parent opinion

"People don't warn you": 12 things I’ve learnt in the first 12 months of motherhood.

My son was born 12 months ago, and what a wild ride it's been. Safe to say my life looks completely different to what it did before I had him.

Here are 12 things I've learnt from a year of motherhood.

Side note: Be a good mum. Post continues below.


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1. It doesn’t matter how many people you know on maternity leave - if your kids aren’t on the same nap schedule, forget ever catching up with them.

As one of the last people in my family/friends group to get pregnant, I was feeling so confident that my maternity leave would be full of catch ups with my friends. We’d sit in a park on a gorgeous picnic rug and drink our coffees while having great conversation.

How wrong I was. Firstly, if your kids aren’t the same age, the likelihood that you will be on the same nap schedule is slim to none. 

My friends with toddlers were home in the middle of the day, while my baby slept morning and afternoon. 

You will cancel plans 1000 times over, someone’s kid has a runny nose, the other one is finally sleeping longer than 33 minutes so it’s thrown the entire day out, the other one had a nightmare of a morning so is going down sooner.  

Some of your mum friends will adhere to a strict sleep routine, others will be more relaxed and happy for them to nap out on the go. 

I guess it gives you more reason to catch up baby free, which means you will actually get to have a conversation (and a hot coffee).

2. You’ve never needed your own mum more.

As you emerge from your teenage years and find yourself living out of home and more independent, you start to ‘need’ your parents less. 

I spent my entire 20s living out of home and aside from the occasional phone call to my mum asking “How can I get this stain out?” or “How do I make chicken soup?” I rarely asked for help, for anything. 

Turns out, having a baby will change that. 

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If you’re lucky enough to have your mum around, they are an absolute godsend. Nothing can quite prepare you for the fierce protection you will feel over your child and, mostly, the only person you really trust them with (besides their other parent), is your mum. 

You can also ask your mum most things you would feel uncomfortable asking other people - like to please come over at 5am and take the baby so you can get a few hours of extra sleep. You can tell her directly what you need, without feeling guilty or embarrassed. 

You can also be clear (read: firm) and let her know that you understand in her day babies slept on their stomachs, with a plethora of scary looking stuffed animals in their cot, but times have changed. 

The best part? As a willing grandparent - despite having their own life and the fact they have already raised kids - mums are generally really happy to help. Well, mine is anyway (thanks mum!). 

Mother-in-laws really come in handy too - after all, you clearly agree with their parenting abilities enough to have partnered with their offspring! 

Despite having a great relationship with my MIL prior to having a baby, nothing strengthens it quite like seeing the love she has for her grandchild.

3. Sleep deprivation changes you.

Be prepared to meet the worst possible version of yourself, and your partner. 

Sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture for a reason.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, driving when you’ve been awake for longer than 18 hours is the equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of 0.05 (0.08 is considered drunk). 

With sleep deprivation comes irritability, being quicker to anger, less patience and understanding. 

I must say I wasn’t the best version of myself in those early months. It really is as hard as they say. The good news? They start sleeping... eventually, and you start thinking that six to seven hours of uninterrupted sleep is as good as 12 hours anyway. 

4. If you have a partner, it'll be the hardest year of your relationship.

See above. Lack of sleep is draining, the new mental load is heavy, you’re both adjusting to your new roles and struggling with your lack of free time, or time for yourself. 

Before, there was so much time - enough time to give to your partner, to yourself and your job. 

The addition of a little person throws everything out of whack and you need to learn how to fit everything else in. 

It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, but seeing your partner as a parent opens up a whole new world and brings you closer in so many other ways. 

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You’ve seen each other at your most vulnerable, and there is a new level of appreciation and love once you’re out the other side. 

5. Once you think you’ve got the hang of things, it changes.

Particularly between three to six months, everything is about sleep, and the awake windows. Miss it by 10 minutes? Be prepared to be rocking your baby to sleep and having contact naps. 

You will try lots of different things, read different books and sleep programs. You'll try white noise, a dummy, a comforter, a sleeping bag, a walk in the pram...

You will have a day where you nail it, or a few weeks of a good routine before it changes again. 

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It can be so disheartening riding that rollercoaster. It’s not just sleep - it’s everything! 

Starting solids is overwhelming (whoever said “food before one is just for fun” clearly hasn’t had a baby.) 

You chop, peel, steam, puree, obsess over allergy foods - one day your baby is chomping on bananas, their favourite food in the world, and the next day they’re screaming and throwing it on the floor glaring at you with an accusatory stare that yells “how could you feed me this rubbish?”.

It’s a wild ride, that’s for sure.

6. Sending your kids to daycare is much, much harder than you ever anticipated.

From the minute you bring your baby home, everything is about protecting them. 

