What I’ve learned from my first year of parenting

This is the post on parenting that I’ve been wanting to write for a while, and I’m going to put it all out there. These are my own opinions, and this is my own life. As always, I’m keeping it real for you, my friends. And to be honest, I get a little nervous when I write posts like this because parenting can be a slightly sensitive topic, and I’m bound to leave out something or say too much. But here we go …

When people say that the first year of parenting flies by, I sort’ve get it, but I sort’ve don’t. It’s actually almost hard to remember those first few weeks of having a newborn in our lives. Was that a year ago? Was that five years ago? I’m not sure. Because I just can’t imagine myself looking back to a time before we had Brady. Sure I have all sorts of fun stories and this and that, but really thinking about the way it was different — somehow, someway it’s hard to grasp. Yet, at the same time, I also agree that the weeks have somehow turned into months into a year. A very strange combination of slow and fast.

I have to begin this by saying I am fully blessed to have been able to get pregnant naturally, especially after working for about two years to heal my hormones, overcome hypothalamic amenorrhea and then change my lifestyle, diet and so much more in order to prove a few doctors wrong. I did it. And I had a healthy pregnancy, teaching group fitness classes through 33 weeks.

The labor and delivery part didn’t go so well, but I ended up safe and sound and so did Brady. I have a healthy son. This is MAJOR. I know these things, and if you don’t have these things, please know that I am absolutely hoping you keep the faith and know that your time will come, somehow, some way. Because mine did, after several years of not thinking it would.

What I’ve learned from my first year of parenting

Ashley and Brady and Rudy parenting post by A Lady Goes West -- October 2018

That being said, parenting and being a mom is not easy. It has presented me with the most challenges of my entire life in the last year. I’ve worked very competitive and tough jobs in busy industries. I’ve pushed myself to the physical limits in fitness professional trainings. I’ve moved across the country away from everything I’ve ever known. I’ve done a lot. But parenting is hard. In the most amazingly hard and happy way.

Here are a few things I know to be true …

Just when you think you’ve got it, things change

It never fails — I’ll have a few weeks in a row, when I really think we’re on a roll. Everything is working nicely on a schedule, we’re getting things done, Brady is happy, I’m happy, Dave is happy, Rudy is happy … and then things change. All of a sudden, Brady will start teething and be up multiple times in the middle of the night. Or he’ll get a runny nose and constantly need his boogers sucked while we’re out and about (yes, I said it). 

But mostly, on a larger level, new challenges continue to arise. While Brady doesn’t need me to support his head when I hold him anymore, he does crawl around like crazy, so I can’t just put him in a spot and turn around and do something. He is constantly moving and constantly needing my full attention. And I know as he continues to grow, the challenges will continue. It’s amazing. But it’s also hard.

You will feel a full spectrum of emotions during the course of most days

Mom life means that you may feel slightly on edge, stressed and annoyed by breakfast time, but also nearly cried from joy, warmness and snuggles just five minutes beforehand. You will feel so happy and proud of your child and the fact that you are a mom, then you will want to pull your hair out as you’re trying to corral your child into his carseat for a trip to the grocery store. Then, you’ll get SO mad at yourself for ever feeling ANYTHING but joy. And this is what gets me. The guilt of feeling anything but joy.

I find myself so happy most of the time, but when I get those moments of frustration, I get over them so quickly and then instantly feel bad that I ever felt that way. (As a side note: In my personal life, I rarely get over grudges/anger situations quickly, but with Brady, it takes about 5 seconds to totally forgive and forget hehehe.) I know it’s natural, and I’m guessing some of you have done it too. But it happens. Patience runs out. Then, the guilt of letting that natural emotion come up comes in. Ohhhh the roller coaster. It’s happens at least a few times a week. (Another side note: On the weekends when Dave is around much more, I really don’t have the full spectrum. So I believe that having two full-time stay-at-home parents with a child is the only way to live hahaha. Is that possible?)

