Parenting is beautiful. It’s a hot mess of love, stress, worries, frustrations, anger, happiness, and immeasurable amounts of laughter. It’s full of surprises. There are tons of classes you can take to “prepare” you for parenthood, but truthfully nothing really prepares you for living it and no matter how many “warnings” you get, you’re never ready for walking through it until you do and have done it. Nobody warned me about the Parenting 101 classes that I never signed up for. The ones where every time I open my mouth about any detail of my child’s life, development, sleep, mood, or body change, I get every piece of unsolicited advice that I never wanted. The ones where facts and opinions look exactly the same and no matter what you do or say, you end your day feeling like you’ve somehow failed. Well, I feel like today it’s my turn to give a little parenting advice, now that I’m a seasoned Mommy with a whole year and three months under my belt (wow, I know, I’m super experienced)…DROP YOUR PARENTING 101 CLASSES.
There, I said it. Stop listening to the advice you didn’t ask for. Stop thinking there is something wrong with your kid just because he or she is different from the one next door or different from who you were when you were a baby. Your child is special and unique…an ever changing individual, just like you. There are hundreds of videos on youtube of kids making faces after sucking on a lemon…mine smacks his lips and goes in for more with his eyebrows raised. He’s not those other kids and that’s okay. Before I go on, into my parenting 101, I will say without a doubt that the best thing I could have done for myself was join a group of other moms–expecting moms, first time moms, moms with kids around the same age, moms with older kids…they’re all there. We share our experiences, what things worked for us, what didn’t, and most of all we show each other support in a judgement free zone where the pressures of being the perfect parent don’t exist. It’s my happy place and I totally recommend that every mom has that, because Mom-ing is a mountain nobody should have to climb feeling alone.
1. Breastfeeding vs Formula 101. Who cares!? They say breast is best, and I can agree…but isn’t feeding your kid what’s best? The judgement out there is disgusting and it goes both ways. If you formula feed people look at you like you’re some sort of evil witch who is trying to poison your kid. Then if you breastfeed, you’d better not whip that boob out in public or you’re just a freak who loves to expose herself. How about get off of the topic? I can’t tell you how stressed out I was in the hospital after my son was born. He was dropping weight and wasn’t nursing well so they supplemented him. It killed me. It took three weeks of me going to lactation consultants, crying my eyes out when he wouldn’t latch, until finally reaching success. And guess what? It hurt. It hurt a lot! We get that breast is best, but in our society it’s hard to keep up. Pumping makes you feel like a cow and as soon as you’re done feeding your baby, you have to go pump, and then when you’re done he’s awake again and wants to eat…oh he’s done? Time to pump again. When you’re working, and in my case running your own business, that can be daunting and impossible. So yeah, I had to start supplementing him when I wasn’t home or able to actually nurse him. And do you know something…he’s just fine! I was embarrassed and felt ashamed at first, but then I realized it’s all about what works for us. Maybe you’re a mom who can rock it out and do the whole pumping and nursing deal…awesome! Maybe you’re a mom who actually hates breastfeeding (yes, you’re allowed to hate it). Do you think it’s good for your kid to nurse them when it makes you miserable? Do you think they can’t sense that in some way or another? So no matter what, stop listening to what other people say about feeding your child…just make sure your child is fed and I think you’re good. Don’t be bullied into doing something that doesn’t work for you.
2. Co-sleeping 101. We live in a society that hard core shames co-sleeping. If you do it, you’re going to kill your child or they’ll be sleeping with you until they’re 16. Yes, 16. Someone actually told me that…”good luck getting him out of your bed when he’s 16″. First of all…seriously? Don’t you mean good luck getting him to ever cuddle with me again when he’s 16? Because no kid going through puberty wants to sleep with his mom, let’s just think about that. I hid the fact that we were co-sleeping for so long for fear of what everyone else would say and how they’d judge me. But guess what. I don’t care anymore! We didn’t start co-sleeping until around 4 months, after he could lift his head well and he started rolling on his own. I still remember the first time…we hadn’t had a single night of sleep in 4 months. E laid our son in my arms so I could nurse him in the bed. With his head propped on my arm, we fell asleep and slept all night. I started researching. Do you know that scientifically and statistically speaking…SIDS rates are lower in countries where co-sleeping reigns? Did you know that the hate on co-sleeping is pretty much all western culture and that it’s quite the norm in most other places? You don’t believe in co-sleeping? Cool! I tried not to do it, I tried sleep training programs, I tried crying it out, I tried it all. Co-sleeping works the best for us ( I say the best because my son is just not a good sleeper, period). There’s nothing wrong with co-sleeping and there’s nothing wrong with not sleeping with your kid in your bed. If you’re going to co-sleep, definitely research your options and the safe ways to do it. If you’re going to put your baby in a crib, also research the safety. Blankets, bumper pads, pillows, all that stuff.
