I know, I know: talking about the best parenting advice I’ve received is like talking about the best colonoscopy I’ve gotten. Who really likes getting parenting advice? Who is truly helped by the lady in line at the grocery store who helpfully informs you that your child shouldn’t be using a pacifier?
Yet, I’ve been given some parenting advice — some from friends, some from family members and some from perfect strangers — that’s really helped.
Here are some of the gems I’ve collected along the way:
1. Take Care of Yourself First
I know how this sounds, and I know how hard it is to do. When you hear that heart-wrenching cry, you levitate out of your chair like Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters and arrive at your baby’s crib with no memory of how you got there.
But it’s not a bad idea to take a moment for yourself before you run to your baby. I didn’t do a good job of taking care of myself when my son was very small. I remember rarely napping during the day and being hungry all the time.
First, I started having dizzy spells, which is scary when you have a baby in your arms most of the time. And then, my milk supply began to drop off rapidly. It scared the crap out of me, and I had an epiphany:
You can’t take care of this baby unless you take care of yourself first.
I started fixing myself a one-handed snack while holding my hungry son so I could feed myself while I was feeding him. I forced myself to nap a little more and drink more water, even if that meant I had to take the time to fill my glass while the baby cried. When you have a baby, taking care of yourself is a selfless — and necessary — act.
2. Leave the House Every Day
It was my second trip to the lactation center. Things weren’t going perfectly, and I was more than a little frustrated. And then, in walked an angel who gave me not one, but two indispensable pieces of advice, both of which I’ve included on this list:
Leave the house every day, even if it’s just to walk down the street.
She was so right. I’ll admit, some days, I only make it to the backyard of my house. But even just breathing a little fresh air seems to restore my sanity and makes everything seem a little easier.
3. It’s Not You, It’s Your Baby
Okay, not necessarily. But it could be. During my visit to the lactation center, I confided to the consultant that breastfeeding had been pretty challenging. And then, she said something that freed me from my guilt:
You know, it might not be you. It might be him.
That hit me like a brick on the head. I had never considered any scenario where my son was less than perfect! But acknowledging that she might be right about that allowed me to say, who cares if we’re not perfect at this?
So many things in parenting are a team effort, and just because you’re the parent doesn’t mean you have to take all the responsibility for any failure.
Although it got easier, breastfeeding was a challenge every single day until I finally weaned my son, and it was still worth it. And now, when I think back to our breastfeeding days, I don’t think of the struggles; I think of those early mornings when the sun streamed through the window and I sat in a comfy chair with my son. My heart aches a bit, and I long for those days gone by. (But only for a moment.)
4. Pull a Toy Switcheroo
I was in a toy store with my mom perusing birthday gift options for my son, and as we were ooo-ing and aww-ing over all the new toys, a shop worker generously offered this wonderful advice:
You don’t need to buy a bunch of toys — just put half your child’s toys in the closet, and then switch them out with the other half two weeks later.
So I tried it, and when I got the old toys out two weeks after having stashed them away, I was shocked. My son’s response was kind of like how I feel each time I rediscover Gouda cheese: It’s cheese that tastes like bacon! Why don’t I buy this ALL THE TIME?
In addition to my son showing renewed enthusiasm for his old toys, I was amazed to see how much he had progressed in two short weeks. Instead of banging his toy piano on the ground, he sat and pressed the keys one by one. Entertaining for him, rewarding for me and economical for all of us.
5. Don’t Wish Away Even the Tough Moments; They’ll be Gone Before You Know It
This piece of advice came from one of my most amazing mom friends. I’ve come back to her words so many times since my son was born, often in the midst of one of those “tough moments.” Every time I think of this, it calms me down and gives me the strength to shrug off whatever challenge I’m facing.
In just one short year, I’ve found my friend to be so, so right. So many moments, good and bad, are indeed gone before you know it. No matter how many people tell you the time will fly, you’re never prepared for just how true it is. The good stuff, the bad stuff: it’s all part of the wild ride. And in its own way, it’s all good stuff.
Yes, there were those nasty early diaper blowouts that you thought you’d never in a million years miss. And then you find one of your son’s tiny newborn diapers. You hold it close to your heart, remembering when he was so little and helpless and smelly and sweet.
