My barber mentioned to me her best friend is pregnant and that her husband will be the stay-at-home, and that he’s nervous. I flashed back to four years ago when Otis and I were just starting to find our groove together and how hard it was, how scared I was. People are so fond of saying, “Going from one kid to two is exponentially harder.” It’s as dramatic as it is wrong. Going from one kid to two is maybe one-and-a-half times harder than what you were doing. There’s nothing exponential about it. What’s truly exponential is going from zero to one. Zero to one is exponentially harder.
As I look back on my rookie season, I want to wish those getting ready to step into the show well and share a few of basics.
Establish a rhythm as quickly as you can. Make sure it includes getting out of the house. It may seem like a three-month old baby doesn’t really care if you’re playing at home or at a playground, and maybe it doesn’t, but if you don’t have some structure to the day, it’s going to seem phenomenally harder.
Be okay with napping on the go. The nap thing was a huge worry for us when we were new parents. How long was the nap? Was it at the right time, was it the right quality of sleep? We’d read somewhere that naps should be in the bed, so that the child learned this was the appropriate place for sleep. All that worry and effort gave us mediocre naps at best. When our second came along and had to nap on the go out of necessity of keeping up with our first, we found naps came easier and caused no problems. Two years later and the kid remains a pro napper — easy to put down and stays asleep for a long time. It could be the kid, it could be the approach. I don’t know. All I know is that in those early days, when you’re trying to figure out how to manage a day and also allow for three naps, you should be okay with one or two of those naps happening in the world. In order for this to be successful, you’ll need to get good with transitioning the kid from a car seat to a sling or an Ergo, and/or be good at buying the kind of car seat that pops into a stroller.
Find a home park. It took me a while to crack through the deep wall of nannies and win the trust of the moms, but once I did, it was a relief knowing there was someplace I could go in the day where I’d know people and could talk to someone who could talk back, or, as Otis grew older, didn’t interrogate me relentlessly about everything that occurred in his field of vision. You need a place where people recognize you and will come to your aid when you forget wipes or a snack. Being that we live in a warm climate, this was a park for me. You real winter people must have other locales and I don’t know what those are, but Rookies, you gotta figure it out. You need a home base. I went back to my old home park recently. The parents I cut my teeth with were gone, the kids now in school, but I was cheered to see a whole new crop of new parents swapping war stories and leaning on each other for support.
Don’t grow a crazy beard or otherwise let your appearance go entirely to shit. Some scruff, okay. Bed head, fine. Holes in the knees of your pants, absolutely. But shower, keep facial hair looking appropriate (long beards fine when shape is maintained). I showed up to a friend’s house once with the baby and she remarked that it looked like I’d been trying to pull my hair out. In truth, it stood on end because it was greasy and gross. She is a famous TV actress and I am embarrassed about that to this day.
Remember that the worry and the fuss is because this is your first child. It’s impossible not to worry and fuss over your first child. It’s why first children are what they are. But if you talk to parents of multiples, they will doubtless tell you that the worry and fuss they put into their first child they did not put into their second, which is why second children are what they are. So accept that you’re going to worry and fuss, but know that the worry and fuss is mostly unnecessary and your kid is almost certainly fine and doing exactly what it needs to do.
Also on my list:
Drink as much coffee as you want to.
Exercise as hard as you can whenever you can, and do your best to build your back and shoulder muscles, which you will need because 10 pounds of baby shreds those spots somehow.
Support your partner. It’s hard to have the kid all day, but it’s hard to be away, especially for moms.
Stay off your phone, unless to take pictures. If taking pictures, don’t post them to Facebook.
You’re only a rookie for one year. It will go by slowly, and then it will be gone forever, so don’t hassle it.