12 pieces of advice for new parents

this list of advice is mostly in chronological order.

  1. do not make any major life decisions in first few months of baby – the potent mix of emotions that run through you (and hormones if you are the birthing mom) can increase impulsiveness to a dangerous degree. as an example, i drove from the hospital to the car dealership while my child was in the NICU to test drive an impractical sports car. why would my family need such a vehicle? get all your ducks in a row before the birth.
  2. use a charting app for the first year – i was recommended Huckleberry and am continuing it forward. just the free version is enough and delivers plenty of value. it really helps coordination between the caretakers and lets you track trends, especially important with your sleep-addled mind.
  3. take all the help you can get – my daughter is now 13 months old. the wife and i were lucky to have grandma contribute immensely during the first 11 months, so we’ve really been on our own just the last 2 months. baby recently started daycare so we’re back to getting help in a way. the structure and expectations of modern society kinda goes against the adage “it takes a village to raise a child.” the correlation of declining birth rates in more industrialized nations has a lot to be explored. in my experience, the geographic distance between extended families and the social distance between neighbors can create bad feelings of isolation, resentment, and burnout. if a parent is willing to come help, let them.
  4. buy help / outsource work – in economics, we learn about a concept named opportunity cost. the way i apply it: if i make sufficient money, i can outsource unfulfilling tasks. right now, that means:
    • we have a maid service monthly because cleaning isn’t high on our to-do list.
    • we subscribe to a local meal service for the weekdays because cooking isn’t appetizing at end of a work day.
  5. find parent friends – being at the vanguard of parenthood among my close group of friends, your life rhythm no longer matches your non-parent and single friends. going to a restaurant? make sure they have high chairs. go out on the weekend? you gotta find a babysitter. have multiple drinks? you’re not gonna be able to wake up to take care of your baby. there’s nothing wrong with people being on different life tracks – but humans are a social species and you’ll want company along whatever track you choose.
  6. be prepared for a consistent schedule – your schedule must accommodate baby. after 6 months when they develop a circadian rhythm, the daily schedule becomes fairly consistent. for a late owl chronotype like me, waking up early every morning has sucked. tips to survive this marathon: take naps with baby, avoid alcohol and substances, eat healthy.
  7. get 1 day’s supply of baby bottles/utensils – you will be washing a lot of bottles and dishes and whatnot. your hands will get dry. your energy will sap each time you’re forced to find a bottle in the sink and wash it for immediate use. use batching here to optimize: clean the sink once at the end of every night (handwash using gloves or throw everything in the dishwasher).
  8. don’t fight your baby – you’ll learn a lot about yourself emotionally as you deal with an undeveloped human. your standard rules of engagement won’t apply. you can’t reason with them because that part of their brain literally isn’t developed yet. if you feel like you’re about to break, do not push through. give your child a timeout and yourself a breather. the rule of thumb is 1 minute per year of age. so if they’re crying nonstop and you can’t handle it anymore, just put them into their crib and walk away.
  9. become okay with repetition and ennui – this might just apply to me, who gets bored easily. the daily grind of diaper changes, setup and cleanup for 3 meals, and nightly bathtime gets annoying. your discipline builds as a side effect… but i still find it annoying enough to wonder if i should hire a nanny or au pair for subsequent children.
  10. strive for good enough parenting – honestly, modern society creates all these unfair expectations of parents. anything short of perfect is child abuse. give me a break. kids are much more resilient than we give them credit for. keep them clothed and fed. engage with them every day. teach them new skills. socialize them. don’t put them in an overprotective bubble. don’t feel like you need to kill yourself trying to get them the best possible toys or daycare or education. “the kids will be alright.” grow with them and give yourself grace. take the small daily wins, like:
    • you didn’t shake your baby when she continually cried and did flips on the changing table making the diaper change impossible.
    • you didn’t throw a tantrum in response to your kid’s tantrum.
    • they got zero new injuries.
    • they took all their shits at daycare.
  11. maintain your habits and hobbies – you will have to sacrifice some habits and hobbies – but you should be able to schedule the rest around baby. exercise is crucial for health. you’ll want to stay as healthy as possible because if one person gets sick, who does the work fall onto? my wife does tennis every Monday and Wednesday night, i do bouldering every Tuesday and Thursday night, and we spend weekends together.
  12. bring your baby around – i suffered from the fallacy that going outside with baby is way too difficult, so i should just stay at home all the time. don’t be an idiot like i was. it will be difficult going out with baby initially but as with any skill, you’ll improve with practice. the benefits are manyfold: baby gets socialization, new experiences for all her 5 senses, and burns energy faster. go to the grocery store, to the mall, to the playground, wherever. even flying with baby isn’t as hard as i thought since most airlines will baggage check baby seats and gate check strollers for free.

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