Parenthood can feel overwhelming when you're new at it. As a new mom I wanted to do everything right, and felt like a failure when I wasn't perfect. Later I realized that many of things I thought were important weren't. Not in the grand scheme of things, anyway. Plus, there's really no such thing as a perfect mom. After speaking with other moms who've been there (including my own), and it turns out that pretty much every mom I know has a "new mom" parenting issue that ended up not being a big deal.
For me, it was breastfeeding. I was convinced that if I didn't breastfeed exclusively I would be branded a terrible mom for the rest of my parenting days. Everyone said that all moms could breastfeed, and I tried everything, but I guess my body didn't get the memo. The guilt was horrible at first, but it fortunately faded with time. It also helped to see my kids thrive and grow on formula, and to realize that no one could pick my formula-fed daughter out of a class of third-graders if they tried.
I also learned, like most moms of older kids, that there are so many bigger fish to fry. Getting your toddler to eat something other than french fries will, one day, feel like small potatoes when you're trying to figure out how to empower your preschooler to deal with bullies and body image issues. Helping your kid overcome her anxiety and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and be successful at school? Figuring out how to keep your kids safe and healthy in a world that's basically become a dumpster fire? Yeah, so much harder and more important than whether you have the best baby carrier, decide to sleep train, or have a "natural childbirth."
So all you new moms out there, I say the following: if you find yourself needing a dose of reality, and to hear how it gets better from people who've been there, this one's for you.
"Thumb-sucking and pacifiers. They'll quit when they're ready, and I guarantee they won't be doing it when out with their friends."
"Breastfeeding. When my son was born premature, my milk just would not come in. We tried everything. Lets just say my tits were hella abused for almost two months, and through it all I felt like such a failure. When my daughter was born I had no issues at all and breastfed her until she was 2. Both kids are nearing double digits now and are doing fine. Also, at least with my kids, all that stuff they tell you about weight gain between formula-fed versus breast-fed kids? None of what I was told or read has panned out so far."
"Potty training pressure! They're ready when they're ready, not when you are."
"Babywearing. Can I just say all the mommy groups before I had my oldest were all, 'strollers will give them made up disease you've never heard of, or they'll die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) because they need your body heat,' and I did babywear a lot just because it was comfortable. The first time we used a stroller I was giving furtive glances to see who was judging me. The answer? Absolutely no one. Because it's a baby in a stroller. It's cute. My baby is happy. That's all that matters."
"Biting. My son was a biter as a toddler, and we tried absolutely everything to get him to stop. In the moment, it caused me so much anxiety and guilt. One day he just stopped and it was like it never happened. In retrospect I realize it's a really common thing for toddlers and often is quickly outgrown, which is exactly what we experienced."
"Potty training my son. The thing that finally put it in perspective was whining about the week of accidents every day to his daycare director, when he'd been doing so good. She looked at me, probably rolled her eyes on the inside, and said, You know what really helps with potty training? When they start dating.' I finally realized the goal is to have an adult that can pee on their own and to calm the f*ck down."
"Being neurotic about sticking to the routine. With my daughter, we stayed home a lot for her first year because I wanted to make sure she was sleeping in her crib for her naps at scheduled times. With my second, he sleeps on the go, and it's made his first year so much more freeing. It has not affected my second at all to deviate from the routine from time to time."
"Reaching milestones at the specified age. I was so concerned about my son not reaching this milestone, or that milestone at the age the books said he should be. When he was a month or two over the specified age, I would Google why he wasn't reaching the milestone, which just drove me more nuts because Google is not your friend. Anyway, he is now 18 and has reached all his milestones. With baby number two, I just go with the flow. He reaches his milestones in his own time. He is happy and healthy and that's all that matters. I am also way less stressed."
"Learning shapes, colors, numbers, and the alphabet. With my first two kids I worried so much about early mastery of those things and did flash cards and activities geared towards teaching them. I felt a lot of stress about it. I didn't do that with my younger two children, and they picked it up the knowledge just as well as their older siblings from our normal daily activities."
"I was so worried about my oldest being potty trained as early as possible, mainly because my family made me feel bad because he wasn’t. I stressed and pushed so much that it is no wonder why it took a while. Now that I have two more kids I don’t even worry about it. Once it happened for my oldest it happened, and all was good."
"I have a child who was exclusively formula-fed, and two who were exclusively breastfed. Now that they're all older (6 - 11 years old), you can't tell which kid was fed what."
"Dropping the bottle. Dropping the pacifier. Breastfeeding. Obsessing about offering healthy food all the time. I am sure if it wasn't almost midnight I could think of a million more. My kids are (twins) almost 16, 14, and turning 3 in December."
"All of the 'mommy wars' — who breastfed, or used formula, sent their kids to daycare or stayed at home, which baby rolled over first, who walked first, who talked first, who went to the best preschool, who never had to 'clip down' in kindergarten. None of it mattered.
They turn into teenagers, and all parents are faced with the unrelenting truth — our children are people, and the kids who are, and who have been, loved and supported will generally step into adulthood ready to love and support the world. Most of the little differences in parenting choices amount to distant memories, and little more."
"I always knew I wanted to have children. I was confident in my abilities at doing all the typical mom things: diaper changing, midnight feedings, etc. What frightened me is the lack of confidence I had to handle their emotional needs. What if they were like me: overweight, ugly, dumb, and untalented? I refused to do to them what my mother did to me. My mother was insidious in her cruelty. She was never direct with her insults. 'I was valedictorian of my 8th grade class,' or, 'I was the prettiest girl in my school' or 'Your brother is the best,' I bought books and more books: How to Get Your Kid to Eat (but not too much), the What to Expect series, Baby Einstein, etc. I tried to figure out 'tricks' to make my kids feel good.
During my first pregnancy, I came up with phrases I could I say to boost up my child's self esteem. Then my son was born. He became seriously ill at 3-days-old, and was lifted to the local children's hospital, where I spent the next 72 hours in fear. It was either those 72 hours or just me, but my world perspective changed. I begged, pleaded, and made promises to that beautiful baby. My baby. By the time we took home my son, his prognosis was unknown. As the weeks and months flew, he continued to amaze me. He was beautiful, smart, talented, and everything wonderful. How did that happen? I didn't have to fake it."
"Every damn thing we all agonized over and judged each other for and fought about didn't matter. The kids were all loved and cared for and they all turned out fine."
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