Before I had kids I knew a lot about them. I had worked with them for years. I studied child development and early childhood education. I was about as prepared as I could be. I knew I didn't know everything. I knew there were things that I could not learn from books. There are some things that you have to learn from experience yourself or be open enough to learn from others. Some of these things no one told me, it's not that I didn't listen, I didn't ask, mostly because I didn't even have the question before hand. Here are some things I think mom should know either before having kids or while their kids are still young.
- Don't stress over a birth plan. I am a planner, but this was one thing I didn't try to plan too much. I knew that many times things happen that are not planned for. I knew that I trusted my doctor to make the necessary decisions. The only thing I planned was that I wanted my husband to video our baby being born and I didn't want other people in the room. My kids were both born via cesarean. I knew this was a possibility because big babies run on both sides of the family and at 36weeks they predicted that my first was over 10 pounds. I kept an open mind, even through the unplanned c-section. Everything went as smoothly as it could under the circumstances.
- It doesn't matter how you feed your baby. I planned to breastfeed. I went to classes and read books. It didn't work. Between a tongue tie and me not producing enough to get him to gain weight, I supplemented, pumped then switched to all formula when the breast milk ran out. My second child was easy to breastfeed, but I was upset about what I perceived as a failure on my part. I have since realized that it doesn't matter. My kids both were given nutrition. Both are healthy and incredibly smart. There was no need for me to feel bad about how I fed my baby. The most important thing was that my babies were fed.
- The sleepless nights will pass. It's ok to nurse a baby to sleep. It's ok to feed them in the middle of the night, even past 4months of age, when they “don't need” to eat at night. It's ok to hold them as much as I want. There is no need to worry about creating “bad habits” that first year. I truly believe that while there are things you can do to make sleeping easier for you baby, some babies struggle to sleep well and others don't. The parents are not as much to blame as some people like to think. Do what safely works for you and your family.
- There are many ways to be a great parent. We all have things we feel are important. We all have our way of doing things. While I feel my way is “the best” way, it is only the best way for my family. Things that work for us don't work for others and vice versa. A friend of mine puts her kids to sleep at 6:30pm. That works for her family. That would not have worked when my kids were little as my husband wasn't often home at that time, or if he was home by 6, that wouldn't have left much time for him to see them. We are both great parents. All of our kids got the sleep they needed. As long as kids are safe, there is not need to criticize other parents. We do not all have to do the same things.
- What works for one child might not work for another. Each child is born with their own personality and preferences. Their brains work differently. Kids have different strengths and struggles. Even siblings can be extremely different. There may be some similarities, but even if kids act the same their needs may be quite different. The way you teach your children may differ greatly. Their interests can vary as well. Don't feel like you are doing something wrong because one thing doesn't work. Sometimes you do have to reinvent the wheel! Try something different.
- Your child's behavior is not a reflection on you. So many people blame parents when kids have tantrums or act like kids. Even the best parents can have kids that struggle with regulating their emotions, especially in public. Very well behaved kids aren't necessarily well behaved because they have great parents, but it could be that they simply do not struggle to meet the expectations placed upon them. Stop feeling guilty about your child's behavior. It's not your job to worry about what others think, but to help your child be the best they can be and that looks different for all kids.
- Don't stress over pacifiers, thumb sucking, sippy cups, loveys, blankies, etc. Kids will give them up when they are ready. More kids have them for much longer than most people realize. Even many 3rd grade boys have special blankets they like to sleep with! (I realized how many when almost everyone at a sleep over brought theirs and tried to hide them until they realized how many others brought one.) These are all ways kids gain independence from their parents and learn to self-sooth. Don't feel like you need to take them away. They will let you know when they are ready.
- Daily baths are overrated! I felt that you were supposed to give babies and young kids baths every day. Luckily I was (easily) convinced otherwise when my kids were still pretty young. This made life a lot easier! Too much bathing is not good for skin, wipe off the dirt but don't give daily baths. Even if it's part of your routine, you baby will still sleep well without it.
- You can never have too many recordings of their little voices! Their voices change quickly and you will miss those sweet baby voices. Record them babbling, talking and singing. You will never regret these recordings!
- Do not sweat the small stuff. The first few years a lot of stuff is small stuff. Aside from health, medical and safety issues you really do not need to worry about every little thing. They will scratch themselves with their fingernails, they will fall and bump their heads and skin their knees. They will spit out food you carefully prepare and eat discarded stale cereal off the floor. They may even grab a dropped cracker from the grocery store floor and stick it in their mouths before you can stop them and it will not cause them to die of E.coli. (I just knew he was going to contract something horrid from that experience!).
Try to relax, enjoy the fun stuff, survive the not so good, and go with your gut. Parenting instincts are often correct. Don't stress too much and don't be overly concerned with what others think. Ask for help when you need it and give them love. You can never give them too much love!