In the first 12 months of life, your baby will grow, learn and change an incredible amount. They go from tiny little creatures still cocooned from the world, to opening up and interacting and engaging with you, other people, and the world.
As parents, we play a wonderful role in supporting our baby’s development. By being warm, loving, and affectionate, playing, laughing, singing, reading, and involving them in your everyday life, you’ll be helping your child become who they are.
But just as babies are undergoing rapid growth as they learn and change in their first year, we’re learning and changing quickly as parents, too. We’re also going though some typical developmental stages.
Just as it can be difficult to know if we’re on the right track with our child rearing strategies, we can also be in the dark about our experience of being a parent. Does this happen to everyone or is it only happening to me?
Don’t underestimate the developmental stages you go through when you become a parent. Just as your baby needs time, love and space to grow, so do you. Try to acknowledge and celebrate your own developmental story as well as your baby’s so you can learn together.
I really wanted a baby, but now I’m not so sure
Regret. Even though it may be fleeting, most of us have a moment of questioning why we wanted a baby, or if we should have waited to become a parent. Yes, life has changed, and you can’t go back. Life with a baby takes some adjustment, but we don’t have the luxury of acclimatising – we’re immediately launched into a 24/7 world of feeding, cuddling, burping, changing, and it seems we can never clock off.
Developmental mantra: I’m leaving behind my old life, and I’m embracing my new life.
I don’t know how to do this, and I could be getting it wrong
Confusion and uncertainty. As adults, many of us have developed a sense of mastery within our lives, as we’ve developed certain skills, knowledge and experience. But becoming a parent propels you back into that feeling of a first day of school when you know no one and know nothing. What are you supposed to do, and how do you know if you’re doing it right? There don’t seem to be simple answers, only differing opinions and trial and error.
Developmental mantra: I’m learning how to care for my baby by listening to myself and tuning into my baby.
I love my baby, but I don’t like what she’s doing right now
Ambivalence. When babies cry and won’t stop, or they wake every hour through the night, or they still grizzle and whinge even though they are fed, clean and well rested, it can test anyone’s patience. We love our babies deeply, but caring for them is hard work. Love no longer seems straightforward; it’s a constant negotiation.
Developmental mantra: I’m creating a deep and loving relationship with my baby by being warm, loving and affectionate.
I didn’t know I could be like this
Disbelief. We think back to the way we were raised and we either want to follow what our parents did or do the complete opposite. We believe we’re going to be calm, caring, involved and diligent, and instead we find ourselves screaming or reacting or hiding from our responsibilities.
But we also surprise ourselves. We manage even on very little sleep, we smile at the smallest of moments. And we love our babies despite everything.
Developmental mantra: I’m growing up and maturing as a person, just like my baby.
Jodie Benveniste is a psychologist, parenting author and the founder of Parent Wellbeing.