By Cynda Zurfluh
That whole hindsight is 20/20 concept is mostly unhelpful for parents. Even after multiple kids we’re still neophytes. What worked for one doesn’t cut it for the next so we start from (almost) scratch over and over.
And, equally frustrating, the fact that today’s trend or safety requirement wasn’t on the radar ten minutes ago. So how can we “been there, done that parents” help the fledgling parent?
Since no one of us has the answer, we were curious to know if a quorum of experienced moms could offer some useful guidance. Turns out there is such a thing as collective hindsight. Moms’ experiences, while varied, are consistent enough that we think they could help moms who are still facing into the headlights they’ve already squinted past.
To find out what local moms had to share about their lessons learned, FAMILY Magazine teamed up with The Real Housewives of Northern Virginia and went to the mama source: Facebook. We asked our Facebook fans to post comments about ”What Parents Would Do Differently/What I Wish I Would Have Known.”
As expected, we got some great replies that covered all our favorite topics: food, well meant advice, sleep (lack thereof), time treasured and wasted, and more!
The most popular topic was about feeding the kids. Easy to guess given we run the feeding gauntlet multiple times every day (or every hour if you’re nursing!).
Shena D.J.: I wouldn’t have stressed so much over breastfeeding vs. formula. I put so much pressure on myself to nurse. I was so stressed out with my first child I didn’t enjoy the infant stage as much as I did with my second child.
Cari P.: Introduce more veggies and more options with food period (vs. the typical fish sticks, mac-n-cheese, etc.). My kids are such picky eaters, and it drives me nuts.
A close second to food was what to do with all the advice rushing at us. The only comments we received on advice were suggesting that it be largely ignored – or as Victoria C. put it “I wish I had known to take every bit of advice with a grain of salt!”
We know most advice is well meaning, but the avalanche of experts and ever-changing “news” about what’s best for baby pretty much makes us collectively nutty. It’s hard to do, but Michelle K. has it right when she says “trust your gut and your child.”
Most moms’ guts tell us if we could just get enough sleep, all could be right with the world. Not sure any mom can figure out how to get that much sleep, but sneaking naps and teaching baby to sleep were suggested strategies to ease the pain.
Amy V.: SLEEP when they sleep! They look angelic while they doze, but when you’re exhausted, and they wake up screaming, you’ll wish you snapped a pic and grabbed some zzz!!
Cindy P.S.A.: I enjoyed holding my baby to nap, but that led to years of her never napping on her own. I couldn’t get her to nap without rocking her to sleep or taking her for a drive.
Sleep and time are the top “wish we had more of that” topics. Time is a tough one – it flies over the years, creeps by during the daily drudgery, and is a tough balancing act for us women as moms, wives, workers, and (lest we forget) people.
Valkyrie A.: I’m a work at home mom, and I will never go back to the office. I love being here when they get home from school and spending so much more time with them!
Addison M.: I would’ve planned and waited longer before I had a child!!!
Teresa L.W.: I wouldn’t have “stayed for the children” as long as I did.
Another way our moms feel the lack of control over time is the desire to be “better” at capturing all the memories – specifically in pictures. Take more, take them sooner (including maternity shots according to Michelle W.), organize them, be in them!
Brittany B.: I wish I had forced my disheveled self to be in more pictures with them when they were little.
The rest of our mom wisdom spreads over many areas of stress and worry for moms – and who, before they had kids, knew there were so, so many things that could be filed in the stress and worry category?
Two of our moms used the word “supermom” in their responses – and not in a way that suggests you should try to be one (supermoms and unicorns are of the same reality).
Most of us have friends or family who offer to help – certainly with the darling newborns more so than when our preteens are at risk of being auctioned off to the highest (okay, any) bidder. For some reason, we hesitate to say “yes!” bring me lunch, fold the laundry, or just sit with me so I can use full sentences for the first time in weeks.
Melissa M.: You don’t get a “super mom” badge for doing it all!
Cathleen C.G., summed up her lessons learned in motherhood by letting us know it’s okay (actually preferable) to show up for it: “messy, happy, and often late to special occasions.” Shunning perfection is a good way to approach this business.
Motherhood is fraught with dangers to our well being: emotional, psychological, physical (who’s waist measures pre motherhood? – if yours does, keep it to yourself). If you’re bringing your C+ game after a sleepless night of ear infection, good enough. If you’re on your A game after a weekend away with the husband, try not to get used to it.
As we make the endless decisions required to manage our families, we just need to rest assured that we’re going to screw things up – every day. We should take heart that we’re not going to ruin our kids. They’re tough soldiers (as anyone with a three year old can attest) and will likely survive our mistakes. Mistakes we make out of all the love in our well-intentioned hearts.