5 mistakes I made when I had my first kid that I'll never make again

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  • Parenting is a challenge, and new parents are especially susceptible to common parenting mistakes.
  • Here, author Nicole Rollender details five things she “self-corrected” on after the birth of her first child.

Many new parents wish their child came with a manual, and I was no different.

When my first baby said, “Hello, world!” on New Year’s Eve in 2008, it wasn’t the typical movie-scene birth, with a tired but happy-looking mother holding her baby in a bed surrounded by helium balloons and flowers.

That’s why I was even more susceptible to making common parenting mistakes.

At 36 weeks, my daughter was born at a mere three pounds, about the size of a 30-weeker – she was severely intrauterine growth restricted due to an abrupted placenta. She spent more than three weeks in the hospital NICU, undergoing a battery of tests before she came home.

The good news is that I self-corrected several mistakes when my son came along four years later, and I felt like a more seasoned, in-control parent.

Here are five mistakes I made when I had my first kid that I’ll never make again.


1. I always assumed the worst

Like lots of babies, my daughter had eczema all over her body – some days her skin was red and white from face to feet, even after I used the cream her pediatrician prescribed. She also had cradle cap, a scalp skin condition.

Some days, my daughter’s eczema was so bad the marks looked like burns, and she’d scratch her skin and cry. And then I’d cry, thinking her eczema would develop into a chronic, untreatable condition. These head-to-toe skin conditions weren’t pretty, but my pediatrician was right: Skin issues are common in babies and after a few months, they cleared up completely.

Now, if either of my kids gets sick outside a regular cold or develops a strange skin rash or a high fever, I call my pediatrician. There’s always a doctor or nurse to answer questions 24 hours a day, and they can be very reassuring.


2. I compared my kid to everyone else’s

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For the first two years of my daughter’s life, as is common in babies with SIUGR, she was a finicky eater and didn’t grow quickly. We had to take her for weekly and then monthly weigh-ins to make sure she was thriving.

Because my daughter was born so tiny and stayed smaller than other kids, I constantly asked other mothers with kids the same age how tall they were or how much they weighed.

At her well visit right after her second birthday, my daughter’s pediatrician said she wasn’t concerned about her weight anymore, even though she was still tiny.

Today, at age 9, she’s 50 lbs., whip thin, but a total firecracker. My 5-year-old son is the same weight as her, and they’re both right where they should be.


3. I put too much importance on milestones

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Like many other new parents, I constantly tracked my daughter’s milestones, against online data and other kids. I worried when another baby crawled or walked first, or started stringing together sentences on his first birthday.

Ultimately, my daughter crawled, walked and talked, and then ran, jumped, and starting turning cartwheels. Babies all develop at their own pace. A good pediatrician, like ours, monitors your child’s growth and development at every visit, and will honestly tell you if there’s a need for testing or early intervention.

I decided to stop obsessively tracking milestones with my second child. Funnily enough, my son, who was born nine weeks premature, did lots of things earlier than my daughter, like saying his first word (bottle) at 9 months old.


4. I pushed potty training

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On her second birthday, my daughter hightailed it to her potty and promptly dropped numbers one and two in the bowl. My husband and I high-fived, thinking our diapering days were done. Not so – for another year-and-a-half of my daughter alternated between potty, diaper, and underwear accidents before she was fully trained at age 3 1/2. During that 18 months, I constantly cajoled her to sit on the potty, and spent too much time worrying about it.

With our son, we left the little potty out, but never did a full court press on toilet time. About a month before he started preschool at age 3, we chatted with his pediatrician about the best way to potty train– and as it turns out, kids learn between 18 months and 4 years, a wide swath of time.

Within 10 days, our second little tyke was fully trained and proud of himself.


5. I put myself last

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When you’re a new parent, it’s easy to forget to eat, change your spit-up covered shirt, snag a catnap, hit the shower, or go to the gym. When my daughter napped, instead of snoozing myself, I did laundry or refilled the dishwasher.

I definitely neglected my own self-care, so in my son’s first year, I got my quick naps and workouts in, and even snuck in massages.

Now I’m a pretty well-adjusted mum of two active, energetic, and very happy kids.

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