When you have a baby, people are full of advice. Some of it is really good and totally helpful, especially when it comes with a bottle of wine or a gift card. But then there’s the advice that isn’t helpful in the least, which somehow you may find yourself dolling out once you’re the experienced mother…
1. “Enjoy every moment.” This actually makes my skin hot. Like, instantaneously everyone started acting like I should be enjoying everything like I was on spring break in Cabo or something. I had breast milk dried to my fat rolls and bags under my eyes for months. (Wait, scratch that. Four years). Suddenly, I have the toughest job I’ve ever had and I’m supposed to enjoy it all? Like every. waking. moment? Shit. Truth be told, I was not enjoying very many moments when I had a newborn screamy-screamer. Sure, I was head-over-heels in love, obsessed even, with my new baby. But I was exhausted beyond anything I’d ever come close to experiencing. My boobs ached. My back ached. I was alone almost all of the time and my baby screamed bloody murder through most of each and every ten hour day when my husband was at work. I thought sleeping and showering were gone from my life forever. People telling me to enjoy every moment started to make me feel like I was doing something terribly, terribly wrong. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that the reason people say this is because they totally forgot to enjoy every moment and they didn’t want us to make the same mistake. They also clearly forgot exactly why they didn’t enjoy them.
2. “Take time for yourself.” People would tell me this all the time when I was a new parent and I just kept wondering WTF? What am I doing wrong that I can’t seem to find this mysterious “time”? When you’re attached to a tiny human 24/7, you can scarcely remember that you once had time to both make yourself a sandwich and actually get the chance to eat said sandwich. Unless the person making this suggestion is on their way to your house to babysit, it’s crappy advice.
3. “Don’t feel guilty…” The fact is, guilt follows new moms like a shadow. I’ve met a lot of badass moms, but I haven’t met any, especially new moms, who have successfully avoided guilt altogether. A better suggestion would be, “it’s okay to struggle with balance. It takes time to know yourself as a parent and find what works.” I wish someone had said that to me. Feeling some parental guilt is completely normal. It just means we care and are figuring out what is important. Feeling guilty about feeling guilty is just way too much of a burden. Cut it with the umbilical cord.
4. “Sleep when baby sleeps.” Hello, most bogus advice ever. Newborn babies sleep for approximately twelve minutes at a time, eighteen if they are“good sleepers.” Plus, most of the time it’s actually done on you. Unless you have narcolepsy, you’re not falling asleep the second your kid’s eyes close. Chances are you’re still trying to eat that sandwich for fear of starvation.
5. “If you’re calm, your baby will be calm.” Yes, babies are pretty good at picking up on negative energy and freaking the freak out. But, if you are calm, it definitely does not guarantee you will have a calm baby. No freaking way. If that were true, I would’ve just gotten stoned for two years and swooned at my sweet, calm baby while eating Doritos and nursing away the calories. Some babies are just little spazoids and they can turn even the coolest cucumber of a mom into a spazoid, too.
6. “Just listen to your instincts.” Okay, fine, sometimes this is true. But, so often we commit to this idea that we should inherently have all the answers; that they just magically come to us when baby arrives. We should know how to nurse, swaddle, suck the snot out of their noses etc, etc, etc… and when we don’t, we feel like failures. A better thing to say would be “I’ve been where you are and it can be totally intimidating. I’m here if you have questions.”
For the sake of new mothers everywhere, can we agree to avoid giving those pearls of wisdom? Let’s give them what they really need: A hand.