Three people I know recently had babies–congratulations to the new Mamas!–and it got me thinking about my days with newborns. My “babies” are now almost 3 and almost 5 (that’s them in the photo at the reservoir near our house), and so much of that early time is a blur. But I did take away from those days some wonderful advice, along with many lessons learned about parenting, and today, in honor of Kelly, Leigh, and Molly, I’m sharing my top 5 pieces of advice for new parents….
1) “Remember that you’re the Mama (or the Daddy).” – A dear friend from high school passed along this pearl. She meant that, no matter what, listen to the voice inside of you. Trust your instincts. Believe in yourself as a parent, even if you’ve only been a parent for a few days or months. You know what’s best for your child, and you can decide what to do, even if your gut leads you in a direction different from your family, friends, or pediatrician.
2) “It’s not balance; it’s juggling.” – Another friend shared this one. Life with kids is hard. It can be impossible to get everything done and get it done well. If you let go of trying to make it all work perfectly, and just keep your “eye on the ball,” as they say, staying focused on the most critical things (family, health, faith, etc.), you can make it work.
3) “Listen to your kids.” – This one, from me, applies if your kid is one month, one year, or 100. There’s a great wisdom in the honesty of our children. They tell it as they see it, and sometimes, that’s hard for us parents, especially if they’re calling us out for something we have said or done. For example, I snapped at my son the other day, and he told me that I was not talking kindly to him and it wasn’t OK. He was not disrespectful, more confused. I was chagrined, but he was right. I apologized and was reminded of the golden rule to treat others as you’d like to be treated.
4) “Pack up the night before.” – I don’t know where I learned this one, likely from my hyper-organized mother, but it has saved me on so many scattered and crazy mornings, especially with two kids. I do as much as possible the night before. From repacking the diaper bag so it is always ready to go to making lunches to sending out that last email, getting it all done at night allows me to focus on the kids during the day and helps me be prepared for that diaper blowout just as I am about to walk out the door or when I have to tackle the “no way am I wearing those shoes” battles I now regularly have with my daughter.
5) “Be kind to yourself.” – This one is from me. You’re going to make mistakes. I did as a new mom, and I still do five years later. Some of the mistakes will be little, others will be big. What’s most important is learning from your mistakes, owning the mistakes, and forgiving yourself. That last one is super important; don’t beat yourself up so much that you can’t see past what happened badly to the good right in front of you.
And for my bonus advice….
6) “Put down the iPhone/BlackBerry/iPad/Computer.” – I’m struggling this one. If I’m trying really hard to keep up that juggling act (and I am not very coordinated so juggling is really hard), technology can be a useful tool to make sure nothing gets dropped. But there’s a catch, too. Spending all of that time with technology can pull you away from the family, the very reason the juggling act started in the first place! So turn it all off, breathe, and be present. Take it from me, it all goes by too fast.
What have I missed? What advice would you add to my list?
I love the advice about technology – it applies to kids of any age. Sooner than you think, they’ll be on their iPhones (or whatever) mirroring your behavior. Teach them to “be present” instead.