There were those days when you had to change your baby’s outfit six times because he spit up heroically each time you wrangled him into new clothes. And then one day you pack away those tiny outfits that no longer fit. You long for the days when you dressed him in precious outfits that only a tiny baby wouldn’t look ridiculous wearing, and you find a few of your tears make their way into that plastic bin.
There were those 4 am wake up calls when your baby cried out for you, and you stumbled to his bedside, wishing you weren’t the only person able to feed him. And then he starts to not need you as much as he used to, and you long for the days when you were his everything.
So please, trust me. Don’t wish away the tough moments. Don’t long too much for the next stage or the next milestone. It will all come and go so fast. In the meantime, hold your baby close, breathe in the smell of his tiny head and relish in the moment — it will be gone soon enough.
Great thoughts! As a new Mom, I totally agree!
Thanks, and best wishes to you as a new mom! It is truly wonderful — enjoy the ride!
I absolutely loved this post. As we speak I’m at home with a three week old who has definitely caused me some of those frustrating moments. Reading your blog made me cry and realize that i definitely will miss these hard times. Thank you for giving me a reality check!
Thank you so much for the kind words — I’m so glad it resonated with you. It is so, so tough at first. I promise you, it will get much easier!
Great post and #5 in particular resonates!
My “baby” is 30 years old and a mother of two herself. Your advice was as true then as it is now! Your post brought back memories – thanks for sharing it 🙂
My pleasure — thanks for reading!
You have no idea how timely this was for me. I’ve been a mom for over seven years, but my 2nd child, our little “A.”, suddenly hit tantrums this week as a new 3-year-old, and I feel like I look just like a mad scientist, hair standing on end, laughing maniacally….these are all wonderful pieces of advice, even as I’m way past the middle-of-night feedings and diaper blowouts. There are challenges to each stage of parenthood, and it’s refreshing to read things that encourage us parents to stick together and encourage one another. Thank you, and blessings to you as a mom! –Alison
And to you as well! Good luck with this new stage — and all the others to come. I know I have all this to look forward to as well. We moms have to stick together!
Time flys by so fast, thanks Stacey. Once again a very fun stroll down memory lane for me, you are so very talented and I enjoy looking at pics of Hudson……
Thank you, Judi!
Great post! I would add one more: Relax a little and laugh a lot. As they say, don’t sweat the small stuff. For example, this morning my 2 1/2 year-old went to put down a glass, missed the table, and sent the glass shattering to the floor. We were trying to get out of the house and were in kind of a hurry, and I could feel myself getting angry. Then I realized – It will take under two minutes to clean this up and it is, after all, just a broken glass. It’s not like he’d chucked it to the floor in a fit of toddleresque rage. It was an accident, and, in the end no big deal. So I cleaned it up and got on with our lives.
And most importantly, retain your sense of humor. A lot of the stuff that happens to you as a parent is, upon reflection and from a certain point of view, funny. I’ve read that the average child laughs 300 to 500 times a day while the average adult laughs only about 15 times a day. Bridge the gap.
Great, great points. Thanks for sharing your experience and insight!
Great post – totally agree with them all, especially about leaving the house every day! My little boy was born in December (2008) so following that advice was harder than it was for my little girl (born in May 2012) – bundling up a tiny baby into a million layers was sometimes just too hard. On those days though I used to wait until he was alseep and go and wander round the (freezing, wet) garden for a while – much to the amusement of the neighbours!
Thanks for sharing the top tips 🙂
Good for you — I’m not sure I would’ve overcome the obstacles like you did!
Thanks for sharing your top pieces of advice. As a mom going through potty training a little boy, # 3 really hit home with me. I’m such a perfectionist, that my immediate thought always seems to be “if this isn’t working, I must be doing it wrong.”
Glad to hear this helped! Ugh — potty training. I don’t look forward to that hurdle. Best of luck to you!
all excellent advice! thank you! my favorite is that children and babies have very short attention spans. All that it takes is a toy to make it all better…. or a zerbert. 🙂
So true! My son is just getting into the mini-pout/tantrum phase, and my strategy is redirect, redirect, redirect!
I have a 9 month old girl. I also have 2 teenagers. When the older two were little I ran myself down every day trying to be super mom. This time around, I make sure to take no less than one whole hour just for me each day. I may sew or read or just watch tv, but that hour is mine to recharge and not go crazy! It is super important to take care of me so I can take care of them. Sane mom…happy family!
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Greeat post thank you