Ashley and Brady and Rudy 1 year of parenting blog post by A Lady Goes West -- October 2018

You don’t always know what you’re doing, but that’s okay

There is no instruction manual. When you take your baby home from the hospital, you are terrified. As the weeks and months go on, you will Google everything under the sun. Sure, you can ask your friends, but really — it’s up to you to figure out how to care for your kid, keep them alive, keep them well, feed them and help them grow. It’s all you.

There have been many times when I’ve been unsure on what to do — I think about it — I talk to Dave, I do some online research, and I go with my gut. And so far, that has not led me astray. We’re soooo lucky that Brady hasn’t had any major issues at all, but there have certainly been things that have stumped me along the way. We just do our best!

You literally melt at every little thing your kid does

When you create a little human, you become ever aware of every little thing that they do. As Brady has been growing throughout the year and when has has started to show new motor skills, pick up new toys, make new sounds, pull himself up, touch the dog leash on a walk, I mean — these may not be exciting to everyone, but they are exciting to me/us. I take pictures to send to Dave (if he is at work and not experiencing whatever is happening), my mom and dad too so they can see what our little guy is doing. 

For instance, when we were on the plane to Ohio a couple of weeks ago, we brought a little “touch and feel” book for Brady to play with. Well he immediately used his little pointer finger to touch the furry part of the dog in the book. That’s the only thing he wanted to touch. Is this cute? Yes? Was this a big deal to us? Yes, because he used his pointer finger to touch it and chose the dog as his favorite animal. We almost died. We still mention it. Like yes. This is parenthood.

You want to be away sometimes, but then you really miss them

I love to get out and about without Brady and feel that independence that I used to have all the time. While I don’t think about him every minute, when I do think about him, I miss him … like … a lot. I crave an adult vacation, but I also know that I couldn’t go more than 24 hours without being near that little man. He is part of our lives for forever, so even though it would be fun to go all sorts of places without him, I also want him to be with us too almost all of the time. I miss him. He’s the best. I can’t just go away. Things are different now. (Although I do think Dave and I do a decent job of getting out without him at least every other week or so, so that’s good!)

Ashley and Brady 1 year of parenting blog post by A Lady Goes West -- October 2018

There’s never enough time in the day

When I was working in the corporate world, my days were super full. There was even a time when I was writing this blog, working full time at a desk job and teaching group fitness classes (and trying to get pregnant and going to 8 million doctor appointments), and yet, that amount of busy is not the same as mom or parent busy. There’s just NOT enough time to do it all. If you’re a parent who goes off to an office, I’m sure your morning rush and evening rush is insane and you just want more time to spend with your child during the week.

Well, if you’re a working-from-home mom like I am, then you may look at a day with no particular appointments and think you’ll have a lot of time to check things off your to-do list, but with baby feeding, baby playing, baby changing and baby loving, somehow the days get by and you’re left wondering where the time went. There’s time. But it’s never enough to do it all. Some days, I feel like I’m in control and powered through a ton of work during Brady’s nap, but some days not so much. Every single nap, I try to immediately head to the computer to work, but there are times when I choose to shower, eat or do a chore — and that’s time I lose, thus I continue working at night after he goes to bed, and that time goes by quickly too.

It’s not easy to be a minimalist, because kids need a lot of stuff

Stuff. It’s a lot. Even if you don’t go overboard with what you buy. I’ve always been a bit of a neat freak, and I like to keep the counters clear and a mostly minimal design. When Brady was a baby, we could get away with just a couple of places to put him, but now that he’s a toddler (I still have trouble calling him a toddler, because he’s still a little baby in my eyes), he needs toys, large contraptions, a drying rack on the counter for all his little dishes and cups, and we need a baby gate to section off some areas of the house too — in addition to all the outlet covers, which make plugging in the vacuum a real chore hehehe. 

