There are many things I wish I could tell my first-time-mom self to lessen my self-induced stress. As someone who had 3 kids in 4 years, I had a steep and steady learning curve. With my first I fought things like rearranging night hang-out time with the Hubs, needing to sometimes wake Baby from a nap, and exposing our child to germs. By the third kid, these were no longer limitations but expectations.
I look back and wish I could have calmed myself. That I could tell myself all that I know now. However, I am fully aware that I never would have listened back then. I needed to learn it and live it for myself. Still, these are the things I wish I could say to five-years-ago me, if only to lessen my burden.
1) Fevers seem scarier than they are. Generally speaking, for a healthy child, a fever is a sign that the body is doing its job. The the immune system is at work. Unless notable lethargy and dehydration are observed, just: comfort, cuddle, and chill. 102F may seem awful as an adult but an otherwise healthy 1-year-old can spike a 104F temperature without medical intervention. (Note: Of course one should always follow one’s intuition and adhere to the pediatrician’s protocol.)
2) Germs aren’t all bad. Protecting your newborn from the flu: reasonable. Incessantly sanitizing your toddler: questionable. Panicking when your tot eats a little dirt: dubious. Avoiding public play spaces and shopping carts with a healthy kid for fear of germs: ludicrous. Kids are germy. Kids get germs. Germs can make them sick. Getting sick bolsters their immunity. Germs aren’t all bad. I’m not saying go lick the snot-nosed kid with the rash, but an otherwise healthy 1-year-old with a cough is not catastrophic. Sure, it semi-sucks for the parents for a bit, but that’s not new. If you can survive the 4-month sleep regression, you can handle Hand-Foot-and-Mouth. Childhood illnesses — Coxsackie, Roseola, Fifth’s Disease, a standard cold — they’re crummy viruses that make a kid (and, subsequently, his or her guardians) feel temporarily uncomfy but then it’s nothing but a memory. After conquering the malady, the child is better equipped for future encounters, and so are the parents. Germs are simply a part life… especially life with kids. Fighting it will only rob you and your child of some of the purest childhood joys. Accept germs and move on.
3) Don’t cancel because of a cold. If your child is not an infant and is generally healthy, there’s no need to enact a quarantine due to a standard cold. Sniffles, a cough, mucus, maybe some mild fussiness… this is doable. Always tell the other playdate parent ahead of time if you or your child have a cold, thus allowing the other parent to choose for him or herself whether or not exposure is right for their family, but don’t just cancel at the first sign of boogers. It’s a cold not Typhus.
4) Don’t expect to sleep when Baby is sick. You’re a parent, which means that sleep is now a privelge not a right. If Baby is sick and allows you to snooze, great! Count that as a bonus. If not, consider it training for future sleep regressions. It’ll suck. You’ll live. Caffeinate and keep it moving
5) It’s temporary. Everything in parenthood is temporary. Everything. Every phase (good or bad), every stage (fun or loathsome), every moment (magical or torturous), every routine… all of it. Remember that during the good, the bad, and the monotonous. Don’t sully the good by fretting the bad. Survive the muck and savor the magic.