When I found out I was pregnant with my first son, I totally thought I knew what I was doing.
I had worked with kids for over 10 years… little, little kids, even infants. I had changed more diapers than I could have ever imagined and I had even provided new parents advice, if you can believe that! I was fully ready to rock this mom thing and joked that “I was prepared for motherhood in all ways but wasn’t prepared to give up my sleep.” HA!
Fast forward to the moment that tiny human was placed on my chest and the overwhelming, breathtaking, I’ll-never-be-the-same-person-I-was-before, anxiety that only a mama knows took over. Yea, the “sleep-loss” was a funny, funny joke. No one could have ever prepared me for the insane amount of worry that comes with being a mama-I joked about the sleep thing because I thought I had the mom thing mastered. Little did I know I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. In fact, I think if we are honest, none of us do. No matter how much preparing you do. No matter how much reading, researching, or babysitting you do. Regardless of how much you think you know, until you hold that little baby and truly realize what it means to love someone on an entirely new level that you never even knew existed, that is when you realize you are more in the dark than you’ve ever been. The one thing you want so bad to do perfectly, is the one thing that you’ll never be able to perfect…. motherhood!
And so I polled some of the best, most badass mamas I know, moms of grown, or somewhat grown children, and asked them, “what is one piece of advice you’d pass along to new moms, moms just starting out on this amazing, yet terrifying journey?” Here are their real, raw, and heartfelt honest answers from 27 mamas who’ve come pretty darn close to mastering this whole mamahood thing.
“Hmmmm … no two babies are the same … put down the books and stop googling … trust your gut and your mother .. enjoy the ride … “giggle verse google” .. most important it is okay to ask for help! Lindsi will tell you I am always one to give my opinion!!!”
“Be patient with your baby. It’s a new experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for advice and help. Also enjoy every moment you have because they will grow so fast and you will never get that moment back.”
“The one thing Mr Piotti and I did when our kids were young was to make sure we made time for ourselves WITHOUT them [the children]. We would go out once a week for a few hrs to reconnect and talk about things other than the kids. We love our children but you have to make time for yourselves!”
“Always be there for them. Talk to them, laugh with them, tell them how important and special they are and say prayers with them. Teach them love of everything, to be kind to everyone and that you will love them forever and they can come to you whenever they need you.”
“On the rough days don’t feel guilty for feeding the kids pizza, ice cream, and cookies! Let them watch TV past their bedtime, dirty their clothes by jumping in mud puddles and running through the rain in their pajamas! Make the best memories having fun and breaking the rules sometimes! But most of all kiss and hug your kids every day and tell them how much you love them and how proud of them you are! And every morning and at bedtime too! Tell them how beautiful they are and that you will always be their #1 fan and best friend no matter how rough life gets!”
-Aunt Pam Boring
“As a mom of three 14,10,6 I will have to say my biggest advice is to let them fail. Sounds harsh but when they fail they learn so be prepared to be there to encourage, pick them back up, dust them off wipe their tears and tell them to try again. No one gets it right the first time.”
“Mom of kids in general. Don’t ever let them think they shocked you. No matter how horrible/crazy/unbelievable/disturbing/ridiculous the story. Keep it together and don’t lose it till you walk out of the room. That will ensure they continue to confide in you and you will be the “go to” for advice.”
“You’re given a mother’s intuition for a reason. A lot of advice, especially unsolicited, can confuse what you’re hearing your gut tell you. Only you know your baby and their needs better than anyone. If the advice becomes too much or does not sit well with you, simply saying “thank you, but what we’re doing is working for our family.” Or something to that effect is enough. You owe no explanations, reasons, or apologies for how you care for your child.”
“Take your children on adventures/travel instead of buying them things. Forget Disney World – go on active trips. Best vacations we ever had were to “family camp” in rural Vermont. Don’t be afraid to leave the children for couple getaways – it’s healthy for the parents and the kids to have time away from each other.”
-Aunt Vicki Coleman
“One thing I could say, don’t wish the years away.. time goes fast enough and before you know it those beautiful babies will be headed to college. Just like you and your cousins you who are now mothers and fathers .. enjoy every minute of those precious [kids] and although some days/months and years can be exhausting, just do your best to stay in the present moment.”
-Aunt Annie Boyd
“Ah, there are so many things that now that my kids are grown I see so differently. Parenting is truly a joy, in every season, yet we stress over so many things. Quit worrying! I have a very strong faith, and I believe that God is truly in control of every morsel of our children’s lives, yet we feel that we have to worry about everything. Stop! Quit stressing. Just enjoy them and build those relationships within your family. Spend time with them, not money on them. They won’t care about those toys, clothes, or whatever they “have to have” for very long, yet they will cherish memories made with them as they get older. Spend time in the car with them, even if it’s only to drive them to school. Many of the best conversations happen in the car. Take them out of school to go on a family trip! Those memories and bonding times are so much more important than missing a day or two of school. Don’t miss their activities for work or anything else. Be present! Be THERE. Watch their games (but not their practices), their recitals, their gymnastics meets. (Without staring at your phone.) Find a way to be there for all of it, because it passes by so quickly and then, poof! It’s over! Quality time with your children. Nothing is more important. Nothing. Family is what matters in the end. When they are grown, and off to college, nothing melts a mom’s heart more than that FaceTime call or text from your kid just to say that they love you and miss you, or asking for some advice. The realization that you did it, you succeeded in raising them to know that you’ll always be there for them, that’s where the joy is. Invest yourself in your children and enjoy every stage. Don’t sweat the small stuff because really, it’s all small stuff if they are healthy. Just be there, with open ears and open arms. Listen and love. It’s really quite an easy recipe for raising amazing kids.”
