I am not a parenting expert. No one is. Parenting is a different animal. No other job in the world’s like it! There’s no manual or college degree. You are never “done” learning. Even parents of grown children will attest to that. No one, however successful, can truly claim to be an expert.
That’s not to say that we don’t know a thing or two about parenting and can’t learn from each other’s experiences. In fact, I’ve learned more from my mom friends/sisters, throughout the years, than any parenting books combined.
I’ve learned that you have to tell and show your children you love them, no matter what they do or say. Also, sometimes, you have to make the tough decisions, even if it doesn’t make you popular with your kids. Ultimately, you’re the parent and you have to look out for what’s best for them.
Here are some other nuggets of wisdom for new moms:
1. If at first you don’t succeed at breastfeeding, DON’T GIVE UP! It’s a myth that it’s an instinct and a newborn automatically knows how to do it. It’s a learned behavior, for both of you. What helped me was a supportive husband, who encouraged me to KEEP TRYING. Also, I rented a pump and fed her breast milk in a bottle, but alternately, I kept trying to nurse her and then – hallelujah – she nursed! I wanted to scream “SHE DID IT!” out her bedroom window.
2. Learn to “read” your baby’s moods/cries/cues. One thing that helped me was to write down eating, sleeping and even BM patterns. The patterns help set the rhythm of our day. For example, if I knew it was getting close to the time that he or she was going to be hungry or over tired, I didn’t go to the store at that time. It gets easier as they get older too.
3. Surround yourself with other moms of similarly aged children. It really does take a village to raise a child! Not only is it a sanity break for a new mom, who wonders if she’s the only one who stayed up all night, but it’s also a great social time for the kids. I formed a playgroup when my firstborn was a year old and it lasted several years. I also joined La Leche League, a breastfeeding support group. It helped to know, at the very least, that I was not alone and “this too shall pass.”
4. Take babies everywhere with you, whenever it makes sense – grocery store, restaurants, etc. They learn what to expect and are more likely to behave because they are used to being there. Generally, they get accustomed to the places and it gets easier each time. Of course, a lot has to do with the timing and there will be times when they are fussy and didn’t take that nap they needed to beforehand. I’ve been there!
5. Make your home a haven – a safe environment for everyone. This means you teach and model alternative ways to solve problems. You make it clear that violence is not accepted in your family. It goes without saying, but I will anyway, this means you are NEVER violent.
6. Start family togetherness activities when they’re young – whether it’s playing games, gardening, reading, listening to music or chilling out together as you watch a movie. When the kids were little, during cold winter months, we’d have special days that we’d check out tons of library books and videos, come home and have an “inside picnic”. When the kids were older, we started “family pizza & movie nights” once a week. At one time, I thought they outgrew this, but I discovered that even as teenagers, they still enjoy it.
7. As the mom, you set the tone for the family. Even if you wake up in a crappy mood, smile at that baby as soon as he or she wakes up and “fake it till you make it”. Even little ones can sense your mood and will look to you for the lead.
8. Your child will learn to read, when he is ready. There’s a lot of pressure for parents to teach their kids to read and some parents get frustrated when it doesn’t happen immediately. I know it’s hard, but you have to chill out. There are some things you can do, but ultimately, they read in their own time.
9. Many people say sibling rivalry is a natural part of growing up. Fine, but it doesn’t mean you have to let it escalate. Each family is different and I can only attest to what worked for us. I spoke to each child separately about their behavior and how to solve things differently. I stopped any potential violent behavior. I encouraged each to love each other, but at the very least, they had to respect each other. This was a trying time for us, but we got through it and I think mostly because of nothing I did. Simply – they matured.
10. As a parent of teenagers, I’ve learned to “ride the rollercoaster” of their moods. It’s happy one day and not so happy the next. It’s not easy, but you have to be strong enough for everyone. It’s a lot like a tug-of-war. You pull them in. They pull back (independence). This too shall pass.
Oh – and if your child is lost, you DO NOT treat this lightly. You DO NOT wait 30 days or even 30 minutes to report it.
LOVE YOUR CHILDREN! They are God’s gift to us.