Parenting should come with a manual.
Everyone thinks it. This shit is undeniably hard and exhausting. No one knows what the hell they’re doing and we all just hope and pray that we aren’t royally screwing up our kids. I’m fairly certain that mine will need to use their savings accounts for therapy over college.
There are books and theories on parenting, and, if you’re lucky you have a tribe of other moms who are there to reassure you that you’re doing okay. But wouldn’t it be great if there was an actual manual-not some theory driven book written by Dr. Snotty Pants with a PhD in not raising a douce bag, but an actual real manual to guide you through the sleepless nights, the toddler induced self-starvation phase, the threenagers asserting their independence, and so on? Imagine if you could actually open a book, flip to the page highlighting the issue, and have your solution.
The very second my first son was born and placed in my arms I instantly knew that I was about to navigate some seriously uncharted territory. Despite a Bachelor’s degree in education and years of experience in early educational settings, I realized I knew nothing about being a mom. I have a mom, a pretty fantastic one at that. I was friends with women who were moms and I had a lot of practice babysitting and working with other people’s children in childcare or early education settings. I certainly thought I knew what I was doing, but I kid you not, the very second my son was placed on my chest everything I knew, or everything I thought I knew, went right out the window. Cue the new mom panic that I was certain was completely unique to my experience. How could something I knew so well and something I knew I wanted for so long feel so unbelievably foreign? Something had to be seriously wrong with me. My son was .5 minutes old and I was already the world’s worst mother.
So, this may not be your traditional view of a manual, and I promise you I don’t have even half of the answers you’re looking for. Motherhood doesn’t come with a set of instructions and I’m slowly but surely learning that it shouldn’t. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I need to put the books down and get real with myself. In becoming a mom, I became a new person. I don’t need a psychologist to tell me how to parent. My kids don’t want a perfect mom, they want me and I’m here to share the real, raw journey into motherhood.
I give you the motherhood manual from my point of view and I hope this helps guide you on your journey:
First, let’s talk about food.
Stop obsessing about it. With my first son, I ordered, yes ordered, boxes of organic fruits and veggies. I steamed and baked and pureed the shit out of these imported fruits and veggies to make my own baby food. It felt damn good-I was super-mom, giving my first little love all the best. No chemicals, pesticides, or other nasty ingredients found his food, just hours of time devoted to making baby food that he kinda ate. Enter baby #2. Occasionally, I would steam some organic peas and toss them into the food processor. Usually, he ate well cut up versions of what we were eating. His preschool teachers joke that he was eating pizza at 6 months old and they’re not too far off. So, forget all of the articles and books that make you crazy over your tiny humans nutrition. They eat what and when they want. As long as you’re doing your best to instill healthy habits, McDonald’s chicken nuggets after a long week are perfectly acceptable.
Next up, sleep.
I feel like in some circles this is a taboo topic, but here I am, diving right into it. Just like food, stop obsessing about your kid’s sleep habits! Infants aren’t supposed to sleep. Nothing grinds my gears more than the social media posts of moms asking for advice regarding their 6 week old infant’s failure to sleep through the night. For the first year of life, you will not sleep. Let me say it louder for the moms in the back… you.will.not.sleep. Even if your baby sleeps, you won’t be sleeping-you may think you’re sleeping but your hormones have other, secret plans. Sleep training, magic sleep swaddles, all of the wonderful gimmicky theories and products that are supposed to somehow miraculously get your kid to sleep are a complete waste of time and money. Do some of them work? Of course they do, because some things work for certain kids. However, they will not work for all kids. What DOES work for all kids is a mom who recognizes that parenting doesn’t involve much sleep and following your baby’s cues, not the damn sleep training manual, is what will produce healthy and effective sleep habits.
And finally… discipline.
Discipline is another parenting topic that you can read and research to death. There are so many opinions and theories on the appropriate way to guide your children through socially acceptable behaviors and so many techniques to get your children to listen. But, what if you are just real with them? What if you look for a deeper meaning and try to understand what they’re doing or why they’re acting the way they’re acting? Don’t assume that behavior “a” needs redirection technique “b” to yield result “c.” Every situation is different. While consistency is crucial, so is being kind and understanding. Little people experience big emotions-be their calm and don’t add to their chaos. Have high expectations of your kids, because they’re capable of big things, but do not expect perfection. Let them feel and work through their raw emotions and be there to guide and support them on acceptable ways to express these things.
I feel like I could go on and on with anti-theory parenting techniques-I suppose that is what we can call them.
Who knows, maybe someday I’ll write a Motherhood Manual, highlighting all things against parenting by the book. But, for now, I leave you with this: Your kids are your kids. They are yours to raise and yours to coach and mold into the type of person you want them to be. They don’t need to fit the mold presented by Dr. Snotty Pants (see above). Do your best-that is all any of us can do and I assure you that you’re not alone-no one knows what the hell they’re doing when it comes to parenting.
Love like hell and be easy on yourself. Cheers!