“Teach your children to be independent. Don’t do their homework. Let them think for themselves. It’s ok to make mistakes and learn from them. Teach them how to cook and do laundry. Their significant other wants to be their partner in life not their parent. Teach them how to save their money. Banking or doing chores. When old enough, let them find a part time job or help out an elderly person. Compassion is taught. We don’t have enough compassion in our busy world. Video games… toss them out. Or totally put limits on play time.”
“Plan on most of your time spent enjoying all the simple things with your little ones. They are only young once. When they’ve grown a little and can make a PB&J sandwich and ride a bike to practice on their own, that’s when they’ll need you the most!”
“Remember that no matter what your family is always here for you no matter what time of day or night. No matter what it’s about. You are loved. No matter how hard things get stay positive and know there are things you can’t always change or fix. Learn from them and accept. Move on and make your happiness.”
“My advice would be to “let your baby lead the way!” Instead of listening to everyone else tell you how to parent, listen to your babies cues! They will tell you in their own way when they are hungry or if something isn’t right! When they cry or smile or coo, that is your sign! Your baby is already so smart and can teach you so much about patience, peace and love! My second piece of advice is to love yourself! Take time for YOU! Ask for help from your spouse, a parent or a friend, and take a break every once in a while! You deserve it! If you don’t, you will feel defeated! You are strong and beautiful, enjoy every waking minute… even the hard ones! Babies don’t keep…”
“When all else fails, make cookie dough” Written about at length here: http://imgoingtotexas.blogspot.com/2009/08/food-is-love.html…And still true to this day …”
“Don’t bail them out (forgetting a project or homework). They learn from their mistakes and failures. It makes them a more independent adult.”
“Children all need to be praised daily, tell them how wonderful they are, how smart they are , how beautiful they are inside and out and that they can always come to you know matter what. One of the most important thing is that how much they are loved. Children of all ages need this..mostly young adults.”
“One piece of advice that I would pass along to younger moms of younger kids is don’t be so quick to jump in and fix every problem or mistakes for your child. By taking a step back from their problem solving you allow your kids to develop coping skills, take self responsibility and gain some wisdom.”
“My advice would just be don’t sweat the small things. Like William in the restaurant… most people have been there at one time or another and kids will be kids. You have to let them know it’s not okay [to have tantrums] but I think they [kids] play off of our reaction. We raise our kids the best way we know how and hope they turn out good. Each phase is a challenge.”
-Aunt Kelly Martin Paris
“Be consistently “present” around your children. Be emotionally available. Physical presence isn’t enough. Listen when your child talks to you, no matter how old they are and RESPOND!! Make eye contact! Teach them how to socialize! This is important from the second your child is born. Talk, talk, talk to your newborn infant just as much as you want your “adult” teenager to talk and RESPOND to you. Interact with your child as an infant the way you want them to interact with you as they grow. I see so many frustrated small children who only want Mom or Dad to RESPOND to them. Answer every one of their questions. Teach them how to be social beings starting with day one because by the time they go to school it is often too late.”
-Michelle Kuhni, My Mom
“I would say a recommendation for new moms would be not to lose themselves or neglect the husband/wife relationship once you’re now a “mom.”
-Betty Levengood, My Mother-in-Law
“Play the “what if” game with your child. Ask them real life scenario questions to prepare them for things that may happen in life. “
“Don’t be too hard on yourself… you will figure it out as you go and there are no right answers. Everyone’s situation is different and it’s your choice how to handle your own kids.”
“Oh wow!! I’d probably have several pieces of advice Haha-Write down some of your happiest /funniest/ memorable moments with your little ones and keep a journal and maybe even a pic of that moment . I still can vividly recall some of those moments but I wish I wrote them down because Lauren, Brooke and Jordan love when I retell those stories about them. It’s a beautiful momento when they grow up/get married. All the girls love watching videos of themselves as toddlers too. (Rick just got some of Lauren’s videos put on digital that were on VHS) it’s just special I think to have a hard copy of those memories for them to look back on.”
“Wow, so many ways to respond! To pick one: It’s not my original thought, but an important principle I learned from the international children’s rights movement: Children are human beings, not human becomings. They have incredible value here and now and contribute to family and community well-being just the way they are, now. How that principle translates to parenting and caregiver practice is to let go thoughts and talk about who or what the child/youth “will be.” Focus instead on what the child is doing and who the child is now, how he or she explores and relates to the world. And as my mom always said to me, “You take parenting much too seriously. Just let them BE.”
-Arlene Bowers Andrews
“In the heat of the moment that’s soooo stressful that you want to cry, take a deep breath, it will pass and in the end you just want to be there because that is what the kids will remember not the issue, problem, or stress or that moment.”
To those of you who took the time to read this, take these words of advice to heart.
I know these women personally and can testify for the individuals they’ve raised. Their advice is not to be taken lightly-they know what they are talking about!
To the women who were kind enough to contribute to this article, I cannot thank you enough.
As Brian and I raise our two boys with dreams of growing our family, the cliche “it takes a village” has never been more true. Writing and blogging about mamahood has become a passion of mine but the truth is I am just a rookie- YOU are the Allstars, the MVP’s, the Hall of Famer’s. I am eternally grateful, not just for your contributions to this post, but for each and every one of your contributions to my life. Whether it be giving me the gift of life-thanks mom, my husband’s life-thanks Mom #2, raising a best friend, as many of you did, or simply supporting me through this motherhood journey, I owe you the world! So yet again, I end with the raising of a glass, this time with a slight tear of joy in my eye… cheers to my army, my people, my village. I LOVE you all, from the bottom of my heart!