3. Development 101. Is your kid late to the game when it comes to “development”? It’s felt that way for me over nearly everything…mainly because of the 101 class I didn’t sign up for. “Oh, he’s not walking yet? Wow…” or ” He still doesn’t sleep through the night?! You need to get him in to a specialist”…or my favorite, “He might be autistic”. Let’s get something straight, if my child or yours has some sort of developmental “problem”, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them. It’s just them, being their unique selves. But who says stuff like that to someone? Seriously, what’s wrong with you? Kids do things in their own time. The timelines the doctors give you are very much so based on averages…do you know how many kids there are in the world? My kid has been late to the game, he takes his time. He is almost 15 months and still doesn’t talk, but he definitely understands. He didn’t walk until well after 1, he didn’t get teeth until going one 1, he didn’t start crawling until 9 months. Tantrums he started right on time…but the comments from other people got to a point that I was so upset and stressed out I reached out to my friend, Kellie, who’s an occupational therapist…freaking out about what could be wrong with him. She calmed me down and I’m so grateful she did because it opened my eyes. Why are we so bent on having our babies act like grown ups? The world is new to them…emotions are new to them, walking, talking, and being an individual is new to them. On a biological level they couldn’t survive on their own at such a young age, so why do we encourage independence so young? If it works for you, awesome, I think it’s a great thing. But if it doesn’t , stop worrying. As a photographer, I drew so much inspiration at a young age from National Geographic…where I saw women who co-slept and who wore their babies all the time because work had to be done and you can’t leave a baby alone to their own devices (or to get ahold of yours). We base a lot of things about development on our own culture…if you take a look at places around the world, kids are doing things on a different timeline and that includes sleeping through the night. While here, 7 is the norm for a bedtime for babes, in other places it’s more like 10 or 11. So, just because your child does things at a different pace, or takes their time…it doesn’t mean something is wrong. Maybe, just maybe, something is right! Enjoy watching them soak in the world around them…because one day they’re going to walk out of your front door to their own house, they’re going to say something that hurts, they’re going to sleep in so late that you have to shake their mattress to get them up, and they’re going to prefer hanging out with their friends to you. So let them take their time…of course, aid them and try to help them figure it out…but don’t listen to the naysayers or the people that will try to convince you that because your kid isn’t like theirs, something is wrong. Your child is a beautiful, learning, baby who is amazed at the world. It’s a big place, there’s a lot to take in…let them keep stopping to smell the roses that we as adults no longer have the time to admire.
4. Bad Parenting 101. Do you spend time with your child? Do you feed, clothe, bathe, and change their diapers? Do you read to them, watch a movie with them, or chase them around the house? Do you laugh and cry with or over them? Do you finally get them to bed and spend time researching every possible thing you could think of when it comes to them? Do you even remember what “me time” is? It doesn’t matter if your kid sleeps by themselves, or sleeps with you. It’s not important if you’re formula or breast feeding…it’s important that you’re feeding! It’s okay if your little one is late to the game on things…they’re only little for so long. Stop letting people make you feel like you’re a bad parent because you’re not doing what they think you should be. Facts and opinions look pretty similar, especially when it comes to raising children. I’ve seen so many mothers shamed and hurt by what other people have to say, unwanted advice given, and hurtful things said when it comes to the wellbeing of their children. Stop letting people make you feel like you don’t care enough, don’t do enough, or that because your child doesn’t fit into the perfect box these people put kids into, that you are somehow not enough. Because you are, Mama. You are enough and you are more. I salute you and I believe in you and your kids. You are different, you are unique, and you are a warrior, a safe place, and the best friend in the world to your child. Stay strong and drop out of parenting 101!