personal space to constantly having something on you. These things aren’t ‘bad’, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but they do wear you out. It’s all day, every task you used to do is now totally different, even the simple ones like dishes. The hardest part is when you do want to talk about it, it seems like your whining about silly stuff but it’s not the stuff that’s hard. It’s the feeling of defeat when you can’t feel your purpose in parenting yet. Or feeling misunderstood because you get to stay home, which should be such a dream. I love staying at home, I really do, but it’s nice to feel noticed sometimes.
I think every mom can agree, whether you stay at home or not, you feel like you lose a little bit of yourself when you have a baby, but you also feel like you finally know who you are, and that’s just confusing. I feel like I’m more myself than ever, I know I’m meant to be a mom and it’s just clicked for me. That being said, a lot of the things that used to make me… me I have no time for now. I don’t do the same things with the same freedom anymore, I don’t choose my schedule, I don’t get time to think clearly. All of that’s fine, you just have to find a new way of doing things, and I will do that gladly if I get to have my daughter in my life. It’s just an adjustment. A scary, emotional, exciting, rewarding, and beautiful adjustment.
I know a lot of people are going to disagree with me here, but this has been the most freeing choice I think we’ve made in parenting. I am not bashing cribs, bassinets, or rock and plays. If that’s how you get your baby to sleep, wonderful! Here’s what it came down to for me:
I could not get myself to fall asleep without my baby right beside me. No matter how hard I tried, my mind wouldn’t stop racing.
My baby isn’t a good sleeper, and the only way she’d sleep for long stretches is if she was on me.
I like to sleep. I don’t do well on 2 hours of sleep a night, great if you do, but I don’t. My baby and I both couldn’t sleep without being close to each other. I knew ‘co sleeping was wrong’ and tried to avoid it at all costs. I built a little safety fort and let her sleep on me for the longest time and just watched her. Finally, I just stopped fighting it, researched a lot, found the safest ways to co-sleep, and planned on doing that to transition her from sleeping on me to next to me, and eventually on her own. I don’t think I did everything, or many things right with sleep, so this isn’t exactly advice, it’s just my experience. My husband and I both actually loved it. We loved having her close and she slept so much better. So did I. It just didn’t feel natural to me to have a baby that can’t walk, talk, or tell me what she needs in another room completely alone while I was sleeping. Again, I’m not bashing that, because I wish I could turn my brain down a notch on the obsessiveness, but I just couldn’t do it. I think the crib in another room thing is a cultural thing, it’s not a rule, and so many people force it thinking it’s what they have to. If your baby is happy with it and so are you, that’s awesome and you should do it! But I don’t like that it’s assumed that that’s how you have to do things. It didn’t feel right to me and I was going to try it just because that’s what you do, you let your baby cry until they learn to do it. We definitely plan to have her learn to sleep on her own eventually, but she’s not even a year old, and to me it seems like that’s a lot of pressure on her for no reason. We’re all happy doing what we’re doing, and when we aren’t, we’ll adjust.