While I think our house still looks nice, and I still keep it really clean, if it were up to me, we’d have no sign of children outside of the nursery hahahha. But that’s not realistic, and it’s fine how it is. And speaking of minimalism, you really have to bring a lot when you travel too. No more packing light for us!

Kids are a major source of entertainment and they make you play

There’s not a day that goes by that I haven’t giggled and smiled and played by 9 a.m. And I don’t think that was always the case before Brady. Sure, Rudy has been our baby for three years, and he’s the snuggliest and sweetest pup, who is still a huge and important part of our family and part of the giggles, but Brady just makes me laugh. When we get him up in the morning his hair is always SO crazy. He makes the weirdest sounds. He’s so chatty. He’s got this funny thing where he lifts his arm up and does “the claw” when he’s happy. He just makes us laugh. Even when I’m stressed, have a huge to-do list, haven’t showered and am just sitting in the playroom in the middle of a weekday with him without a phone or computer, I laugh. We play, and I laugh. He forces me to play, and that is good for the soul. And boy do I love watching him play with Dave and Rudy too.

Ashley and Brady 1 year of parenting by A Lady Goes West -- October 2018

Not living near family majorly sucks

We knew when we moved to California from Florida that we were moving away from family. But that was before kids, and it just didn’t seem like that big of a deal. Now, here we are, have built a great life, have bought a house and have a good community — yet, we’re not near any family. Yes, we have Dave’s sister about 90 minutes away, but she works full time and is super busy, so we don’t really ever see her. And currently, we have Dave’s cousin in San Francisco for a temporary assignment, and she’s been so sweet as to watch Brady for us a couple of times, but once again — she works as a nurse and is very busy and is moving soon, so we don’t really get to see her either.

That being said, almost all of my friends have family, mainly parents, nearby. What does that mean? They have help. If they are sick, their parent can come watch the kid, so they can nap. If they need to go to the doctor or dentist, they have someone to call on during the week to come help. When they’re late on a blog assignment and have a full hamper of laundry and need to get their hair done before a trip, they call a parent in to help. (#RealLifeProblems)

I don’t have those things. When I’m sick, I’m still doing the mom life with Brady. When I need to go to the doctor, I have to take him. The dentist? That’s a whole other story because he can’t come — and I had to cancel about five dentist appointments a few months ago when we were between babysitters. These days we’ve found a babysitter who is pretty reliable, but she’s not available all the time and not so much during the days. And getting a babysitter isn’t just quite the same as having some extra family hands pop over on a moment’s notice, you know?

While this may sound like I’m complaining, because yes, I chose to move to California, it’s just not that easy. This is where I want to live and love to live, but I also WANT to live near my parents (or Dave’s parents), and this is not where they live. The three weeks that my Mom was here seemed just RIGHT. She helped me with so much and it was just this feeling I don’t normally have. 

This wasn’t supposed to be my longest bullet of the post, but it’s a subject I’m sort’ve stuck on. Being a parent and raising kids is beautiful and challenging for everyone, but if you have family nearby to help — you’re lucky. I do have good friends who I could possibly ask for help, but they all have kids and jobs as well, so it just never seems right to do that. That’s all I will say about that. Life is complicated, and so this is the situation I find myself in today.

Ashley and Brady 1 year of parenting post by A Lady Goes West -- October 2018

Everything takes a little more planning

No, you can’t just pop out when you want and for as long as you want. You are constantly on the nap schedule, you have to have the diaper bag, make sure you’ve fed your child and you can’t stay out too long. Every trip takes a little more planning and effort, especially overnight trips — remember — you need a lot of stuff. It’s certainly gotten a lot easier, but I remember in the beginning, perhaps the first six months or so, I was exhausted by the time we just got into the car to head anywhere. But at the same time, outings are good for the soul, so you’ve got to do at least one or two each day for sure. Get out of the house! (Walks work too!)

