For the second piece in the Mom Advice series, I wanted to focus on a topic that moms know a lot about: parenting. I kept this one pretty broad and asked the amazing moms in my life about their best or favorite advice that they either received or came up with based on their own experiences. I knew the advice I would receive would be fantastic, as the mammas in my life are fantastic, but as always I am blown away and amazed by the women in my life and their wisdom, strength, insight, and love. I hope these wise words help anyone who is currently a parent, will be a parent soon, or hopes to be a parent some day.
Before each piece of advice I've included the sentence that, to me, best sums up each one. I thought these could be used for quick references and/or take-home messages. Enjoy!
The Best Parenting Advice
Cherish every moment
One of the most valuable pieces of parenting advice I can think of is something I learned from my dad—patience, understanding and encouragement. When I was young, he would sit down with me and talk about how he made mistakes when he was young and that he understood. He would also say that he knew I was capable of doing better! He didn’t raise his voice or scold me. He always made me feel better if I had done something I wasn’t proud of, and I did the same with my own children.
Having grown children now, I often look back and think “where did the time go?!” I think the best advice I can give any parent is to cherish every moment with your children. They grow up so fast!
Read to them, play with them, and allow them to deal with hard things
Read bedtime stories every night, make time to play with your kids, and don't attempt to "save the day" when your kids are facing a difficult challenge. Allow them to learn to deal with hard things. It's a skill that they will be able to use throughout their entire lives. Life isn't always easy.
Parenthood is seasonal
The best advice I ever received was to remember that parenthood is seasonal. Each season of being a parent so far has seemed simultaneously eternal and super-speed, but in the end, each season slowly and completely transforms into the next. Knowing the only constant is change has given perspective to the difficult seasons of parenting and has increased my appreciation during calmer ones. If I can remember that I will soon trade these challenges as well as these joys for new and different challenges and joys, it helps remind me to stay present in all that this current season brings.
You can try again tomorrow
If you are having a rough time or something isn't going your way, you can try again tomorrow. Just try to remember how temporary everything is and how I'm not a bad mom because things didn't go like I had wanted or planned. As a result, my son has started to say "Maybe tomorrow" for just about everything that we say he can't do, which I think is a great way to look at things.
My son: I want a cookie
Me: No, we can't have cookies for breakfast
My son: OK, maybe tomorrow
Don't be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help
Years of work in child welfare triggered this thought: I encourage new parents and new parents-to-be to talk to experienced parents they admire, take classes, join support groups, and/or read books to learn about child development. Understanding what children are capable of cognitively, emotionally, and physically at different ages can help a parent react with patience to things like a baby who will not stop crying, toilet training, and difficulty feeding A parent who understands child development is more likely to find safe strategies to deal with the exhaustion and frustration that can come with child rearing.
If you feel confused, depressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, don't be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help.
You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar
I think the one I’ve repeated the most was something my Dad always said: "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."
Acknowledge and apologize when you are wrong, try hard not to judge, be kind to yourself and others, and breathe
Acknowledge/apologize when you are wrong. I think it takes a big person to accept that they are wrong especially when it comes to their kids. I have had some heated disagreements with my children and I think there is this assumption among adults that even if they realize they were wrong it's not really their responsibility to acknowledge this because they are adults and what I say goes. I think this attitude is not only dangerous because of the message it sends - your argument does not matter - but often I have found that I can learn a lot about myself and strengthen my relationship with my children by acknowledging and apologizing when I am wrong.
Try hard not to judge. We all have this natural inclination to look at someone and think we may know their personal experience or story but in reality, this could not be further from the truth. Just catching yourself and acknowledging that you are judging someone is a step in the right direction. This will help inform this behavior and gives you an opportunity to stop, think and be kind since we all are on a journey and everyone has their own challenges.
Be kind to yourself and others. It is easy to explain why being kind to other people is important, but it is equally important to be kind to yourself. Aren't we all our own worst critics?
Breathe - taking a breath before we speak is always good advice. It creates space for us to really be thoughtful with our words.
It is okay to struggle, to not feel a connection immediately, and to feel a sense of mourning for who I was as a person pre-baby
There is so much parenting advice out there it's hard to know what to digest or throw out - but this is something I wish I was reminded before my daughter was born. While motherhood is beautiful and full of magical moments, it wasn't something that clicked for me immediately. It was tough - really tough, and I consistently felt guilty and ashamed during the first month (okay, maybe year) of motherhood. Everything from holistic breastfeeding books to sleep advice was all provided in the context of an immediate mother-child bond. It was also consistently messaged that things would happen organically and my instincts would click. While I agree that time allowed for me to grow in my confidence and love for my baby, it wasn't an intrinsic sense of knowing what to do because I was a female-bodied mom. It was simply from trial and error, support from my partner, and growing a relationship with the baby. I wish someone would have told me it was okay to struggle, to not feel a connection immediately, and feel a sense of mourning for who I was as a person pre-baby. Instead, I let those feelings really cloud my experience.
