whether you’re a first-time parent or a seasoned child-rearing warrior, you’re probably familiar with the exhilarating, warm-and-fuzzy, i-can’t-believe-it bubble that encapsulates a pregnancy’s earliest days. you know, the days where you’re eagerly checking your weekly updates from the bump (your baby’s the size of a pine nut! a strawberry! a lemon!) and merrily prepping ‘pregnancy friendly meals’ (no raw fish? nbd. ease up on the vino? donzo. anything for you, little pea-sized fetus!).
when all of a sudden… SMACK. a terrifying realization hits you square in the face: at the end of this lovely
nine ten month journey, a baby is coming out. like, a real-live human baby. and it’s going to be your job to keep him or her alive. really, it’s going to be so much more than that. it’s going to be your job to help him or her thrive in this crazy world. and, of course, try your darndest not to sacrifice your own life/sanity/passion/hopes/dreams in the process.
cue momentary freak out.
upon sinking your teeth into that whopper, it’s only a matter of time before you’re hit with the second SMACK: a tidal wave of well-intentioned parenting advice. yup. once you start looking for ‘wisdom’ on how to do this whole parenting thing, you find it EVERYWHERE. some of it solicited. most of it very much not. but either way, you can’t seem to turn away… because, well… see SMACK #1.
and so, if you’re anything like me, it’s not long before you’re flailing in a sea of parenting clichés trying to determine which crazy tips actually apply to you and which are just flat-out ridiculous.
as my husband and i eagerly awaited the arrival of our second babushka this summer, i decided to subject myself to the parenting-advice-tidal-wave once again. this time in an attempt to weed through all of the ‘wisdom’ we received in round one and apply my hindsight-20/20-filter to determine what the heck actually ended up mattering. much to my demise, i realized that often it was the most common, over-delivered advice that actually held the most merit. ugh. don’t you hate it when clichés actually earn their keep?
so, for any first-time parents (or second, third, etc., who simply FEEL like first-timers again… like me!), i give you the top ten cliché pieces of parenting advice i hate to love.
- ‘don’t be afraid to ask for help. it takes a village!’
why i initially hated it: look. literally millions of people do this every day. sure, i’ll ask for help in an emergency situation… but on a day-to-day basis, I GOT THIS. don’t underestimate me, people!
but why i ultimately loved it: i quickly learned that i’m a better parent when i regularly hand over my hooligans to someone else and step away to re-energize. we. all. need. breaks. if someone offers to give you one, take them up on it! then promptly return the favor.
- ‘make friends with other parents!’
why i initially hated it: ‘scuse me, but just because i’m having kids doesn’t mean i’m going to become a different person. in fact, i’m going to be a cool mom. and cool moms don’t have mommy dates, live at the park, make small talk about kid-friendly costco snacks, etc. #nonewfriends
but why i ultimately loved it: my friends without kids are AWESOME. they pull me out of this crazy parenting warp in a very refreshing and necessary way. but man. i’d be nowhere without my tribe of parent friends in this season of life. every parent needs that close knit group of other people who just get it. the people who can cheer you on when your baby finally drops the swaddle, cry with you when your toddler climbs out of his/her crib for the first time and bless you with the VERY BEST sippy cup recommendation the world has to offer. find these people and latch on… quick.
- ‘drink LOTS of water.’
why i initially hated it: don’t tell me how to be healthy. i’ve got that down. full stop.
but why i ultimately loved it: the physical demands of parenting are no joke. as it turns out, kids are heavy. and breastfeeding is insane. drink all the water.
- ‘drink LOTS of wine.’
…wait, this isn’t a cliché yet? well, it should be.
- ‘make time for date nights!’
why i initially hated it: this just seems obvious to me. i love my husband. he loves me. we will always make time to have some fun and celebrate that fact. duh.
but why i ultimately loved it: i didn’t realize how much we’d love our kids, too. and how much they’d love us. not to mention how much i’d love seeing my husband transform into a kick-ass papa bear whilst loving on said kids. it can be so easy to get swept away in that (totally amazing) swell of family love and forget to nurture the relational love that got you there in the first place. fall in love with your partner in their new role as mama/papa bear, but make time to love them as your original-gangsta-boo-thang, too! get a sitter, get OUTTA the house and go be crazy kids in love again. 4 real.
- ‘showering won’t feel important, but do it anyway’
why i initially hated it: well, well, well. let’s talk about all that extra time i’ll have to do such a wildly indulgent thing. haven’t these people heard of dry shampoo?
but why i ultimately loved it: the grease factor is for real. spit up. food particles. sweat. drool. it’s super glamorous. thankfully, a quick 5-min shower can work wonders. on top of the obvious hygienic benefits, i feel much more like a functioning adult (aka ME) when i actually resemble one. prioritize the shower… most days, anyway.
- “get your car-seat installation verified by a professional.”
why i initially hated it: i mean, these things come with instruction manuals, right? plus, there are like a zillion YouTube videos showing you how to do it properly. and honestly, this particular task falls on dad’s to-do list — so let’s just say some serious man-pride can be at stake.
but why i ultimately loved it: after welcoming my kiddos to the planet, i promptly began to see the craziness of our world with frighteningly renewed clarity. there’s a lot of bad stuff out there. and so enters the never-ending list of ‘how can I keep these kids safe?!’ worries and woes. do yourself a solid and let the car-seat man help take this particular worry off of that list.
- “fly when they’re infants. they’re so portable then!”
why i initially hated it: are. you. kidding? i can barely comprehend getting out of the house fully clothed for a quick trip to the grocery store… much less imagine a multiple-hour aerial undertaking inclusive of unpredictably long security lines, take-off times for which i can’t be late, and tiny spaces filled with touchy-feely strangers. not to mention the highly likely thrill of a diaper blow-out at 35K feet.
but why i ultimately loved it: ugh. the parenting sages are just plain right with this one. once you have a babe, traveling is never the same. but traveling when they’re still susceptible to milk-induced comas and snoozing on-the-go feels like a dream compared to the insanity of toddlerdom and beyond. after all, it won’t be long before your sweet little newborn angel sets his/her sights on talking (read: yelling), walking (read: running), and generally wreaking havoc in every possible circumstance. also, you have to actually PAY for them to wreak said-havoc once they’re two. so, yes… embrace your snuggly (did i mention FREE?) infant travel companion while you can.
- “sleep while your baby sleeps!”
why i initially hated it: woah nelly. this assumes that a) my baby will actually sleep long, meaningful stretches, b) there’s nothing else i need/want to do during this beautifully elusive gift of free time, and c) if i have multiple kiddos, they’re ALL QUIETLY SLEEPING AT THE SAME TIME. man up and caffeinate, people!
but why i ultimately loved it: i’ve come to find that no amount of espresso can replace the effects of solid sleep. although baby sleep patterns can be absurdly unpredictable (and become even trickier with multiple kiddos / schedules to manage), the stars will align every once in awhile to give you a window of coordinated sleepy peace. these rare moments are like parenting unicorns. so snag a guilt-free snooze while you can, because there’s no telling when you’ll have the chance again.
- ‘at the end of the day, throw all of the rules out of the window and do what works best for you and your family.’
why i initially hated it: wait. that’s inspirational and all, but i don’t know what the heck i’m doing! i want a formula. give me a check-list. ten step program for not screwing up my kid, sign me up! #sendhelp
but why i ultimately loved it: it’s just plain true. and oh so liberating. it’s no coincidence that god gave you children. so don’t hesitate to take checklists like these with a grain of salt and trust that ol’ noggin of yours!
you really, truly, honestly do have this thing handled.