It hasn’t quite been two years yet that I’ve been at this parenting gig, but I have read and been at the receiving end of probably 20 years’ worth of marriage and parenting advice. None of which has been helpful.
Why? Because everyone seems to be lip-syncing to the same tune—one which makes no sense to me. These tips seem omnipresent, and it’s almost the case of something being rubbed in your face enough times that you start believing it’s true.
Well, let me be the first to tell you that you are a unique individual, and so is your partner.
Just because tip No. 4 on a random list on a popular website tells you that leaving your 7-month-old with a sitter and enjoying a movie purportedly works for “everyone,” don’t assume it will work for you, especially if you’re not the movie-goer type.
When you’re sleep-deprived and fighting to have a somewhat decent adult relationship, going out of character is the least likely thing to help.
So, what should you do?
1. Let the Baby Lead
Don’t let your BFF or mother-in-law or a group of Pinterest-savvy mommy groups determine what your baby does or doesn’t need. Just because their experience dictates that scheduled naps work best or that pumping is more convenient, it doesn’t mean it has to be so for you. Study your baby’s needs and temperament. Listen to their cues. Observe them. You know your baby best, far better than a group of people who think they do. Perhaps, lazing around on the couch with a boob-sucking vampire while holding hands with your partner works best for all of you? Do that!
2. Identify What Works for Your Family
Co-sleep or don’t. Try the cry-it-out method or follow gentle attachment parenting. Baby wear or don’t. Make those decisions based on what feels right to you, your wee one and your partner. Listening to your instincts will serve you well, peer influences not so much.
3. Stop Making It a Competition
You will feel pangs of jealousy when you hear about the friend whose husband sings sweet lullabies and rocks the baby to sleep every night while the mom blissfully snores in their king bed. You will hate the sister-in-law whose 15-month-old practically potty trained himself. You will curse at the random lady who stopped you in the checkout line at Trader Joe’s to gloat about her omnivorous, foodie 2-year-old as you look at cans and cans of chicken noodle soup in your cart. Let it go. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Parenting is not a sport. Do what you can. And don’t expect any medals.
4. Relish the Here and Now
Steal a glance, nuzzle together for 30 seconds, hold hands, flirt, snuggle with the baby. Don’t pine for what was. Don’t expect it to be the same again. When you birthed this baby, your relationship evolved into something new. And it will keep changing. Focus on what you have today in this moment. The moment may be filled with you engaged in an armlock while your co-parent struggles to get clothes on your wriggly, feisty toddler with the strength of 20 horses, but it’s a moment of togetherness, nevertheless. Savor it.
5. Stop Reading Lists Like These
I don’t know you, your partner, or your baby. Go back to No. 2, which really should have been No. 1, but I’m too sleep-deprived to fix it.