For the first six weeks, everyone who holds them must wash their hands and sanitise right in front of you (this ritual pre-dated COVID-19, the rest of the world has just caught up with mums of newborns), you Google TOG ratings and make sure they have enough layers of clothing on for safe sleep. 

You are constantly vigilant when they start crawling, floors are vacuumed multiple times a day, you're always taking something out of their mouth (they’ll eat bark over delicious homemade meals most days). 

We are hard-wired to protect them, to watch them, and most importantly, to comfort them when they cry. The smallest of sounds, at the first sign of being upset, you scoop them into your arms. 

Which is why it goes completely against the grain to hand them over to a virtual stranger, while they are gripping to you for dear life, tears pouring down their face. 

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Image: Supplied.

I’m not going to lie, IT’S THE WORST. 

People warn you about the sickness; they don’t warn you about the absolute internal agony that accompanies it. It sucks. I don’t know who cried more, me or my son. 

I was lucky, my son settled in after about four to six weeks. Now he reaches out and laughs when he sees his teacher (which brings up a whole other set of emotions, but, I digress). 

Once they’re settled, it’s so reassuring to know they’re getting so much stimulation, and childcare educators really are a special kind of human to do what they do.

6. Your life is not over; it’s just beginning.

I thought having kids would be 'the end'. I had an actual list in my phone of all the things I wanted to do - I called it my PBBL, or Pre-Baby Bucket List.

There was even a short time after giving birth where I realised in horror that my life was actually over ("What have I done?") but once the newborn fog lifted and I started to get some sleep, I became one of those nauseating people who thinks (and I don’t think I’ve ever openly admitted this for fear of sounding cliché) that the best chapter of my life has just begun.

Image: Supplied.

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In the past year, I’ve been on a few weekends away that could rival some of my European holidays! 

Mainly because it’s just so fun to spend time together, and see your partner or yourself in a new light, and you start doing things you haven’t done for years. Your child just brings you so much inexplicable joy and love that you feel happier than you ever have before. 

8. You will have some sort of back injury.

If you don’t have a chiro/osteo or physio, think about seeing one now, as chances are you’re going to need it at some point during the first year of your child's life. 

All the bending and lifting, lugging around backpacks and prams and having a 8-10kg human attached to your hip - it’s almost guaranteed that in the first 12 months you will be swapping back injury stories with your fellow mum friends

9. Mum guilt is real.

I’d say this starts in pregnancy. From the moment you learn you're pregnant comes the onslaught of things you feel you ‘should’ be doing, like pregnancy Pilates instead of living on Mi Goreng noodles because they’re the only thing you can stomach. 

In the beginning, you are overwhelmed with information about milestones and setting your baby up for success. You worry if you are holding them too much or not enough, if they are getting enough stimulation or not. 

When they get older, it shifts: are you playing with them or singing to them enough? If you skip a few nights of a bedtime story, you feel like the worst person on the planet. 

You feel guilty about admitting that maternity leave is terribly boring (in my experience) then when you’re at work, you feel guilty that you’re not home with your child. 

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Everyone’s experience is different, but I guarantee no matter what type of parent you are, at one point, you’ve suffered from mum guilt.

10. Prepare for the partner praise.

This was something, perhaps naively, I wasn't expecting. The amount of praise your partner gets for doing the simplest of tasks blew me away.

I have lost track of the number of times I’ve been told by well-meaning relatives that I am 'SO LUCKY' my husband ‘helps’ and is so ‘hands on’. When I run into people I know and I don’t have my son with me, I get “Oh, he’s with his dad? what a great dad!”. 

Yes, he is amazing - but “helps!??” why is it considered helping when we are both responsible for keeping our child alive?

It doesn’t just come from your own family members, but strangers on the street, in cafes, in parks... 

My husband works four days a week, as do I. The days he takes our son out to the park on his own, he is inundated with comments from members of the public to the effect of: “oh, you’re such a good dad!”

11. You might get the chance to finally pick up a hobby.

Before having a baby, I didn’t really have any ‘hobbies’ to speak of; I had always thrown myself into my career and any leftover time was for my husband, family and friends. 

In a strange way, the first year of your baby's life you have no time, yet more time for yourself. 

If there is something you’ve always wanted to do, consider enrolling into a course, or signing up for classes. Going from working full time to nothing was really hard on me mentally. I had all this space in my brain for productivity, and there are only so many times you can reorganise your pantry! 

I found it was the perfect time to pursue some more creative avenues I had never made time for before. It’s a good excuse to set time aside to have a break from thinking about parenting and focus your energy into something else. I started writing, attended a short photography course and bought a guitar (which is still collecting dust).

12. You still feel like you.

Even though your life has completely changed, you’re still you. Some aspects may be different - like, my love for true crime podcasts has completely vanished - but at your core you’re still you. Just with a whole lot more love and responsibility in your life.

What would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Feature Image: Supplied.