Now I sit here with a vibrant, funny, and assertive five year old who I love dearly. There is no one else in this world I love more and we have an incredible relationship. I wish I could go back and tell myself that I wasn't a bad mom because things didn't just "click". I wish I could tell myself that all things take practice, patience, and mistakes. Rather than guilting myself over what I was doing wrong or why I wasn't a "natural" mom, I wish I would have laughed more and lived in the moment. I now realize that kids are always changing and morphing, and this is true for all parenting challenges. As soon as I think I have everything "down" she switches up her patterns and behavior. You can never be perfect and again I'm reminded it takes practice, patience, and making mistakes to learn how to navigate the new behavior.
Parenting is the wildest journey - full of more feelings that you can even imagine, both good and bad. But seriously - it's the best experience in the world.
Give yourself the grace and space to let go of those comparisons and harmful expectations
My biggest piece of parenting advice is to try your best not to compare your parenting and/or your kid to others! Every child is unique (yes, we hear this one a lot and it is cliché, but true!) but as parents we often hold ourselves and our kids to some invisible standard, set by both the parents we know in real life and those we see online. So when your kid is doing something on a different timeline or at a different pace than “everyone” else, you get worried and scared. Give yourself the grace and space to let go of those comparisons and harmful expectations! Once you do, there is a lot more enjoyment to be found in your kid’s incredible milestones!
Don’t be afraid of flavor in your kid’s food
Another more practical piece of advice – don’t be afraid of flavor in your kid’s food! Lots of people comment that my son (who just turned four this weekend) is an incredible eater and I’m very lucky to say that is true! He certainly is still picky at times, don’t get me wrong, but he’s pretty adventurous for his age. I’m sure much of that is uncontrollable, like everything else with kids, but I think a contributing factor was that we introduced him to lots of different flavors and spices very early on. We followed the baby led weaning method (highly encourage looking into this if you have young ones!) and included lots of “atypical” foods. Young kids aren’t meant to have too much salt, but we used many other spices, like pepper and cumin, lemon and garlic. And when he was old enough for a later bedtime, we started eating together every night, giving him either the same meal that we were eating or some slightly more kid-friendly variation. I think it has made a big difference in what he will eat!
Everything is a phase
I had 3 kids in less than 4 years, so it’s been a wild ride. If there were one thing I could go back and tell myself when I was a new mom of one would be that everything is a phase! I would constantly find myself anxious— she’s napping terribly, she won’t quit with the 3:00 am wake-up, she keeps pulling the dog’s tail, etc.! It feels insurmountable in the moment, but all of the things I’ve stressed about (particularly related to sleep schedules) have all been a phase- whether 3 days or 3 months- but eventually they have all resolved one way or another. I am much more “go-with-the-flow” with my parenting now.
Be kind to yourself
My second piece of advice would be to be kind to yourself. Being a mom is one of the hardest, most thankless jobs on the planet. It’s easy to get to the end of the day and find a million reasons to feel like a failure. I work so hard to be patient and gentle in my interactions with my children but find it harder to reserve that same gentleness for myself. We are imperfect people trying to teach and raise imperfect people so it’s bound to be difficult and get messy at times; so forgive yourself when you make mistakes and try to keep some space in your schedule to do whatever makes you feel alive— I’m a big advocate for exercise, spiritual connection, and dogs!
About the Mom Advice Series
Partners, best friends, siblings, and even pets, can be amazing sources of relief, advice, and can be so helpful, and I turn to them often in hard times. But, in my case, no one knows me better than my mom. She always knows the best and right thing to say to calm me down. I always find comfort in talking to her.
I have my mom, and then I have my "other moms." These are women who I grew up around and have always been a big part of my life. I still turn to them for advice and support. This blog entry is part of the series called "Mom Advice." I can't tell you how many times I've kicked myself for not writing their advice down. I'm hoping that through this series, I'll be able to preserve some of their priceless words, and be able to go back and reference them. I also hope that having it accessible through this platform can be helpful to others. Because, in my opinion, the more mom advice we have in our lives, the better.
The advice in this post was contributed by Sue Lyons, Janet Wirtz, Julie Closson, Maureen Valentine, Brooke Harris, Ginny Williamson, Sue Cohen, Shasta Jennings, Ali Mathwig, and a few other amazing moms.