Dear New Momma,
Five minutes after the plus sign showed up on the stick, you probably realized the mountain of decisions ahead of you. OB/GYN or midwife? Epidural or medicine-free? Breast or bottle? Also, you have to choose a name that everyone will call another person for his entire life. And which car seat is best? And which crib is safer? And are pacifiers OK? And how much should you invest in a breast pump?
It can all be overwhelming, to say the least.
So take a deep breath and relax while I share with you a few things I’ve learned after six children.
Limit your consumption of experts and advice. Ok, maybe it’s ironic that I’m giving advice to stay away from too much advice. But seriously, our mothers had babies without the help of Internet blogs. My mother had babies without any book telling her what to expect. And my grandma raised twelve children without Googling a thing. I have discovered that you can easily find ten articles affirming any decision you make and just as many articles proclaiming your obvious idiocy for making that same decision.
When my older children were babies, I read hundreds of articles about vaccinations. Afraid I would make the wrong decision, I hesitated to make any decision at all! One article would convince me I would surely kill my children if I didn’t vaccinate. The next article assured me I would cause all sorts of neurological problems if I did. I would begin to feel confident in a choice, then I would log onto the Internet and second-guess myself. All of the articles and blog posts and message board entries were making me insane! Finally, with my sixth child, I researched information and, ignoring what other people might think about me, I made the choice my husband and I thought was best for our child.
Learn from my mistakes — research the facts and make a decision, then stop reading the Internet and be at peace.
It seems super important now, but it’s probably not. When you are in the trenches of mothering babies and toddlers, every little milestone and decision seem so huge. This is especially true if you spend a lot of time with other mommas of little ones. I remember sitting around the MOPS table talking about what kind of diapers to use and when to take away the pacifier and when to wean and whether the toddlers were potty-trained. There can be a lot of pressure to make the best choices and achieve every milestone at the optimum time.
Honestly, though, every family is different. What is best for my family may not be best for yours. Your best friend uses cloth diapers, but you feel like vomiting at the very thought. Ok, don’t use cloth diapers. And don’t feel guilty about it. It’s not best for your family. You want to breastfeed? Ok, then breastfeed. You were abused as a child and the thought of breastfeeding makes you cringe. Don’t breastfeed. You tried to breastfeed but it wasn’t working out for you and you were turning into a stressed-out ball of nerves? Ok, feed your baby with a bottle and give her the gift of a relaxed momma. That is the best decision for your family, right now.
I stressed out over potty-training at the right time and taking away the pacifier at the perfect age. Now that my children are older, I realize that it doesn’t really matter. Once they are playing soccer and learning to drive, nobody knows when they stopped using a pacifier or when they stopped sucking a thumb or when they finally stopped wearing diapers. Watch your child for signs of his readiness. Allow each child to reach milestones at her own pace. Trust your gut. And resist comparisons with the neighbor’s baby or your nephew or even your other children.
There is no One Right Way. I know a lot of fantastic teenagers and young adults. They are responsible and polite, funny and fun. I don’t know the specifics of how their parents have raised them, and I am sure I could find some general common threads. However, I am certain they all have not been raised by an identical method.
Focus on the big picture. Love your children unconditionally and irrationally. Teach them responsibility and manners. Show them how to be compassionate. Decide what character qualities are most important and do what you can to build those into your children. Try to make the small decisions with the big picture in mind. And then, don’t sweat the small stuff. If you are parenting with the big picture in mind, the small stuff will fall into place.
Each child learns differently. You have a unique personality; your children will have unique personalities; and your family will form its own unique tone and vibe. What works for one family does not work well for another. Heck, within the same family, what works for the big sister might not work for the little brother.
Give up the idea of trying to find the One Right Way to be the best parent. Just be yourself and parent with your morals and values as the overarching backdrop. Doing that will make you the very best parent for your children.
Yes, parenting is a big deal. No doubt, you are inundated with information right now. Maybe you’re even overwhelmed by all the decisions you know are ahead of you for the next eighteen years. Just breathe. God has given this child to you. He chose you to be the momma. Trust that He is equipping you to do the job. You’ve got this!