the first year

Managing Expectations With A Newborn

We moved into our first house three weeks before our first child was born. The house that we thought was “move-in ready” actually needed a lot of work–and it all had to be done before the baby came: we had to paint the walls and ceiling in every room, tear up the carpet on the second level and sand the floors, and install new bathroom fixtures. Plus there was the unpacking and general settling in that comes along with any move.

When we brought our newborn daughter to our house, it hardly felt like “home.” Our exposed window frames cried out for curtains, our patio set doubled as a temporary dining table, and the baby’s room looked nothing like the nursery Pinterest board I had created.

Oh, and there was that whole motherhood thing to figure out.

“How do you deal with it?” a friend asked me on the phone when my daughter was a few weeks old.

“Lowered expectations?!” I said with a laugh.

I realized in that moment that lowering my expectations around how much I could accomplish in a day had been my survival mechanism during the first few weeks with my baby. The unopened moving boxes in our living room, the bathroom that should’ve been cleaned three days ago, and the fact that I barely had time to shower drove the control-freak in me crazy, but I had to accept that I couldn’t tackle a long to-do list with the same efficiency that I did pre-baby.

I’m not suggesting you let house your go to ruin or give up on personal hygiene once you’re a mom. Of course not. But do be kind to yourself as you figure out your new gig, especially in the first few weeks. The only thing you need to accomplish in a day is to feed your baby (and yourself), change her diapers and make her feel loved. Sounds easy enough, but it’s exhausting caring for a newborn and if you put pressure on yourself to complete a long list of to-dos on top of baby-caring duties, you’ll set yourself up for failure. And a whole lot of stress.

If there’s something that absolutely needs to get done and you can’t do it, enlist help from your partner, friends or relatives. Or, the next time someone asks if they can come and meet the baby, say, “Sure, as long as you don’t mind vacuuming while you’re here!”

Image(s): iStock