There are books, classes, and doctor’s appointments to aid in pregnancy, delivery, and preparation, but once the baby arrives, everything suddenly goes away. For many moms, her baby may be the first baby she has ever held. If she is like me, the closest grandma may be over a ten hour drive away. Despite this lack of experience and support, there is a surprising lack of information and support provided for new moms. There are two main reasons. First, there is a false belief that everything will come naturally and instinct will take over, but the truth is that parenting is a skill that can be learned and improve with practice. The second reason is is that experts simply do not agree. Providing options would be acknowledging the other side as equally valid, which is difficult for many people to accept. So when people do give new mom baby advice, it’s often conflicting and comes across more harsh than helpful.
When I visited my parent’s house, my mom used to give me a hard time, saying that I needed to let my babies cry and not always rush to them when they cry. When we visited my husband’s parent’s house, we allowed our one year old to cry for 5 minutes only to be told, “You let her cry like that? She’s probably scared!”
While it’s tempting for all of us to weigh in and provide our unsolicited new mom baby advice, it’s better to stay quiet and remind ourselves that it’s not life or death. Most moms just need you to listen to them and provide encouragement and support. Some moms would rather spend the first year waking up two to three times per night than hear their child cry and that is absolutely okay. They are committed and compassionate moms. Other moms need to get back to work, and they might prefer a few nights of heartbreaking tears in order to get their child on a schedule and sleeping through the night. They are also loving and responsive mothers who form secure attachments with their children. We must all acknowledge that a mother’s parenting style choices are exactly that – her choice. When made with love, these choices should be inconsequential to her friends, her neighbors, her and relatives, and yes, even her child’s long-term developmental outcomes. Just as co-sleeping doesn’t equal co-dependence, crib sleeping does not lead to avoidant attachment disorder.
While these parenting choices should not matter to others, they do have a very direct impact on mom. Certain choices will help to make each day (and night) a little bit easier or more difficult. Making mom’s life a little bit easier is what this blog is all about. Many moms are in search of solutions to make life easier, but with so many opposing opinions, they are not sure which way to turn.
With so many “experts” who claim to have all the answers, who should moms listen to? Just because someone has a degree does not mean they know how to put it into practice. Employers understand that education does not always equate with competence. When interviewing for a job, they don’t care what you think you know or think you would do, they want examples of what you’ve accomplished and evidence of previous success. We need to set the same standard when we invite a friend, family member, or even an expert into our home to provide advice on parenting. While “success” can look very different from one parent to another and “sleeping through the night” is not everyone’s goal, I want to warn my readers that I am using the term in this situation to describe confident, well-rested mothers and securely attached, well-mannered babies who love naptime, enjoy eating, and sleep 12 hours at night.
Given this definition, I have the most confidence in learning from moms whose children are walking testaments to the validity of their approach. I have a strong desire to soak up all their wisdom and practical advice. For instance, three of the children in my multi-age Sunday School class were from a family with seven extremely well-behaved children between the ages of zero and ten. Before I even had Cora, I took notes on the books she read as well as her philosophy and keys to success. Likewise, when my one friend’s baby was sleeping twelve hours at night by four months old, I wanted to know what she did so I could follow her approach. Gaining valuable advice from these and other mothers is what this blog is all about. In addition to sharing my own experiences, I will share advice I’ve received from my mom and many other mothers who I respect and admire.
I am excited to provide a venue for mothers to share their joy and success. As women, we sometimes experience cultural pressure to complain, compare, and put ourselves down. We don’t give ourselves permission to delight in our accomplishments. Not only are we slow to share our own stories of success, we sometimes struggle to celebrate one another. But we should not be threatened by mothers who appear to “have it all together” or are experiencing success in one area of parenting or another.
Remember the scandal over the picture of the mom working out in the park with her three kids titled, “What’s your excuse?” She may not have received the admiration she expected but at least she got her 15 seconds of fame. Both her post and the cultural backlash highlight our tendency to attack rather than reflect. If another mother has lost all her baby weight, congratulate her. If a mom enjoys making her own baby food, breastfeeding, and cloth diapering, admire her determination. If she appears to have a well-tempered baby who sleeps twelve hours at night, celebrate her good fortune. Instead of feeling insecure, defensive, or threatened, we should reflect on our own practices, learn from other’s strengths, and celebrate our success, no matter how great or small.
The ability to build others up is directly dependent on our own level of confidence or sense of security. For one mom, this might be the confidence of knowing she consistently responds to her child’s cry for comfort. As with self-esteem, confidence cannot be given to someone, it must be earned from within, by taking steps toward accomplishing your goals and seeing evidence of your success, no matter what your goal or standard of success may be. Go easy on yourself. Set small, short-term goals you know you can achieve. Gather support, and start taking proactive steps. Your belief in yourself will grow with each small step.
You can’t fool children; they know when you’re confident and when you’re not. They depend on your confidence and consistency of approach, whatever it may be. It’s better to be confident in your own crazy nap schedule than to try and try to anxiously adhere to someone else’s prescribed sleep system that just doesn’t work for you or your child. Remember, it’s about what works for you. And I mean, what actually works. If you are happy with your own outcomes and approach, stay the course; don’t get distracted by what some expert says you should do. However, if you catch yourself getting frustrated with your child or complaining about sleepless nights on one too many occasions, maybe it’s just not working! Consider some helpful tips and advice.
In a year from now, as you look back and reflect, I want you to remember the first year of your child’s life as the best time in your life, not as a sleep-deprived year you barely survived. Cheers to healthy babies and happy moms! Please subscribe to my blog and send me your best advice or story of success. I want to celebrate you and share you tips and joys with other moms.