12 things I’ve learnt in my first year of motherhood

On the occasion of her daughter’s first birthday, first-time mom, Julia, reflects on the past year and the lessons she’s learnt in her initial 12 months of motherhood.

We recently celebrated my daughter’s first birthday—a significant milestone that triggered a whole smorgasbord of emotions. These ranged from sheer disbelief that I am now a parent to a toddler, to pride in keeping her alive and healthy for an entire year, to the scary realisation that I haven’t had an uninterrupted night’s sleep in 365 days.

Whatever your experience, I believe most parents would agree that the first year is an incredibly intense period. Your life is shaken like a snow globe, and you have no idea where all the pieces of yourself are going to land. And, although plenty are still swirling around, a year on, I feel like my vision is slowly clearing. Looking back, I’m amazed at how much the addition of this little human has already taught me.

Here are 12 lessons I’ve learnt in my first year of being a mum


1. It’s really all about sleep and poo 💩

It’s really all about sleep and poo

Honestly, I don’t think any topic has ever been more intensely discussed and dissected in our household than our baby’s excrement and shut-eye (although “What shall we have for dinner?” might be another hot contender). How many diapers a day? What colour, what consistency? How often does she nap? For how long? How many times does she wake during the night? Is she tired? The list goes on. As simple as this might sound, sleep and poo are two of the most important indicators of your child’s well-being—at least at the very beginning!


2. Breastfeeding gets better 🤱

(Before I expand, I would like to add a brief disclaimer: Breastfeeding is a delicate and hotly discussed topic with strong and divergent opinions. Whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby, I believe you should do what works best for you. In no way am I trying to argue for one or the other, nor cast any judgment. I am only speaking from my own experience.)

This is specifically for anyone who currently finds themselves in the endless cycle of breastfeeding. Now, I know some people love it from day one, but at some point, and more than likely, you will suffer from engorged breasts, nipples that feel like they might fall off at any minute, your arms are sore, your back aches, and you start feeling like a factory-farmed cow (it doesn’t help to be regularly compared to one!). While I was lucky not to experience any inflammation or mastitis, feeling like I had no other purpose in life than having my offspring attached to my mammaries for hours on end was unsatisfying and utterly exhausting. Was this it? I’d always thought that breastfeeding was supposed to be a wonderful bonding experience. Why wasn’t I enjoying this? Was I simply not cut out for it? What gave me hope during this short yet intense time was: (1) learning that this is very common at the beginning, and (2) hearing from moms further along the breastfeeding journey that they started enjoying it after a few months. And lo and behold, several months in, it became shorter, quicker, easier! So having been through that tunnel, I’m holding up the light for you at the other end with the bright and shiny message that very soon, it will get better! (Until the teeth start to poke through, but that’s another story.)

3. Connection is key 💚

Connection is key

Whether I was uncertain about our sleeping arrangements, worried about feeding, or felt unsure about how to spend the days (let’s be honest, playing can get boring), nothing has been more helpful than talking to fellow parents when I was sliding down another worry spiral. While Google is my go-to source, much of the advice portrays idealized scenarios that don’t necessarily reflect reality. On several occasions, I found great comfort in simply connecting and exchanging experiences with other parents. If only to feel I wasn’t alone, and that by itself can be very reassuring.

4. Those tiny fingernails are lethal 🖐️

Those tiny fingernails are lethal

…and just wait for those teeny-weeny teeth.

5. It’ll make an early riser out of you 

…thought probably every baby ever. Even though I would generally consider myself a morning person, those 5 o’clock wakings are a stretch even for me. My husband, on the other hand, has turned into a different person. In the last ten years, I think I have seen him in bed by 10 PM only a handful of times and, on even rarer occasions, up before dawn. But when the baby beckons, you simply have no choice!

6. Getting to know yourself 💪

Getting to know yourself

It’s funny how, as you get to know this new tiny human in your life, there’s so much you learn about yourself too. On one hand, I think that sleep deprivation, the lack of breaks and minimum time to yourself, pushes you to a raw and vulnerable place. A place where you come face-to-face with your weaknesses while lacking the energy to mask them, but also a place where you unearth unknown reserves of strengths. On the other hand, I find that since becoming a mom, I spend much more time reflecting on my values, the way I communicate, and what I actively want to try and pass on to my daughter.

