Hurray! Look at you! You’ve grown into a functioning, contributing member of society. You may have pursued higher education, you likely have a steady job, a nice place to call “home,” and perhaps even a smart, interesting, attractive spouse. If you’ve managed to pull off even some of these things, you are truly living the dream. And who do you have to thank for all of these accomplishments? Who set you on the path to greatness? Well, if you ask your beaming mother, I bet she’d like to think she played a pretty big hand in it. So naturally, when you decide to start your own family, you’ll head straight toward that vast wealth of knowledge you call “mom” — but don’t start taking notes just yet.
While it’s true that our moms have a hell of a lot to teach us about how to figure out what to do with our own kids (no, seriously, what do you do with these little guys?), they certainly don’t know everything. And what’s more, sometimes our wonderful mothers will say things that are… just, bad. Bad and wrong. Look, you can’t blame them; They were parenting before the Internet. Even still, it’s important to know when you should listen to your mom for parenting advice, and when you should politely smile and nod while letting whatever she’s telling you fly out of your other ear.
Here are five infamous pieces of advice, from mom, that you should take with a grain of salt:
Let’s be honest: Your mom has probably been out of “the game” for awhile now. When she thinks back on her child-rearing days, she will fondly remember the hand-in-hand walks with a giggling toddler or the unhurried days full of newborn snuggles. When she tells you to “enjoy every moment,” she won’t be talking about the 13 times it will take the anesthesiologist to correctly place your epidural, or the innumerable, bleary-eyed hours you’ll spend trying to get your newborn to latch while breastfeeding. She will also somehow fail to remember all the diaper explosions, the perpetual worry and exhaustion, and the epic toddler meltdowns in grocery store check out lines. And that's alright. I hope that’s all I remember some day too. But it's important for you to know, sweet new mama, that you do not have to enjoy every minute. Motherhood is a mixed bag. There will be moments that are so incredibly amazing, that time itself will seem to stop, and there will be moments that are just downright hard. You have to deal with all of it, and stick it out through all of it, but you sure as hell don’t have to “enjoy” a lot of it.
Somehow this obnoxious 1950’s mentality managed to ingrain itself in a lot of our mothers. The theory behind it isn’t terrible: Happy Parents will translate to Happy Kids and vice versa, and as such, you shouldn’t totally start neglecting your relationship with your significant other just because you guys are tending to a needy, cute, little water balloon of a human. Keep each other happy, and you’ll make the parenting experience infinitely more enjoyable. It’s not bad advice, for the most part. However, making this practice a reality can be daunting at best and seemingly impossible at worst.
This is especially true during those first few years in the parenting trenches when your child is so utterly dependent on you to feed, clothe, soothe, and entertain them. Try telling the wailing 5-month-old that you’ll make him a bottle right after you listen to your husband’s “riveting” description of his client meeting yesterday. The reality is that when you are sporting 3-day-old pajama pants, and you can’t remember the last time you ate anything that didn’t fall off the baby’s plate, you don’t need the added stress of putting someone else before yourself. When the kids are older, you can shuffle your priorities around. In the meantime, happy kids will translate to happy mamas, and happy mamas will translate to happy spouses.
While the opinions of medical professionals should certainly be respected and given great consideration, the generation before us practically put doctors on a pedestal. During the course of your pregnancy, your child’s birth, or their young life, there may be instances in which you choose to go against certain medical advice in the best interests of you and/or your child. After a copious amount of research, you might opt out of certain genetic testing, refuse induction, or decide to space out vaccinations. (For the record, I’m not advising that you ignore or go against the advice of any doctor. That’s generally not a good idea. All I mean is that parents today have access to a great many more professional opinions and options, and sometimes exercising your right to find new doctors, and make informed, safe choices about your kid’s healthy might mean going against what some doctors advise, or what your mom thought of as “normal” medical advice.)
Anyway, this will not please your mother. Back in the day, they did not question doctors or seek out alternative opinions. Now, we know that the research is perpetually changing and the medical community revises recommendations all the time. Do your homework, weigh the facts, and decide what is best for your family.
Many of our mothers grew up under the presumption that if you hold or “coddle” a baby too much, they will inevitably grow up to be spoiled rotten, demanding, little tyrants. Attachment parenting is one of the relatively new philosophies in the parenting world, and it appears to suggest quite the opposite. Essentially, this parenting approach involves being as close to your baby as possible, as much of the time as possible, utilizing methods like baby-wearing, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping. Lots of people do it, especially in the first year of a child's life.
If your mom is one who often warns against ~spoiling the baby~ she might not be super excited about... any of this. It's all a big damn spoil-fest to her.
If she is a hard sell, you can always tell mom that there is a growing wealth of research that suggests that kids raised using attachment parenting tenets are actually more independent and secure than their peers. I’m not saying that attachment parenting is the “correct” choice for every family (or even that there is one universally correct way to raise your kids), but I am saying that you should’ve be afraid of doing it because of your mom’s thoroughly disproven ideas about “spoiling” babies by holding them too much.
I consider my mother to be one of the most brilliant women I have ever met. She’s well-spoken, well-researched, and well-educated. I knew from a very young age that these qualities made her a force to be reckoned with, and so I aspired to be just like her. However, when I had my first son and began embarking on our breastfeeding journey, I couldn’t help but notice that my mother’s well-intentioned advice was often decidedly antiquated. Just weeks after his birth, she suggested supplementing with formula and/or adding baby cereal to a bottle in order to help him sleep longer stretches. Not long after, she suggested that I switch him entirely to formula before he began teething.
Now, of course, my mother meant well by offering these tidbits. She was simply passing on advice that she had gleaned from her own life experiences. However, most of those “helpful” suggestions are actually contraindicated by lactation experts and pediatricians alike. In fact, they can actually be enormously detrimental to the nursing relationship. Each of these things are not only unnecessary, but are ideas rooted in long-since-disproven ideas about babies and their development and their needs. She was simply advising me with terribly outdated information.
At the end of the day, whether you are a rookie or a veteran mom, no one is better suited to take care of your children than you. It's awesome if you have a mom you can trust — but also remember to trust your instincts and take comfort in knowing that you might not always know what is best, but you will undoubtedly know what's best for your particular kids.
Images: Fox; Giphy(5)