Watching your child grow is truly the greatest joy

This is what it’s all about. Spending time with my little man, watching him grow, watching him with Dave, watching his personality develop and seeing him learn and knowing he is a truly a creation of me and of Dave — that is pure joy. He is so soft and sweet and smart and caring and curious. Snuggling him is the best ever. I love him and feel so much joy from him that I can hardly put it into words. 

Ashley and Brady and Rudy parenting blog post by A Lady Goes West -- October 2018

Overall thoughts on the first year of parenting

I am truly the same person that I was before Brady, but everything is different now. I still care about fitness, food, fun, friends, writing and wine, but I care about them all knowing that Brady is mostly my number one. I still want to work. I still want to teach classes. I still want to have relationships. I still want to do all the things I’ve ever wanted to do, but I do them knowing that my real project and passion is a living and breathing one. A cute one with blue eyes and blond crazy hair. 

Although being a mom is perhaps a little harder than I expected, it is BY far my greatest accomplishment and it is worth every little tiny bit of effort. Three cheers for all the parents out there just doing their best!

And that, my friends is parenthood for me right now. We certainly don’t have it all figured out, but we’re one year into this great adventure and learning as we go. Thank YOU for reading and following along our lives as we do it.

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Questions of the day

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  1. I love your honesty on this topic- I feel like everyone always tells me its the best thing ever (and I’m sure it is!) but there are definitely difficult times too and no one talks about those. My husband and I moved back to my hometown last year thinking that if we ever had kids we would need that support system aka my mom, lol. Would you ever consider moving back?? It took me almost 2 years to move back after I decided to make it happen. I know you guys just bought a beautiful house so I’m guessing not any time soon and wasn’t sure with Dave’s job and all those logistics. Thanks for your insight and keeping it real 🙂

    1. Hi Jess! That’s awesome you moved back home! I don’t see us moving back to Florida really — I mean, never say never — but it just doesn’t seem like it will happen. I absolutely love the Bay Area, so it’s hard to accept, but we may be here for a while. You are lucky to be back near momma, lady!! 🙂

  2. I was blessed to never had a babysitter, my parents always had family or their friends to take of me. None of them are from the West Coast of US, but thankfully they lived here. Parenting is never easy but will get easier in time.

    1. Wow! That’s amazing you never had a sitter! 🙂 And yes, I’m sure some parts of parenting will get easier, while others will get harder! Who knows!

  3. What I’ve Learned Watching You During Your First Year of Parenting

    You were an inspiration before you got pregnant
    You were an inspiration while you were pregnant
    You are an inspiration as a new Mom

    Thanks for sharing. Xoxo

  4. Thank you for sharing so honestly about your first year of parenting; you have done an amazing job, especially since your direct hands on family support has been limited! I have a 3 year old (and one on the way!) and really identified with a lot of your experiences, particularly related to the guilt feelings. I’m a leave the house working mom and have been more stressed at work which makes me more prone to be less patient with my daughter so lately I’ve felt like a crappy mother. We do the best we can though and I’m greatful that my daughter doesn’t hold a grudge and loves unconditionally❤️

    1. Hi Erin! Oh my, I’m sure the guilt is REAL, but we all have it in some ways. Your daughter loves you no matter what and probably doesn’t even notice you’ve been short with her. I’m hoping the stress at work will subside a bit for you and hopefully you can also separate yourself from it — which is easier said than done. You’re doing awesome, momma. And thank YOU for reading and for sharing too! 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing your experiences! My husband and I were just talking about how living away from our family would affect us when we decide to have kids. When we moved away (not across the country, but we are a 5 hour drive to our nearest relative) 5 years ago, we didn’t think it would be permanent. In fact, we always thought we would move back. We love where we live though and now thinking of moving makes me sad. We’re approaching the time where we might start trying to have kids, but it seems rather overwhelming with no family to help.

