There is something about being a pregnant woman that silently solicits advice and [sometimes unwanted] touching. There were times it was too much but, for the most part, people seemed so hopeful for the new life and new family, that advice was very well-meaning and usually helpful.
I had the luxury of working in a graduate program for counseling during my first pregnancy and I was surrounded by many wise professional counselors and counselors-in-training (not the camp kind!). For my work baby shower, they threw me a lovely lunch and then went around the table imparting one simple piece of wisdom.
Here is a roundup of the new mom advice that resonated with me most and how I used it.
Empower Your Spouse
One co-worker reminded me that even though I might know the “right” way of doing something for the baby, let my husband do whatever it is, without correction. She said, “If he changes the diaper and it is falling off. Don’t criticize. Say, ‘Wow, honey, that is great.’” This advice was amazing but was a challenge for me to follow during the middle of the night diaper changes or times when we were both exhausted. Following it, however, is great for the long game. My husband is way past competent and amazing with our kids. We both learned on the ground together.
Side Note: the right way to put a diaper on is “ruffles out, Dan.” (advice from my sister-in-law c/o Ace Ventura).
Screen-Free Time Tends to be the Most Meaningful Time
My coworker Gina had three young girls and talked about how precious her time was with her daughters. She said that she felt the most fulfilled when there were no screens present: she wasn’t slyly checking emails on her phone and her kids weren’t watching tv.
Call me naïve, but I didn’t have any expectations one way or another about the use of my phone and screens during my transition into parenthood. Fast-forward to a few weeks in and my phone was never far, in part because I kept track of breastfeeding on my phone. As my sons became more mobile, Gina’s words crept back into my head. When were our interactions the most meaningful? Was I distracted by a phone? This is, in counselor speak, a “growing edge” with me but I do find when my phone is away and the television is off, I can connect more fully with my boys.
I have never been good at taking and then displaying pictures. Sure, I’ll snap them but often don’t put them anywhere, whether it is a frame or a photo book. With the addition of kids, this became something I really wanted to work on. Knowing myself well enough, I chose the path of least resistance and downloaded Chatbooks for an EASY (truth) and economical way to get photobooks without the hassle. I’ve also splurged one or two times a year for professional pictures to capture a non-selfie more polished family.
…While you’re at it, take videos
Confession: I don’t have a video camera and, if I did, I probably wouldn’t use it (see above). Luckily my phone takes video easily. I take videos of my sons doing little things like standing or babbling or starting to read. They are so very nice to watch again later. These children change and learn and grow so quickly and the videos are an amazing time capsule to remember just exactly how they sounded and how they looked.
Wisdom Request: I am very open to your advice about the best way to package and use these short 1-2 minute videos from an iPhone. How do you store them? What’s the best way to share them and keep them?
Learning Through Music is Twice the Fun
I come from a pretty musical extended family but I’ve never felt a ton of confidence in my singing voice. I might be able to carry a tune but my bucket has some leaks if you know what I mean.
When my son became mine and I became his, a magical thing happened. He didn’t care if my voice was on pitch, it was perfect to him. At 3 he looks at me how I suspect the VonTrapp kids looked at Maria. I’m a singing ROCKSTAR! OBVIOUSLY, I know this won’t last so I am totally embracing it now. I have found so much joy in singing with both of my boys. I used to worry how it sounded but now we just have fun.
We sing in the car, during meals, in Tub City, at bedtime and all the times in between. When my mom’s friend gave me the advice about singing more to teach lessons, I never thought how much we would embrace it throughout our days. It brightens everything!
Good Enough is Sometimes Good Enough
I heard about “Good Enough Parenting” the Mother’s Day before I became a mom and it resonated with me so much. In an age of Pinterest and social media documenting how “together” people seem to have it, sometimes I feel like my ducks are lost at a rave rather than in their row. When I find myself comparing to standards of perfection, I remember the concept of Good Enough Parenting. If you love fully and still miss the boat, then good enough is good enough. When I find that I’m being really hard on myself on all the ways I’m not measuring up, I try to take a step back, refocus on the joy of being with a child (or in the case of colic or tantrums, I own the challenge of the moment), and Let. It. Go.
Good Enough is Good [Enough].