Photo by T&T blog
From the moment the stick turned pink, every well-meaning person within a 100 mile radius was itching to tell me everything there is to know about parenting.
At first, I really appreciated the information. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that much of the guidance I received was contradictory. I still remember sitting at my baby shower when someone suggested that all the veteran moms in the room give me some “professional advice”. Almost immediately people started tossing tidbits of maternal knowledge at me like a group of children throwing breadcrumbs at a pigeon- a pigeon that didn’t even realize she was hungry! I desperately ran from one crumb to the next, my head flipping back and forth as the conversation bounced across the room.
“Make sure you swaddle your baby tightly… they’ll sleep better that way.”
“Yes but not too tightly, or they’ll get over heated and suffocate!”
“Oh, and never ever let the baby fall asleep in your arms. If you do she’ll never learn to fall asleep on her own. Trust me!”
“But hold your baby all the time! They grow up too fast!“
“If you do things right your baby will sleep through the night by the time they’re 8 weeks old.”
“The only way our baby sleeps through the night is if she sleeps with us.”
“Oh you should NEVER sleep with your baby! You’ll roll over her and kill her! She’ll suffocate!”
“Yeah, plus then she’ll want to sleep with you until she’s 12.”
“Don’t even watch the clock, just enjoy every minute… but make sure you put her on a schedule as soon as possible! Babies thrive on a strict schedule.”
Just when I thought my head was about to explode, my grandma piped in, “I hope you’re taking notes! Does someone have a pen handy so she can write this all down?” I wrapped my arms protectively around my growing belly as if to say, “I changed my mind little one! Just stay in there where it’s safe!”
Seven years have gone by since that day, and I am happy to report that I now have 4 fantastic kids running (and crawling) through my house. They are happy, healthy, and thriving, regardless of (or perhaps because of) the fact that each of them requires a unique blend of parenting. My younger siblings are starting their own families now and suddenly I’m considered one of the veterans. Sometimes they come to me, worried that they’re not “doing it right”. But the thing is, there’s not one “right” way to do it.
I don’t have all of the answers. The only breadcrumb in my arsenal is this: You can read all the parenting books in the world, but until you can learn to read your child they won’t be of much use to you.
I’ve often heard people say, “I wish my baby came with an instruction manual.” The truth is, they do! It may not be spelled out for us, but it’s there. Mothers are blessed with a 6th sense, a deep maternal instinct that burns inside us. It may not come immediately, but with time you will learn how to read your baby’s cues. Even babies who can’t talk will tell you what they need if you are willing to listen. As you study your child’s spirit you will be better equipped to filter the parenting advice you are given. With anything from sleeping patterns to discipline problems- you will know what breadcrumbs to pick up, and which ones you should leave on the ground.
So, all of you sweet mammas, my advice to you is simple. Do your research. Respect other’s opinions and parenting styles. Keep in mind that what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for all, and that’s okay. Devour every book you can get your hands on, and then take a deep breath… and let it go. In the end, Mother Knows Best. You got this mamma bear. You got this.
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