The One Thing Every New Parent Must Have

If you already have children you’re probably expecting to find some ridiculously hyperbolic tip at which you’ll roll your eyes and think how much YOU didn’t need this “one thing” at all. If you don’t yet have a baby or are expecting, you’re probably reading so you can file this “tip” away with the volumes of others you have doubtlessly received.  If you have no interest in these sorts of tips, you’re probably just a great friend who feels obligated to give it a read. Hi Mac!

When our first baby, Mary Grace, was about six weeks old, we dropped her off at her Nana’s house and went on our first post-baby date.  What did we do with this coveted time away from our all-consuming new little bundle of joy?  Given that we had barely slept and were living in a perpetual, poop-tinted Groundhog Day, we needed desperately to just feel like people again– people that still had rich lives outside of parenthood.  So, naturally, we went to a documentary at the local theater entitled—wait for it—“BABIES”. Pathetic. This is something akin to a skidrow inmate using his last wish to book a tour of Alcatraz…

The documentary follows four babies – one each from Namibia, Tokyo, Mongolia, and San Francisco–from their first day of life through their first birthday.  It. Was. Fascinating.  In one of the first scenes, the little boy from Mongolia is brought home from the hospital in the arms of his mother, who is riding on the back of her husband’s motorcycle.  Their other son, who looks to be about 18 months old – is perched on the front of the motorcycle in dad’s lap.  So, slightly different from our American way of bringing home baby. The film highlights the vast differences in external conditions that babies experience around the globe.  The little girl from Namibia, Ponijao, especially captured our hearts.  She had a smile that went on for days and a personality that wouldn’t quit.  The conditions in Namibia and Mongolia were both stark contrasts to the American way of raising babies.  Ponijao wore no diaper – a soiled rear was wiped onto mom’s knee—which was then scraped clean with a dried corn cob.  Ponijao played in the dirt, chewed on rocks and bones, and generally was free to roam about as she pleased.  Living in a country where the hand sanitizer flows like water and there is a product to keep just about every baby-related item free from dirt and germs, this was eye-opening for me.  Watching this documentary gave me the one thing I desperately needed as I approached the first year of my baby’s life:  PERSPECTIVE.

One would think that in watching a documentary like this, I would resonate most closely with one environment and align myself with that family.  Or, that I might compare the respective parenting styles and make valuations of their worth.

But, that’s the odd thing – I came away feeling resonance with all of them and with recognition that there are a LOT of beautiful and faithful ways in which to rear a child.

We often think about perspective as happenstance to the business of living.  As the years draw lines on our faces, perspective is drawn into our hearts and minds.  But, I don’t really think it works that way – Perspective is something we need to seek. We need to GET it. Get it? If we don’t, ways foreign to our own become areas of judgment instead of areas of understanding.  Seeing the documentary was a jumping off point for the confidence Bret and I needed to parent OUR way, but with a deep conviction that “our way” is merely one of many possible ways to raise a family and is subject to change as we grow both as a couple and as a family.

Beginning immediately after we saw the documentary and continuing on until today, Bret and I often look at each other, shrug, and say “Namibia”.  It’s our way of saying “PERSPECTIVE”.

Pacifier drops on the floor? “Namibia”

Baby wants to “play” in mud in the garden box? “Namibia”

Sleep trained the first two kids (with great results) and having a change of heart with the third?  “Namibia”

“Namibia” has also been a word for Bret and me beyond the situational.  It is a word that when spoken, reminds us of what really matters—in our home and homes around the globe–Love.  Joy.  Peace.  Patience.  Gentleness.  Goodness.  PERSPECTIVE.

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Mary Spears is a working mom to three amazing kids and wife to Bret (he's amazing too). She delights in rap music, sweet dance moves, delicious food, and strong coffee. She occasionally can be talked into taking a break from her accounting world of spreadsheets to write a post for The Dad Issues.

