1. Children are resilient.
I heard this once as a new mom, but I figured it was just something that some parents said to get over some parenting mistakes, mistakes that I was sure, back then, I’d never make. But I have made those mistakes. I have, in four years, tried cry it out, babywearing, baby led weaning, cloth diapers, disposable diapers, no diapers, princess underwear, yelling, saying “I’m sorry,” screen time, baby whisperer, free range, and almost everything else in between. My children have fallen from beds and sidewalks and gone without naps and almost, just almost, lived off diets of oatmeal, spinach, string cheese, peanut butter and jelly, and carrot sticks. And they’re still standing.
From all that I’ve learned that I can not do everything right and that baby books and magazines with headlines that seem like they’re speaking to me, are confusing. I can say that you will make mistakes and fix your mistakes and make more mistakes and then, finally, one day realize, that you are alright and most sane if you just make sure to always do your best, and recognize when you’re doing your worst and figure out why. Oh, and pay attention to your kids and parent them as individuals rather than stock characters that you’ve heard about.
I say all this to say that your children will be okay. I say just have good intentions, a humble heart, and a comfortable bed to lie in at night. Because that’s really all that matters.
2. I am a woman and a mom and a writer and a lot of other things.
I’m not saying anything newsworthy when I say that in motherhood, it’s so easy to let yourself go. I knew that before kids. What I didn’t know is that a lot of times when women let themselves go after children it’s really because they don’t really know how to be themselves and mother at the same time. This was me. For the longest time, or really ever since I had kids, I’ve struggled with knowing how to be a mother and a woman/writer/fill in the blank at the same time.
I think when I became a mom, I assumed that I should be a certain kind of way with kids. I was in my twenties then and didn’t really know who I was anyways, so when I had kids I just kind of dropped off all my other identity bags and took in the role of MOM.
I had long thought of the world as being moms and women and didn’t really get that women could be both or that even if a woman with children is pushing said children in a stroller she still is independently a woman. She still can, if she chooses, wear thongs and lipstick and laugh and listen to raunchy music (when her children aren’t around, of course, of course) and still mother at the same time. She can do these things because even with children she is still “she.” And I am still me. I mother children and am still every bit as silly and capable and smart as I’ve always been, like since the 80s when I was born. This should have been obvious, but I promise I have only realized this in the past six months.
3. No one cares about how you parent your children.
When I was a new mom, I was big on confessing things, feeling guilty about things, and having regrets about things. I did this, I realize now, because like most new moms, I always felt that there was someone out there who really cared when I let my toddler watch Bubble Guppies while eating a dinner of hot dogs and French Fries. I lived always judging myself, so I assumed that everyone else was judging me, too. I lived in fear that how I fed my children, how I got them to sleep at night, would mean something horrible on my parenting report card. I now know, four years later, that no one really cares. And the only ones who seem to care are feeling guilty about something they’ve done as a parent and are looking to you in hopes of deflecting their guilt about something they’ve done as a parent.
4. Children are predictable.
I didn’t believe this until my second child. I think before then I thought that there was nothing I could do to effect the outcome of a)how my children behaved in a checkout line at Target, b) when and how they went to sleep at night, and c) whether or not they ate more than Cheerios and popcorn. But, I’ve learned that if I behave in predictable ways, I will have children who do the same. *Gasp. I know, it’s so shocking. But that’s parenting in a nutshell. That’s the secret. And when your children are truly doing unpredictable things then that means there is something really wrong, like maybe they’re sick or tired, or both, and when that happens just know that it really is them, not you.