My eighth month came to a wrap last week, meaning Sam and I only have 3 weeks to go before Baby Kim is due! These days, our nesting urges are manifesting in all sorts of ways, as we busy ourselves getting the nursery prepared, stocking up on everything we need at home, and soaking our brains in books and videos about baby-raising to make sure we don’t set Baby Kim on fire when she arrives.
I think back to how unprepared we felt in November compared to the peace of mind we feel now, and I know we definitely wouldn’t have been able to get to this level of preparedness without the trusty advice of family, friends, and coworkers along the way. I want to pass along some of the best survival tips we’ve received along the way, and I hope that it’s helpful to someone else—now or down the road—because becoming first-time parents can be an overwhelming and scary experience!
1. Get on waiting lists for daycare
Since we announced, one of the first things our friends started telling us to do was get on waiting lists for daycares, and for good reason! The daycare situation in Toronto is rough—$2000+ per month and still waiting lists with hundreds of anxious parents piling on. The daycare that’s a stone’s skip away from our house charges $2200 per month for infants and has 350+ parents ahead of us on the waiting list! Good thing we at least got the early warning… now we’re just crossing our fingers and hoping the government’s infusion into childcare options will come through in time.
2. Join mommy groups on Facebook
The day my co-worker told me about “buy and sell” mommy groups on Facebook changed my life. Real talk—when I first heard about them, I thought they were hokey and sounded kind of lame. But since joining, I’ve stocked up on so many maternity and baby items for free or next-to-free. Other than the ‘buy and sell’ function, these groups are also online communities where mommies post about neighbourhood events and classes for new parents, which have also been super useful!
3. You don’t need half the baby shit you think you do
The even most “minimal” baby lists made me feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that was on it. I mean, months in and we were still uncovering entire categories of “must have” products that we hadn’t even heard of! But talking to real life parents was a different story—they mostly laughed at all the gimmicky products that get peddled around and wished that they themselves hadn’t bought so much baby stuff that they never ended up using. Their sage wisdom: all you really need are diapers and common sense.
Thanks for saving us from the Dock-A-Tots, newborn shoes, crib blankets, and diaper pails!
4. Learn about maternity and parental leave rights and benefits
I wouldn’t want anyone to get caught off-guard about parental leave rights and benefits the way we did. I didn’t know the half of Canada’s pregnancy leave, parental leave, and parental benefits practices, and just thought that it would cover half of me or Sam’s income. A coworker told me that it’s not all peaches and cream for those with higher income and I finally looked into it… and got schooled! We discovered that we wouldn’t be covered nearly as much as we thought we would be, and have since adjusted our spending habits and household budget accordingly, sheepishly admitting that we should’ve known this before we got pregnant!
5. Don’t pay mind to judgment, and don’t listen to the mommy-shamers
Well-meaninged people will line up around the block to tell you how you should do pregnancy, and I’m told that it doesn’t stop when you become a mom either. From personal experience, the worst is when someone gives you advice based on “something they heard their pregnant friend say”. In all honesty though, while it’s sometimes hard to find the balance between being open to others’ feedback and sticking to my own convictions, I do think that it’s been an interesting challenge to be constantly offered others’ opinions and see if my beliefs still stick… tl;dr learn to develop a thick skin and take it as an opportunity to understand yourself better!
6. Learn to rely on your partner—divide and conquer
When I first started grappling with being more physically reliant on Sam and the prospects of becoming a lower income earner when I go on mat leave, my self confidence and sense of identity took a hit. In hindsight, I think I added unnecessary burden onto myself by guilt tripping myself about it, and didn’t allow myself to accept help until a friend helped me see things differently. Once I acknowledged that I was going through a period when I would need to rely on others more, it felt like a weight was lifted. Sam was able to become more involved in the pregnancy, contributing in areas where he could, and it became more of a mutually shared experience for us.
7. Keep doing what you love
Friends who don’t have kids mostly tell me that life as I know it is over, but strangely enough, new parents with young kids tend to tell me the opposite. In fact, their advice is to keep doing the things that we love once the baby comes, and that it’s important to keep those elements in our lives for our own mental and emotional health. It’s comforting to hear new parents say that, because Sam and I honestly had no idea how much the baby will be a force in our lives (still don’t!). But knowing that other parents have been able to maintain the lifestyle they love, just with a bit more planning and preparation, inspires us to do the same. We’re really looking forward to sharing our favourite neighbourhood spots, and going on urban and nature explorations with the little one.
8. Don’t make your kid the centre of your world
Similar to the piece of advice above, another piece of sage wisdom we’ve received is to make sure our marriage remains a priority once the baby comes. It’s been something I’ve been a little anxious about. I’ve seen helicopter parents, and I’ve seen how their obsession with their children can suck away all of their free time and energy, leaving what I can only assume to be very little left to throw toward their own interests and relationships.
Lately, Sam and I have both been very mindful of the practices and habits that keep our marriage strong, and I know it’ll be a challenge to maintain those during certain times with the baby, but we’re both committed to trying our best to stay the course. At least acknowledging that the healthiest thing for our kid is to grow up in a loving and tight-knit household will give us direction, and some clarity amongst the chaos.
9. Set boundaries with parents and in-laws
It must be extremely challenging to watch your children become parents themselves and not be tempted to step in and “parent” them on how to do it. I’ve been counselled by many new parents that it’s important to set boundaries upfront with parents and in-laws on their level of involvement and control over the kids and the family overall. When I first heard this, I thought that the attitude was a little cold but given how “suggestive” my mom’s been so far over many aspects of baby rearing, I can completely see how it could get out of control *insert nervous laughter* and will be looking to proactively set expectations appropriately.
10. Don’t worry about what you don’t know
One thing that really set my mind at ease is knowing that no one knew what they were doing with their first kid either (and their kids turned out alright, for the most part). The sheer amount of what I didn’t know when I first started on this road was overwhelming—morning sickness, parental leave, financial planning, sleep training, breastfeeding, the list goes on!—and sometimes the stress is not what you don’t know, but being so aware of all the things you don’t know.
When I gave myself some slack and took it one step at a time, I became a lot more productive. I started committing myself to learning about one thing each week (you got 30+ weeks to get there, so start making your list!) and slowly started accumulating my body of knowledge. I’m 37 weeks in now, and sure, I still don’t know everything, but I’m in a pretty good place and have a lot more confidence.
Phew, so there you have it! On behalf of me and Sam, outside of this “top ten list”, we’ve honestly received so much care and support from all directions, and are infinitely grateful. It’s been a bittersweet few weeks, as we know that one chapter of our lives is coming to an end, while another one is on the brink of starting. We can’t wait to share the world with Baby Kim, and share Baby Kim with the world!