The day I started showing was the day I started knowing everyone else’s opinion on raising children.
Three babies in, and I’m convinced there are few things that elicit more unsolicited advice than a baby bump or newborn in your arms. Relatives, coworkers, acquaintances, and the occasional stranger took my pregnant belly to mean I was in the market for parenting tips. And I was—just not in the manner they dispensed it.
My well-meaning advisors dished it out in true lunch lady fashion—too much, too fast, and too soon. I needed bite-sized counsel, not the whole enchilada.
So, dear mama-to-be, here are some small nuggets to chew on while you’re incubating that tiny human.
WHY DID YOU NAME HIM THAT?
“Naming your child is a very special thing,” said Traci Walding. This busy Belle Fourche mama knows a thing or two about the name game—she and her husband, Donnie, are raising four boys.
The Waldings opted to let people in on their decision before their sons arrived. “We always shared the name we picked because we’d start to call them by their name before they were born,” she said.
Perhaps you prefer to keep your child’s name under wraps until D-Day. Either way, seemingly every blessed person on the planet will want to weigh in on your decision. But it’s your decision. Is your opinionated aunt down for 2 a.m. diaper duty? Then she doesn’t get a vote.
That’s not to say family, friends, or total strangers still won’t be tempted to ask why you named your child after a dead guy, city, or nature. Counter their curiosity and be ready with a charming comeback.
BRINGING HOME BABY
Consider recruiting someone to take home flowers and other gifts you received during your hospital stay. You’ll have plenty to haul home without having to worry about packing up plants and plush teddy bears.
You won’t have time for a Target run on your way to the hospital, so purchase a car seat way in advance and figure it out before go time. That way, you’re not messing with straps and buckles once you’re cleared to leave the hospital.
When your new little family finally makes it home, “just plan on doing nothing,” said Dori O’Connor, a Rapid City mom to two preschoolers. “Nothing” means letting the housework go while you attend to your needy bundle of joy. As soon as that baby is out and into your arms, you’ll find there’s time for little else. So do yourself a favor and stay on top of the dishes, laundry and groceries before baby comes so you don’t return to a messy house, full dryer and empty fridge.
Then give yourself time to transition to juggling those tasks and a newborn. “Find your routine and don’t stress out,” said Gina Rose, a Rapid City mom to three girls. “It is not easy but it will get easier.”
YOU’RE THE PARENT
You could go crazy wondering what the in-laws think of your parenting skills. So stop it with the mind games already! I ignored precious firsts because I was too preoccupied with how family might perceive the way I parent. Eventually I wised up and recognized they were too preoccupied with their own lives to fret over the parenting methods I chose.
When relatives do speak up and offer parenting wisdom, assume the best. Not every family member is out to undermine your authority. There is a very good chance they’re wanting to offer advice from the trenches they’ve gone through.
“We haven’t really dealt with advice from others, and if we have gotten it, we took it as more of a ‘this worked for me so maybe it will work for you,’” Gina said.
Gina’s oldest daughter, Torah, stopped sleeping well around four months. When Gina’s mom learned of her granddaughter’s inconsistent sleep patterns, she suggested a return to swaddling.
“My mom wrapped up her tight,” Gina said. Everyone slept better after that.
If disagreement does arise over parenting styles, first make sure you and your spouse are in agreement before talking to your family. “You need to be on the same page,” Dori said.
IT’S OK TO DITCH THE CAPE
Your ego takes a little hit the first time you birth a baby. Delivery is exhausting, but you can’t rest up like you once did. Not when a tiny human with erratic sleeping habits and a seemingly endless appetite and propensity to poop, pee, and projectile vomit is depending on you.
Asking for help may initially feel like a sign of weakness, but it’s OK to drop the red cape and signal backup. All the people who answer your call might just surprise you.
“The help I loved the most were those friends and family that just did it,” Gina said. “They came over and helped make dinner or helped pick up my house or my kitchen. In one case, I had a friend even paint my entire kitchen when I went out one day.”
Dori remembers calling her mom on one occasion when she felt like she was at her wit’s end. Her mom graciously dropped by, stayed until things calmed down and then left as quietly as she came. “She knew just what I needed,” Dori said.
MAKE NEW FRIENDS, BUT KEEP THE OLD
Now that you’re a new mom, you may think you need to surround yourselves with women in the same season of life as you. But there’s more to friendship than commiserating over breastfeeding and the most recent blowout.
Befriend moms of children old enough to pour their own juice. Reach out to that girlfriend who doesn’t have kids. It’s OK to share an occasional ugly cry over your formerly fit and fashionable self, just don’t wallow in it. Misery loves company, but there’s no reason for you to be miserable. This is when you need a friend who’s been there, done that, and will tell you to suck it up and pull through it because life won’t always be this way.
DON’T ALIENATE YOUR PARTNER
Avoid the tendency to treat your spouse or significant other like a punching bag before and after baby comes. Yes, your man won’t ever know what it feels like to push out a person, but that doesn’t preclude him from taking a nap on your watch. Be mindful of dumping all your baggage—emotional and otherwise—on him when you come home from the hospital. He’s just watched you give birth to your child, and he’s probably feeling the weight of responsibility to you and your new baby.
“It’s OK to cut him a little slack,” Dori said with a smile.
JUST WAIT UNTIL….
People take a weird sort of pleasure in warning new parents about hazards ahead. Expect an earful of “just you wait” stories, some uncomfortably drawn out and others too hastily told to comprehend. The details may differ but the gist generally stays the same: impending doom.
Thinking about giving your baby solid food? “Just you wait.” Bowel movements at every turn! Barf around every corner! It made me wonder if I should carry a shop vac in my diaper bag—just in case.
SLEEP ON IT
Do yourself a favor and approach this sleep business in the right frame of mind. Your infant is going to wake up and stay up at night. Don’t cry over lost Zs and do something about unpredictable sleep patterns.
Start practicing good sleep habits as soon as you and baby are settled in at home. From the time each of our sons were newborns, my husband and I treated every evening like bedtime, even though we knew we would be hearing from our bouncing baby boy in T-minus two hours.
We would bathe, feed, swaddle, and pray over our little guy and then head to bed ourselves. Yes, your baby is not going to go along with your bedtime routine right away, but stick to the plan! It may feel like you’re getting nowhere, but the best thing you can do is persevere and believe that what you’re doing will eventually pay off.
Today, we don’t dread bedtime with our boys because we’ve been training them since they were fresh from the womb. When you feel frustration rising, “watch them sleep,” Traci said. “Even as they get older. On frustrating days, it’ll help to remind you of their sweetness and innocence.”
words Danie Koskan
photo Jesse Brown Nelson