Hey-o! ChicagoNow bloggers are joining forces today in support of new moms as they celebrate their first Mother's Day.
At this point in my life, I'm the smug mother of two CHILDREN, not babies, not toddlers. They are proper KIDS. And because we are now safely out of the baby zone, I am in the unique position of being able to look at mothers with babies and think, "You're doing it wrong." Not that I would ever say that to anyone's face probably.
But, of course, I was once one of those pitiable women with babies, and I did shit wrong. I did lots of shit wrong. (I still do shit wrong, but now it's up to the women with tweens and teens to look down on me, heads a-shakin')
So, in time for Mother's Day, here are the lessons I wish I had already learned when my first kid was a baby.
1. Put that baby in his crib. Yes, it's lovely for Junior to nap on your chest all snuggly and sweet and tiny, and, yes, you will get a lot of TV watched this way (I got through all of NCIS, True Blood, The West Wing, and Alias, not to mention The Real Housewives of New Jersey and several seasons of Project Runway before my son was ten months old), but that's it. And it will become A Thing, a thing that keeps you from getting shit done and pursuing other interests, and a thing that keeps him from ever figuring out how to sleep on his own. So, swaddle him, feed him until he conks out, and put that baby to bed. Then you're free to watch all the Mark Harmon you can handle, no judgment.
2. Remember that being a mom is only part of who you are. Yes, mothering is very important and it can take up a lot of time, especially when you're a person's only food source. But you are more than just a mom. You are a wife and a friend and a daughter and a person with passions outside of poop analysis. So don't neglect the other people in your life, and don't neglect yourself.
3. All the shit you think will ruin the kid probably won't ruin the kid. You will sweat over every single decision, thinking that this will make or break your child. It won't. Think about the children who have no one to love and cuddle and obsess over them. They survive. Kids are resilient. Kids are more than the sum of a few parenting decisions. I remember when I was about to take my son for his MMR vaccination at 15 months. I agonized over it, thanks to the former Playboy playmate who shall remain nameless (this was about five years ago, mind you, before WE KNEW). There is just so much information and misinformation and judgment out there. It's hard to realize that every single choice will not make or break your child's future, that it's not possible (or desirable) to be perfect. I took my son for the shot, and he was fine. Of course he was. I also remember nearly crying when my precious baby had his first bite of birthday cake, which was his first experience with refined sugar. I've ruined him, I remember thinking. Almost five years later, he is a well-adjusted human being who is able to take a few bites of cake and then push it away. We're still waiting for the results of the maternity test.
4. Trust other people. You do not have to do this alone. Let your baby's father take him for a full day while you get a massage and see a movie. Book a romantic weekend for you and your partner and leave the kid with his grandparents (that's what they're there for!). If your family is not around, find a babysitter you like. And don't stress about whether or not they're watching too much TV or eating candy or being taken to McDonald's. Just get away and get a life.
5. You are a parent, not a cruise director. It's OK if the kid is bored once in a while (or even more than once in a while). Boredom breeds creativity. It forces the kid to think for himself and explore the house and his toys on his own. It's OK if you point him in the direction of the markers/crayons/stamps/paper and tell him to go nuts while you lie on the couch with a good book or, you know, fold laundry.
6. You cannot control everything. I've decided that I have some sort of anxiety disorder that makes me believe that my presence will ensure that nothing bad will happen to my kids, that if I happen not to be there (at the park or the trampoline place or whatever) everyone will die. This is ridiculous, obviously. Shit will happen if it's going to happen; and whether or not I'm there, it won't be my fault. Accidents happen. Kids get hurt and sick. You can't wrap them in a plastic bubble until they leave for college. As Jonathan Tropper wrote in his novel, This is Where I Leave You, "If we ever stop to think about the infinite number of ways we could be undone, we'd never leave our bedrooms."
Which parenting lessons do you wish you had learned earlier?
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