This is my first Mother's Day with a baby on the outside. Last year we celebrated “Almost a Mother's Day,” which was adorable and I was beaming all day despite my swollen ankles and enormous belly. To be honest, I'm still in shock that this day has finally come.
Mother's Day growing up meant several things. It meant breakfast in bed for my Mom, and often my Grammy would be there, too, and they'd sit with their backs against the headboard while the rest of us gathered around them for mimosas and coffee and something yummy. Chances were good that my Papa was making one of his famous omelets for breakfast. Some years I would plan something elaborate that my younger brother would agree to and assist me with, like the Mother's Day Pageant. I made paper crowns and flowers, and my brother held the microphone from our karaoke machine as each of the mothers answered my Interview questions. Grammy won the first year because she had been a mother longer. Mom won the second year because, duh, it was her turn.
We would wrap up the morning and get dressed for the day as my great-grandparents arrived. We'd all do lunch somewhere nice, or go down to the beach, or both. There are several photos over the years of my great-grandmother (whom my brother named Ma'am Ma'am and it stuck), my Grammy, my Mom, and me; four generations of ladies in our family. It was a blessing to be raised by strong, funny, kindhearted women... and none of us did too badly in the looks department either!
So, here I am, all these years later, with a baby boy of my own and the title of Mommy. I get to join the elite group of women who are celebrated on Mother's Day for having created a life. I feel with this power I should have some knowledge to pass on. I mean, I've only been in the club for 10 months, so I don't have a ton of gems, but I have a few. To show how smart I've become, I've also enlisted the help of others' moms (via my FaceBook page) and I'll be sharing some of the best advice tidbits I've collected for you as well.
- You will receive lots of advice... and you can ignore lots of it. People mean well. They want to share their own experiences with you. They think telling a woman who is 8 months pregnant to “sleep now” is useful, when chances are good that the poor dear gets up every two hours to waddle to the bathroom as it is. Even medical professionals can give you bad advice. A Lactation Consultant told me to “just keep doing it” when I told her I wasn't producing enough breast milk to feed my son. It was stressing everyone out. Our best option was to switch to formula, and we've all been happy and healthy since we chose to ignore her advice. This leads me to number two...
- Trust yourself. That whole “mother's intuition” thing isn't a crock. You know, “in your gut,” as my Mom puts it, the right thing to do. You may consult the doctor, the internet, the other moms (including your own), but you are capable of making good decisions for you and your child. Having others back up that decision is helpful, yes, so consult away! But trust yourself a little, too.
- Listen to your baby. As my friend Lindsay's grandmother put it, "That baby will teach you everything you need to know." Lindsay, a mother of two little guys, added, “Your baby is the expert at what they need. You just have to be the student for a while.” This is so true. Trying to force a baby into a schedule or past a milestone sooner doesn't work. They know what they need. It happens when they're ready to grow. It's science!
- Be prepared (great, now I'm singing the Scar song from the Lion King). Those first few months of parenthood, you bring every item in the baby's nursery along with you in the diaper bag. Eventually, you'll find out what you don't need to be lugging around... and you'll find a few things you should've been (like an extra t-shirt for me in case of spit-up catastrophes in restaurants). We were really good at packing a fully stocked diaper bag and leaving it in the foyer as we left the house with the baby. Hey, at least we didn't forget the baby! As my new ChicagoNow blogger friend, Leslie, says, “Always bring a jacket, no matter the weather.” That's being prepared.
- Stop comparing. There has never been another You. There has never been another Your Kid. So why should you compare what you're doing to how other people parent their kids? If your child is happy, healthy, and growing, you're doing a great job. If another mom's techniques seem weird to you (and man, I've seen some weird), that's fine. You don't have to employ those techniques. Look at the world. It's full of humans who were raised before the internet and WebMD, before smoking wasn't allowed in restaurants, before car seats were even a thing! People create and raise new people. It's how we've come this far. Sure, some people grow up to be assholes, so don't raise one of those if you can help it, but you catch my meaning.
- Lighten up. Parenthood is tough. There are days when you think maybe you could just turn in your parenting card and go back to bed for a few weeks. Every decision seems heavy with importance, whether it's to breastfeed or not, or which brand of diaper to get. You're emotional, hormonal, and exhausted. That's when you need to laugh. Find something or someone who brings out the side of you who will look back later and say, “Oh, honey, lighten up.” When we switched to formula, I was sobbing in the kitchen. I remember saying to Ryan through my tears, “I... I just think it's going to be so much easier...” and sobbing and sobbing. After trying to breastfeed and only pumping a half ounce at every session (yeah, HALF of an OUNCE. Some women pump 8oz or even 16oz at a go. I had incredibly low supply), the baby screaming all the time of hunger, and the household stress levels going through the roof, OF COURSE THAT WOULD BE EASIER. I can actually laugh a little about that time now. That poor dear, sobbing in the kitchen. Get that woman a container of formula and a glass of wine to celebrate! (Incidentally, that's just what Ryan did.)
There isn't much more advice I feel the need to give. People will advise you on everything when it comes to being a good parent. Some are specific instructions on how to do whatever they did for their kid/s. ~Shrug~ That kind of advice doesn't always apply. Others will give really solid Big Picture advice. That's the stuff I go for. My friend, Hillary, made a good point about making sure to tell your kiddo that he or she is more than “cute.” She said, “Please also tell your baby/child how smart, funny, helpful and strong they are. Help them learn that they are valued for more than just their appearance.” Solid advice. I like that one. My friend, Nancy said, “A small child has a precious view of the world. Help him/her keep it intact.” I like that as well. And I recently stumbled upon the Jill Churchill quote, "There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one."
Mothers pass down words of wisdom over the years. It's what we do. Now that I'm an official part of the club, I feel pretty confident in my list of advice up there. Take it or leave it, of course, but I hope you take it. I geared it toward new Moms, but really it's useful advice for everyone. If you're not a parent, replace the word “baby” in number 3 with “surroundings.” Or “cat.” (Because bossy bossy cats, am I right?)
I hope this Mother's Day finds you surrounded by loved ones of all ages. If the woman who raised you brought you up with sage advice, I'd love it if you'd share it with me in the comments below. My Mom has truly helped me through the past 10 months, answering my frantic calls about baby stuff with, “Follow your gut. You're doing a great job. You're a great Mommy.” She has faith in me. And why shouldn't she? She raised me, after all!
I hope you'll reach out to all the mothers you know and spread some love, especially today. And to all the new Moms out there, look at that baby. You're doing a great job. Now, put your feet up, and have a mimosa... or if you're nursing, some OJ in a fancy glass. You... you've earned it.
Until next time... “All right, Mr. Sulu. Let's see what she's got.”
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Tags: advice, advise, baby, breastfeeding, chicago mom, childhood, children, daughter, formula, geek mom, good advice, kid, lactation, love, mimosa, mom, mom blog, mom post, mommy, mother, mother's love, motherhood, mothers day, nursing, parenthood, parents, raising kids, SincereMommy, son, Tara Schile, traditions, unique