When I was pregnant, I was subject to tons of unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends, family and even strangers. Usually, I had no intention of following the advice, as I knew I would find my footing as a mother. I knew, above all else, I was the one who had to live with my kids and I was the one charged with growing them and my husband and I were the ones who had to raise them. No one else was walking in my shoes. So, I took every piece of advice with a grain of salt. Some, I discounted immediately. Some advice, I took under consideration and some advice I clung to and incorporated it into my parenting. For those who came before me and passed on their wisdom, I am grateful.
Even though I didn’t ask for all the advice, and even though I discarded plenty of it, I am still thankful that women with grown children took the time to try to make motherhood easier or better for me.
Now that I have been a mom for over 10 years, I am at a place where I want to offer unsolicited advice. I don’t, because the internet tells me not to, but I want to. We have Bloom coming up, an event for new and expectant moms. Promoting the event brought me back to a time when motherhood was new for me. I was excited, scared and even though I had Facebook and parenting message boards, I had no idea what I was getting into. The advice I sought from the internet and the unsolicited advice I was given helped shape me as a mother. I want to pass on the advice that helped me, knowing full well it will not work for everyone as we are all different.
If you are new or new-ish to motherhood, read on to decide which of these five pieces of unsolicited advice you want to consider and what you want to discard immediately.
Trust your instincts.
You might not recognize your motherly instincts right away. Once, I was convinced my daughter was really sick. I brought her to the pediatrician only to discover everything was fine. I was embarrassed and worried my mom gut was broken, but being mistaken was a rarity. More often than not, when I think something is off and even if the symptoms are mild, I am correct. My son spent three days in the hospital with a horrible urinary tract infection when he was 5 months old – the only symptom being a mild fever, but my gut told me it was more. Another time, when the first doctor told us nothing was wrong, I trusted my mom gut and it turned out, my daughter needed surgery. If you take no other piece of advice, please take this to heart: trust your instincts. They are real and they could save your child’s life.
Don’t freak out over milestones.
They will start walking. They will stop taking a bottle. They will wean off the pacifier. They will potty train. Unless your gut tells you something is amiss, children develop at their own pace and you do not have to rush them. My son was 2.5 years old when my husband decided it was time for him to stop taking a pacifier. When he stopped sleeping so well, I told my husband he wasn’t ready and gave it back. He had the pacifier for another year, and when we took it away the second time, the transition was a million times smoother. Several people told us to stick to our guns, but one person told me to do what I felt was best – that looking back, this would just be a blip on the radar, and she was right. My son is fine. His teeth are fine. I have zero regrets about giving him back the pacifier, and if you find yourself in a similar situation, it is okay to change your mind. My son napped better during the day and slept better at night thanks to his pacifier.
Accept help when you can.
If someone wants to hold the baby so you can take a nap, let them. If someone offers to clean your house, let them. If someone offers to take your other kids on a playdate so you can bond with your baby, let them. I am still grateful for the times my sister-in-law helped me sort my children’s laundry and my friend’s mom watching my daughter so my husband could finish college. Let people help, and if you have family you can lean on, ask them for what you need. Modern motherhood is hard. Take advantage of the offers for help when you can.
Let go of the guilt.
Oh, mamas. Guilt is the unseen burden nearly all of us carry. Guilt about screen time (ours and theirs). Guilt about taking time for ourselves. Guilt about not loving every second of every day with our kids. Guilt about what we feed our kids. Guilt about not doing more or guilt about doing too much. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. I know it is easier said than done, but you are enough. You are doing a good enough job, even if some days you only do the bare minimum.
Lean in to the joy.
Look, the newborn and toddler years are hard. I know. I did “two under two” twice. I had three kids in three years. To say we were drowning was an understatement. I don’t think you have to enjoy every moment, but I want to encourage you to soak in the moments that are joyful. The funny way they pronounce new words, their ridiculous imaginations, the quiet nights spent rocking your baby- not the ones when you’re too sleep deprived to enjoy it, but the ones where you look at the beautiful creature you created and you are in awe… soak that in. I don’t look back on the days when I had two kids in diapers with rose colored glasses. I remember the struggles. But I remember the good, and that’s what I’ll hold onto as we enter the unchartered territory that is adolescence, and I’ll continue heeding my own advice.
I’m not going to tell you how to feed your baby, when or if to sleep train your baby, or how much screen time your kids should receive. I know you are the one best equipped to make decisions for your family. While I hope you take heed of my unsolicited advice, feel free to ignore me if your gut tells you to!