    1. Hi Amanda! The good news is that having kids can be overwhelming even if you have all the help in the world hahaha! Because as the mom, so much will fall on you — so it’s not impossible to have a great life without constant nearby family help — we’re VERY happy, just wish we had my mom around hahah! But if you’re happy where you are now, you can stay there, you will know in your heart if you ever think it’s time to head closer to the parents. Or maybe they will come closer to you?? 🙂

  6. I’ve been considering the pros and cons of living near or far from family when having kids since I’m due in just over a month. I don’t love where I live but I like it and the family support definitely is a huge pro. So in a way I consider myself lucky to live near family, but I also consider people like you lucky to live somewhere a bit more exciting, but luckily everyone has the ability to change where they live based on their priorities.
    Great post, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    1. Hi Julie! It’s so true, you do get to choose where you live and everywhere has its perks and downfalls. We’re happy with SO much here in the Bay Area that we’re making this big sacrifice to be far from family, so that’s our current choice. Hopefully you will know in your heart what you want to do and can always make a change if you need to! You’ll want to find some good babysitters and maybe a mommy group too! Hope you’ve been feeling okay during your pregnancy!

  7. Great post! I agree on all of these things, especially having the grandparents close by! I don’t know how anyone has a kid without the extra help, it’s so hard! My parents went on vacation and even with two parents, we’re just exhausted! I can totally relate on being obsessed with all the little things they do, my co-workers all give me blank stares when I’m like, “he stood up in his crib!! ” Ah, so nice to know I’m not crazy, this stuff is a big deal!

    1. Hi Amy! You are definitely one of the lucky ones with parents nearby! It’s NOT easy to have no one on call to help out, so treat those grandparents right hahahah! And hey, it’s totally normal to want to talk about your little man all day at work, including all the little things he does ahhah! I’d be happy to hear it, but maybe not all your coworkers, right? hahaha! Keep up the great work momming!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this post, Ashley! I’m not a mom yet, but hopefully in a couple years. I read every word of this, and I just so appreciate your honesty. I adore your writing and am amazed by you and all you juggle! And do not get me started on how stinkin’ cute Brady is…!! xo

    1. Hi Mackenzie! Thank you SO much for reading and for your nice words. I really appreciate that you like to read these long type of posts, even if you aren’t in the mom stage yet! One day! 🙂

  9. A million times YES! To the family thing! It’s truky a different experience to raise young children without any family close by! My husband and I always joke that our friends “just don’t get it” 😉 part of it is the emotional aspect of knowing you have a reliable adult (without their own young kids!) nearby if something comes up. It was a stress when I was preggo with our second daughter and planning for her arrival… despite friends saying they would happily help us out, they have their own babies to take care of! This sounds so whiney… and I don’t want it to be! 🙂 It’s just a different reality for us!

    1. Hi Laura! EXACTLY — the emotional aspect is huge and the practical aspect is huge too. Sending you SO much love and support for raising kids without the help of family nearby, lady! 🙂 It’s not whining, it’s real life. I feel ya!

  10. Yes, this is so well stated and I really agree! I especially feel you on the guilt when you lose your temper or feel a certain way. I sometimes struggle with thinking about never really having a break. Yes, if someone is watching her while I do something for myself, I am taking a bit of a break, but when it comes down to it, I’m still worrying, thinking, planning for when I’m done with whatever I’m doing, checking in, answering questions, etc. Not to mention all the prep involved if you do want to go out for an hour or two. Phew! But, you’re right, things still matter that used to matter but you’re number one is now your little human for sure!

    1. This is SOO true, Heather! Even when I’m gone I’m constantly worrying about him, so it does sort’ve seem like we never get a break. But I guess that’s what we signed up for? hahahah! Good thing they are adorable!! 🙂 Happy momming, my friend!

  11. Hi Ashley. I have been a stepparent but never had a child of my own. I learned a lot this year what first time parents, especially mothers, go through the first year. I think your sharing will certainly give young first time parents the confidence that their child is growing up normally. I think you have done a lot of things right with Brady. It was funny Rudy did not budge an inch in any picture.

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