7. Turning into a parenting cliché 🤪

Oh, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to cringe at myself in the past year. Things I couldn’t imagine myself saying or doing before—speaking in a high-pitched voice, humming soothing music to calm my baby, or revolving my entire schedule around her nap times—have all become so normal to me that I don’t even notice them anymore. It slightly worries me, however, that I’m starting to see the appeal of family hotels (who have I become?) but at this point, I’m open to anything that makes my life easier… I guess some clichés are there for a reason.

8. Parent guilt is real 🥺

Parent guilt is real

From spending too much time on the phone to losing my temper at bedtime, to thinking I don’t offer enough food options or entertainment, you name it—most days I find something I beat myself up about. I try to fight it, but the guilt sweeps me up like a wave, rendering me immobile until I finally get my bearings back and try to navigate the rest of the day. The paradox is that it’s so utterly useless. Wallowing in guilt is both debilitating and self-indulgent, and sitting in my puddle of should-haves and could-haves doesn’t make me a better parent. So, it’s best to learn from your mistakes, move on, apologize, and try better next time—why is that so hard?

9. Time, oh precious time 

I’m aware that this sounds naive, but despite people telling me otherwise, I somehow was under the illusion that I would have all this “free” time on maternity leave. Not spending eight hours at the office will surely leave plenty of time to read, do courses, and finish knitting that woolly jumper, right? Oh, how wrong I was. Please tell me that I’m not the only one!? The reality is that even basic tasks such as preparing dinner, taking a shower, or keeping the flat somewhat tidy feel like running underwater. When one arm is either occupied, or my attention is split between an increasingly mobile child and the instructions of a recipe whilst the onions burn to a crisp, making a simple meal leaves me as exhausted as if completing a HIT workout. And don’t even get me started on the sleep deprivation!

The upside, however, of time being such a precious commodity is that it’s the ultimate lesson in efficiency. Even the most ardent procrastinators (Hi, it’s nice to meet you!) will sooner or later learn to prioritize and squeeze out every single precious minute while your child naps.

10. Once they are asleep, everything is forgotten 💤

Once they are asleep, everything is forgotten

It doesn’t matter how frustrated I get when she fights naptime or the food I painstakingly prepared for her (see point before) lands once again on the floor, as soon as she’s asleep, all of the anger and pain immediately evaporate. There’s just something so blissful about seeing your little one lying peacefully in bed with their eyes closed and their breathing slowly flowing in and out. It resets the entire day.

11. Parenting = Patience 🤯

Parenting = patience

One of the most important parenting skills in my opinion is patience. At some point, we all have to find out that there’s simply no point in forcing your schedule onto your little one. I’m not saying that it’s not good to establish a routine for your child, but just because you want them to be in bed at 7 PM, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Usually, the harder I try, the faster I lose my zen and the longer it eventually takes. I’ve learnt the best thing you can do is simply be there for them and accompany them as they learn and develop. Easier said than done though – we are only human!

12. The only constant is change 👧🏻

The only constant is change

Think you figured out your baby’s nap schedule? How long did that last? I found it really hard to answer any type of questions about my baby’s usual behaviours because a routine would last a few days before it all changed again. And then again. Of course, considering how much development happens in the first year, this should come as no surprise. Colic, teething, vaccinations, sleep regressions, separation anxiety, starting solids, and learning a million new skills, including rolling over, sitting, crawling and walking, all of these affect your baby’s sleep pattern and behaviour.

Even though I still sometimes struggle with dealing with the constant change, I try to remind myself that all the more difficult phases won’t last forever, whilst trying to savour all the “good” moments for as long as they last.

WHAT about you?

Parenthood is one big rollercoaster, as the cliché goes, and in addition to the many ups and downs, it’s also a great learning opportunity. Do any of these lessons resonate with you? What have been some of your most important lessons of parenting so far? It would be great to hear from all parents. I’m curious to hear your thoughts.


– Julia –

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