More and more of my friends are (finally) jumping on the baby bandwagon, which got me thinking about advice.
Seasoned parents — and by this I mean anyone who has had at least one child, at any point in their life — are more than willing to share little nuggets of wisdom and life-changing advice. Sleep when the baby sleeps is a popular one. Enjoy it, it goes so fast! is another. True and true, but here’s what I really wish I knew 3 years ago:
1. Do what you feel is right.
When it comes to parenting, there will always be someone telling you you’re right and someone telling you you’re wrong — and odds are they’re both “experts.” Making a decision that you’re 100% comfortable with — whether it’s sleep training, not sleep training, co-sleeping, not co-sleeping — makes it much easier to defend your choices.
And along with this, research these “parenting truths” more instead of going with the loudest advice. It’s easier to just do what your mom says, or what that author says from the book that your best friend gave you at your baby shower. But it’s better to make your own decisions. I have a lot of “I wish I would have…”s looking back, mostly because I went against my gut, or because I didn’t know there was another option.
2. Just because it was right for them, doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
Parents are different. Babies are different. Some moms are at their best when they can have a professional identity outside the family, or a creative outlet independent of parenting. Some babies do not like to be swaddled, or be worn in a baby carrier.
So graciously accept the advice — it comes from a good place — but ultimately realize that Baby A does not equal Baby B, and Mom A does not equal Mom B. Just because your friend’s baby was sleeping through the night at 4 weeks doesn’t mean she holds any sort of superior techniques — it means her baby was sleeping through the night at 4 weeks.
3. It’s hard, and then it’s not.
This is pretty much my mantra of motherhood. Breastfeeding, teething, potty training, first-time parenting — all initially overwhelming, until one day things feel smoother. Easier. And by that point, of course, there’s another hurdle to clear (especially in the first year), but it’s comforting to know that soon, in a blink, this too shall pass.
4. You’re in control.
One of the most difficult decisions I ever made was leaving a secure job with fantastic benefits for a (very little paying) internship with a 9-month-old baby at home. It was a constant debate: Do I pursue the career I want, or do I stay where it’s safe? I felt trapped.
Until one day, while commuting to work in a daze, it felt like someone grabbed me by the shoulders and shook really hard. I’m in control. The only reason I was staying at this job was because I had a baby back home — and doesn’t that baby deserve security? But doesn’t that baby also deserve to not be resented? I’m in control.
Once I realized this, there was no turning back. And it was the best parenting decision I ever made.
5. Your mother doesn’t know everything.
The difficult thing about having a baby before any of our peers is that we rely on advice from older generations. A) The research has certainly changed in the last 20 years, and B) they don’t really remember. How do I know this? Because I hardly remember my pregnancy, and it was three years ago.
Oh yeah? You remember exactly how you felt when you were 24 weeks pregnant? You remember what milestones my 2-month-old should be hitting? I call bull. BULL.
6. You don’t need the stuff.
Sure there are plenty of helpful baby products that I’ve grown to love and appreciate, but you don’t need the “stuff”. As soon as I saw the positive pregnancy test, I needed to move into a two-bedroom apartment. Bringing home a baby into our one-bedroom apartment felt…wrong. I needed to have the right neighborhood, the right nursery furniture, the right stroller — all because I felt so terribly unprepared.
If only I could have the right stuff, then maybe I wouldn’t feel so guilty, so backwards, so unready. So immature.
You don’t need the stuff.
7. Everyone needs help.
I don’t care if you’re 22, 32, or 42 — we all need help in the beginning. Just ask.
It’s incredible just how much you can learn from a growing baby. From a fresh perspective, coming into this convuluted world without any idea how it works. Explaining the rules — the whys, the hows — taught me more about the world, about myself, than it taught him.
9. Some of the best support = online.
10. It’s only the beginning.
I know I’ve talked about this before, but I assumed that having a baby would halt my life. My identity, career, life opportunities — all put on hold. Oh how wrong that is.
What do you wish you knew back then?
This post is sponsored by Disney Baby. I’ll be joining the Disney Baby blogging team next month, and look forward to sharing these kinds of stories (projects/ideas/etc) with you over there! Stay tuned for more details!