Once you start telling people you’re adding a baby (or another!) to the family, it’s only a matter of time before the advice starts rolling in – regardless of whether you ask for it or not.
It can be pretty overwhelming for parents-to-be to wade through the little pieces of wisdom being thrown at you. After all, you’re hearing one thing from your friends, reading something else online, and your mom’s telling you radically different. With so much knowledge at our fingertips – and detailed examples and advice of every acquaintances’ parenting experience via social media – finding a happy medium seems like a lost cause.
As a new mom, I felt consumed by the need to find the “perfect” way. But as I work my way through motherhood, the more I realize the individuality of each path. There is no one-size-fits-all advice. As a new mom, I was quick to offer my two cents to my friends, but now, I find myself stepping back and supporting them as parents instead.
And, if they ask for some advice, it’s usually one of these that I offer.
1. Resist Google
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t Googled literally every question I’ve ever had regarding my kids, their health, their development, their clothing or shoes, and my experience of motherhood. What I want when I Google is an answer – what I often get is 100 more questions. What I look for through Google is a way to calm my uneasiness or doubt as a parent – what I get is just heightened anxiety.
Having a go-to friend or two to text and an amazing pediatrician just a phone call away has been a great way to relieve this anxiety. I can rely on these people for an honest, helpful, and trustworthy response and the guidance I’m looking for without being overwhelmed with contradictions.
2. Do what works
There’s always going to be times in your parenting journey when you make a decision you don’t particularly prefer (iPad at dinner, cookies for breakfast, offering YouTube so you can hit the grocery store in peace, etc.). In these moments, I try to give myself some grace and say, “It’s what works right now, and that’s OK.”
We can be so hard on ourselves as parents, and the weight of constantly feeling like you have to do the “right” thing is a lot to carry. Accepting that it’s OK to just do what works in some moments has been pivotal in my parenting journey.
3. Keep your eyes on your own work
We heard it from every teacher in grade school, and it still holds true. The impact of social media on our parenting is real, and the struggle to avoid the comparison game is real. I fall into the trap often.
The truth is that every parent, every child, and every relationship is different, and continually comparing your actual life to someone else’s highlight reel is just not sustainable. With so many other things to think of, the mental energy we use to constantly compare ourselves to others is one we have to let go.
4. Take photos of the real stuff
As someone who has a great interest in photography, I find myself always seeking perfect, clutter-free backgrounds and nice, even lighting in order to capture the lives of my kids. Obviously, since they’re children who do not care for these same things, the photos in my head don’t often come to a reality.
What I try to be intentional of now is capturing the reality of our lives – the funny, the silly, the chaos, and craziness. Years from now, I know this is what I’ll look to for a sweet, accurate glimpse of their childhoods.
5. Let them be who they are
When I started to understand that my job as a mother was not to raise my baby in the way that I thought was best but to understand him, get to know him, and then raise him to be his best, everything changed. My job is not to change who they are but to respond to who they are and what they need.
This gave me confidence in every part of my parenting. And if now I get an unsolicited comment on my decision to be consistent with bedtimes or why I “let” my boys wear pink and sparkles, I don’t feel the need to respond or defend myself.
I know I’m doing my best to support my babies in who they are and who they are becoming.
6. White lie, if you have to
And no, I don’t mean telling your kid that the ice cream truck is sleeping for the day or that Target is closed so you don’t have to make yet another trip.
What I mean is that sometimes, in conversations with strangers, acquaintances and even friends, a little white lie can go a long way. With my first baby, I made the mistake of answering truthfully when someone asked, “So, how is he sleeping?”
I learned quickly that no one was really looking for the real answer – the question was more just something you say when making conversation. Instead of being disappointed that I wasn’t receiving the support I was looking for in these interactions, I started just saying, “Oh, he’s great, thanks!” Smiles all around, awkward conversation over.
7. Let your partner be their own parent
As a new mom, I struggled a lot with control and routine – I wanted things to go the way I wanted them to go (the way I thought was best), and I had a really hard time being flexible.
This came in to play most when my husband took over certain things and his method of management wasn’t the same as my own. After some squabbles and reflection, I realized that the reason my husband parents differently then I do is because he is a different parent then I am – and his relationship with his children is different from their relationship with me.
Once I started to let him be the parent he is, I started to really watch his relationship with our children instead of watching the clock as he did the bedtime routine or cringing when he grabbed the “wrong” lotion.
And from observing him be a father, I’ve grown so much as a mother.
8. Everything is a phase
This mantra runs through my head constantly – from night wakings to cleaning high chairs to toddler tantrums to potty training accidents. It’s all a phase.
During the hard moments of motherhood (there’s many!), the struggle seems endless. The frustration is hard, the emotions run high, and it seems like you’ll be in this place forever.
But you won’t. The phases fly by and new ones come in their place, each with their own hardships and joys.
9. Get outside
There is rarely a thing that can’t be cured with some sunshine and fresh air. Missed naps, mealtime struggles, tantrums, parental frustration, sibling arguments – all of these problems have been solved at one point or another by just stepping outside of our house.
I can really see how not being outdoors affects the entire family’s emotions and sense of wellbeing in the winter when we don’t get out as much. But when the temps are above freezing, this parenting hack is my go-to, and it has stood the test of time.
10. It doesn’t get easier
This seems like downer advice, but hear me out. Many people may tell you, “Just wait, it gets easier.”
But it doesn’t. As our little ones grow, things are just going to get more and more complicated. We’ll soon be dealing with screen-time rules, bullying, school difficulties, juggling extracurricular activities, heartbreaks, failed friendships, discrimination, online culture – so many other things. It doesn’t get easier.
You do get better at it. You learn about your child. You figure out how to simultaneously protect them and let them go. You find your footing as a mother. You begin to empathize. You ask for help. You love them wholeheartedly and hope for the best. You gain confidence in your parenting. You accept your shortcomings and mistakes and move forward. You find your village. You do your best. Then you learn more, and you do better.
You figure it out.
It doesn’t get any easier, but you will figure it out.