I’m so excited to roll out ScienceofMom’s first ever guest post today! I love the idea that this blog can be a platform for the voices of other parents. In today’s sweet post, Dr. Kristine Wise touches on many of the joys and challenges of first-time parenting, and I’m sure you can relate! I met Kristine when we were both students in the doctoral program in Nutrition at UC Davis, and last year we gave birth to our first children about one month apart. She is a scientist, a teacher, a runner, an amazing cook, a steadfast friend (as in the kind who calls you up after 6 months have slipped by since you last talked and says, “ahem, we need to catch up!”), and now a fabulous mother. Her post is focused on the surprising lessons she’s learned as a stay-at-home mom. Any working moms want to weigh in with their experiences?
A Dozen Things Reference Books Won’t Teach You About Raising A Baby
Guest Post by Kristine Wise, PhD
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a mom. I’ve always loved kids and years of babysitting taught me at least the basics of child care. I knew you had to cradle a baby’s neck, I’d changed diapers, and I still remember how important my blanky was to me for many (probably too many) years. I have a wonderful role model in my own mom who makes mothering look easy and fun, so I thought being a stay-at-home mom would be, if not easy, then at least a natural fit for me. In the short year since ET was born he has taught me more than I ever imagined, and I wouldn’t trade being a stay-at-home mom for anything. However, it’s not always fun, and it’s definitely never easy, and at times I still question my qualifications. Here are a dozen of the unexpected lessons I’ve learned and observations I’ve made.
1. I am a jungle gym. Next to the dog’s toys, I am my child’s favorite toy. Oh, how I underestimated the fun of hair pulling, grabbing glasses, earrings, and necklaces, pinching noses, hanging on legs, and just generally being climbed upon.
2. Having a doctorate in nutrition I had always assumed that my children would eat well. If I can train my husband to eat non-potato vegetables at dinner then I should be able to train my kids before they are old enough to know the difference, right? Wrong. Someone out there is laughing at the fact that I, a nutritional biochemist by training, have a child who thinks it is much more beneficial to throw vegetables on the floor, wall, to the dog, or any other place besides the mouth. I asked ET’s pediatrician about his dislike of vegetables and she told me that he is too young to have a taste preference. I beg to differ.
3. Folding laundry can wait. And it does. Sometimes for many days until the next load of laundry needs to be done, so by default the clothes in the dryer have to be moved elsewhere (though not necessarily to the dresser drawers…sometimes the couch serves as a good alternative).
4. Despite tirelessly trying to teach ET some sign language, throwing food on the ground means “all done”. This was self-taught, unless my husband taught him this while I was out. My dog conveniently situates herself under ET’s high chair and picks up the scraps. It is actually quite a nice arrangement.
5. Never assume you’ve figured your baby out. Just when you think you have, he changes it up on you.
6. The goofier the better. I really hope there are no hidden cameras in my house because if anyone were to watch the crazy things I do every day to keep my child entertained they’d think I was nuts. They’d probably be right.
7. Dog toys are better than a million baby toys. It doesn’t matter how many toys are in front of him, ET would always prefer to play with the dog’s toy, and to my disgust, put said toy in his mouth.
8. When a friend of mine found out that I would be staying at home with ET full-time she said “you’ll have so much time to work out!” Not sure what she had in mind…I’m still waiting for my abs of steel to appear.
9. I was always pretty good at multi-tasking, but now I am a master. Change diaper, sing, and keep a squirmy baby from rolling off the changing table? No problem. Play ball with the dog, keep baby from eating leaves, and water the garden? Piece of cake.
10. Choose your battles—you can lose a few battles but still win the war. I’ve conceded on the Tupperware cupboard and the pantry, which get reorganized daily by my little helper.
11. Nap time is coveted. Don’t get me wrong—I love hanging out with my little man, but I am a happier and better mom when I’ve had an hour (or more on a good day) to myself. The only problem is that there is so much to potentially do during nap time, but never enough time to do it. Dishes or shower? Dust or make dinner?
12. My baby is a relatively “easy” one. While I realize this and don’t take it for granted, this scares me. Maybe we should quit while we’re ahead.
I knew being a stay at home mom would have its challenges, but I never expected that I wouldn’t be able to get dinner on the table—or at least started—by the time my husband got home. (Not that he expects it. He is actually very understanding and helpful.) I’d be lying if I said I never felt like pulling my hair out (when ET hasn’t literally done that for me already). I have so much more respect and admiration for my mom, and all the stay-at-home moms who seem to do their “job” so easily. I’m not sure I make it look easy, but at the very least I hope I’m not scaring people away from choosing this profession.
A friend who is expecting his first child in a few months recently asked me what advice I’d give him. Besides being shocked that he solicited advice, I had to pause for a second. There were so many things I could say, but ultimately I decided on “patience”. Have patience with your child. I can remember one night ET woke up around 2 am crying. Having been spoiled with a child who usually sleeps through the night, my husband—in so many words—expressed annoyance that ET was awake at that ungodly hour, and therefore, so were we. I had to remind him that ET was only 6 months old, and 95% of the time he doesn’t make a peep between the hours of 8 pm and 6 am. Have patience with your spouse. Being tired doesn’t help with this; in fact, it can make arguments ignite faster, but have patience. Have patience with yourself. No one is perfect. As much as I’d like to be a perfect mom, I already have stories that make me feel like I’ve failed my child, but we all do, and that’s how we learn. And though you might not be perfect, your child thinks you are pretty close. And finally, savor every minute—the good and the bad—because as cliché as it sounds, it goes by way too fast. Call me crazy, but I never really minded the middle of the night nursing sessions. Those moments of snuggling with my baby are worth hours of lost sleep, and will be cherished forever.
It’s true that at the end of the day I’m always exhausted. I try not to complain about it, though. After all, my husband is working equally as hard away from home (though he does get to eat lunch sitting down rather than while chasing a baby down the hallway). My back is tired, my hair is a mess, and there is Tupperware all across the kitchen floor. But, my baby is happily asleep, my dog is thrilled that I’ve spent another full day at home with her, and I’ve spent the day doing exactly what I love. And, I get—yes, get—to do it all over again tomorrow.
Kristine Wise has a PhD in Nutritional Biology and 4 years of experience studying environmental and genetic causes of autism. Now she spends her days trying to keep up with her almost one-year-old son and her evenings teaching community college students the wonders of nutrition.
What surprising lessons have you learned from parenting?