'The One Thing Every New Parent Must Have' have 14 comments

  1. July 15, 2014 @ 10:51 AM Dan

    This was good.


  2. July 15, 2014 @ 11:29 AM Del Green

    I thought this was a well written post because as a parent of three kids, I have found that we’ve had to raise each one differently. Plus my wife is more uptight about somethings and I am about others. Her perspective and mine are totally different, but yet we manage to find a way put them together. This is great advice.


    • July 15, 2014 @ 5:11 PM Mary Spears

      I hear you on that! Bret and I are polar opposites in terms of natural personalities, but we are also perfect foils for one another. I always say that he helps me to float up to the clouds and dream with him and I make sure he makes contact with the ground once in awhile… Thanks for reading.


  3. July 15, 2014 @ 11:43 AM Jan Mullen

    Going with the flow of more than one way to be, is a powerful way to bring yourself into the peaceful place of embracing change. As you age it gets easier to not fret the little thing and enjoy the magical moments of life… Great read. Thank you!


    • July 15, 2014 @ 5:07 PM Mary Spears

      It’s very strange how, with the perspective now of just how short the baby stage truly is, I’m much more content with the sleepless nights that it brings 🙂


  4. July 15, 2014 @ 6:45 PM Melanie

    Im not a parent, dont plan on it for at least the next three years because Im in the middle of my Internal Medicine Specialty training. I go to your blog because I very much enjoy the insight you have, not just on parenting, but of the way life is seen through your eyes and your family. There is something very captivating and entertaining in the way you write and your blogs. With every post I find myself learning a little bit more of how others experience life, what is important to them, or just having a great laugh. From now on when Im having a rough day at the hospital my new phrase will be Namibia. It is sometimes very hard to not jump in the judgement bandwagon and try to see things from another perspective. But anyway, just sending a shout out to you and your family from a very tired medical intern!


    • July 16, 2014 @ 8:18 AM Mary Spears

      Melanie – I’m so glad you are enjoying the blog. It’s funny – We are finding ourselves learning so much through doing this project and from all the feedback from readers. I really appreciate you taking the time to write. We really hoped this blog wouldn’t be relegated to “for parents” only so I’m very glad you’re involved in the conversation here. Keep reading and good luck on what I know is a long journey, but hopefully a very rewarding one. – Mary


  5. July 15, 2014 @ 11:08 PM Leah

    My husband and I literally had the EXACT same experience with this documentary. We were like, heck if that kid in mongolia can make it tied to the back of a motorcycle most of what we do (or don’t do) will be OK! We’d actually say, are we being the parents in San Francisco right now? haha! Thanks for the great read 🙂


    • July 16, 2014 @ 8:11 AM Mary Spears

      “Are we being the parents in San Francisco now?” That is hilarious. The movie really should be a required viewing for parents 🙂
      Thanks so much for reading. – Mary


  6. July 21, 2014 @ 11:03 PM Cam

    Great article. I have no children yet but I found it very intriguing.

    In business and personal development I have come to the conclusion that self-awareness is one of the biggest pillars for success. It would seem that perspective might be one of the biggest pillars for effective parenting.


    • July 23, 2014 @ 2:38 PM Bret Spears

      I am in complete agreement with you about the vital role of self-awareness. It certainly applies to parenting as well. One of the ways I see it playing a part is at the level of identity. As a parent, it is easy to become engulfed by your new title. It requires endless attention, for one. Second, it is almost unanimously lauded as positive. I mean, nobody ever says, “You know, you really ought to spend LESS time with your kids”. A lack of self-awareness about who you are and who you hope to become, at this juncture, can create all kinds of problems. Thanks for the comments, Cam!


  7. August 6, 2014 @ 1:17 PM Michael

    Another good post. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. With 7 weeks until my first child arrives, I had to share this with the wife.


    • August 6, 2014 @ 4:07 PM Bret Spears

      Man, you guys are getting close! If you haven’t already, you should totally check out that documentary- it is exceptional.


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