My last blog post was a couple months ago and on the negative side. This will be my first blog post of the New Year; I’m going to write something positive.
In the last post, I listed off the 5 Worst Pieces of Parenting Advice I have ever received. Now I’m going to share with you the 5 Best Pieces of Parenting Advice that I have received as well as what I’ve discovered along the way.
Take these with a grain of salt. Or as gospel. This whole parenting thing is different for all of us. So here goes…
#1. There is no such thing as the “right time” when it comes to having kids.
The BHE and I were asked when we were going to start our family before we were even married. I know, I know: this is an acceptable thing in our society. But for us it was not part of the plan. We had a Grand Master Plan. We had our goals and our priorities and we just knew when the right time would be for us to get pregnant.
First off, folks, I can tell you from experience that just because you decided you wanted to get pregnant/have a child by such-n-such a date DOES NOT MEAN your bodies will cooperate. Seriously. This is out of your hands.
We tried for a couple years after deciding it was the “right time” and my heart broke month after month. We have friends who tried for much longer, some without any success, and others with the kind of success that led to great loss.
There isn’t a “perfect” time to have children. Your house, your career, your finances, your car, your whatever will never be perfectly aligned in reality the way you think you want them to be before you have children.
If you know you want kids, take comfort in knowing that no matter when or how they come, you’ll handle it like a champ. No matter if your car isn’t a brand-new minivan or if the nursery never got a fresh coat of paint or you’re still at that job you hate. Parenthood is a whole new ballgame; roll with it.
#2. But it is all about the timing.
No, seriously, watch the clock and the calendar. Timing is everything.
During pregnancy, you’ll be seeing an OB or midwife monthly then weekly. You’ll be asked about when you had your last period, when you last peed, when you first felt movement, what frequency you felt movement, and on and on.
During labor, you’ll be timing contractions and counting breaths. Make sure there is a clock in the room where you deliver your baby. The wall clock in the delivery room during the birth of my son was broken, so I had no idea what time of day or night it was, no concept of how long I had truly been going at it, no idea until after the fact that I had been laboring for 29 ½ hours with over 3 hours of pushing. No idea. None.
TWENTY-NINE AND A HALF HOURS!
During early infancy, you’ll be tracking the times spent feeding, how many ounces or minutes, when was the last bowel movement, and more.
During the early days of solid foods, you will have to count the ounces as well as days since you introduced a new food. And you’ll be counting more dirty diapers.
During toddlerhood, you will need to watch the clock to keep track of when your tot got out of bed, when was breakfast, how soon is snack, when you need to feed them lunch so you can get them into a timely nap, how long was the nap, how long after the nap until bedtime, how long between dinner and bedtime…
And you think I’m kidding. I’m not. Watch the clock. It is the best way to avoid meltdowns induced by lack of food or sleep. Because, really, the wee beasties need copious amount of both if you expect them to be angels.
A schedule helps them as well as you. There’s advice all over the place, from your pediatrician to this lifestyle blog, about how children need a regimen to maintain equilibrium and how parents need their children to have a regimen to maintain sanity.
#3. When in doubt, present food.
If your child is crying, check for these things:
- Is he/she hurt?
- Is the diaper dirty?
- Is he/she tired?
- Is he/she hungry?
If your darling angel isn’t hurt, has a dry diaper, just woke from a nap, and just ate, feed him or her again. For real. Present more food or another bottle or your breast. Feed them.
My son cried way more than my daughter did during his first year. It feels like he was constantly wailing about something. He also was the size of a two year old at his 9 month check-up. He’s a beast. What I didn’t understand in the first 6 months or so was that he was screaming like he was hungry even when he just ate because he was already hungry again. He never wanted to stop eating.
Now that he’s one, my son wants a snack cup in his hand as soon as he exits his high chair after breakfast. For real. Feed him. And then feed him again. When all else fails, feed him.
#4. Have a canned response that you have practiced delivering without emotion to anyone who dispenses unsolicited advice.
I learned this one from a good friend who chose a very non-traditional route for becoming a mother. We had a lunch date where I asked her the questions I felt she would receive throughout her child’s life; she told me she had a response ready to cover most of them. For the ones she wasn’t prepared for, she just wouldn’t answer.
Boom. Done. Response is ready, no matter the circumstance.
So I thought this should apply to all new parents. We all know we will hear things in our lives that upset us or irk us or get under our skin and fester. What better way to save yourself some strife than to have a reply ready! It doesn’t have to be snarky; in fact, it shouldn’t be. It should be an unemotional, canned response.
Try this: That’s interesting. Thanks for sharing.
Or: Great! I bet that works for a lot of people.
Even: You are very considerate to share that with me.
I highly suggest avoiding anything that is open-ended or could lead to further discussion. Unless you really, really want to know/be upset/upset the other person. Just have a one-liner ready to roll out and then walk away or change the subject.
There are a million other topics you can get into an argument about. Try politics. Or religion. Walk away from parenting advice that makes you shudder.
#5: You need a village. If you don’t have one, start building one.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a network of people you trust and can count on for anything in your parenting adventure. You will need a shoulder to cry on, someone to watch the kids in an emergency, a person you can count on to come over with wine but without judgement, a mother-figure for you, grandparent figures for your kids, someone whose advice you can count on, other mothers and fathers at the same stage of parenting, other mothers and fathers further along or even further behind… you need people who get you as well as get this whole parenting gig.
I don’t feel like I had a village for most of these first years of my journey as a mother. Too many people have come and gone, for one. Also, I live in the middle of nowhere, a good hour from any member of my family, more than a half hour from most of my friends and former coworkers, forty-odd minutes from any major place for groceries or shopping… seriously, if it weren’t for two libraries within twenty minutes of us, my weeks would crawl by. I have church on Sundays and three story times a week to look forward to.
People need a community in which to thrive. We cannot go it alone. Life isn’t designed that way. We are commune creatures, to a point. If you want to fight off baby blues or the more sinister postpartum depression, keep your dears very near.
My advice here, to tag onto this most important piece, is to start with the free things and go from there. Your family and friends, right now, are free. Call them, invite them over, make plans, whatever: keep them in the loop and keep them close. Then look up other free things to make new friends, to meet other parents, to be around those with kids the same ages as yours; try local libraries and parks, your church, a zoo, a mall playground. Go to places you would normally go, though, instead of forcing yourself into awkward situations that may repel you from great people. Someday I’ll write a post about being the odd one out at a mommy group full of women who could not believe I had driven almost 3 hours to be present.
Having children will isolate you from people you never expected to lose. It will also introduce you to people you once never noticed or maybe even looked sideways at. Be open-minded and recognize that it takes a village not just to raise a child but to support the parents. We are human; we are not meant to go it alone.
Parenthood is amazing and eye-opening. Your heart will be full to bursting with love and pride. Parenthood is really freaking hard. Your body will be drained, your eyes will be burning, you will lose your mind from time to time, and you will need support. It can be so isolating and exhausting as well as exhilarating and network-building, what with all the story times and preschool functions.
You really do need a village.
Won’t you be part of mine?