Tuesday, October 9, 2012

7 Early Mommyhood Mistakes - Wisdom for New Parents

1. Strollers Galore! I had a friend who had me convinced that I needed a different kind of stroller for every occasion.  Yeah, it's nice to have a jogging stroller for running; an umbrella stroller for darting through airports; a stroller that matches the carseat; double stroller for many kids; a sit-n-stand stroller for little kids and bigger kids.  The list goes on and on.  I had one of each and enjoyed their many uses.  But when it came down to it, I could not justify having any of them except the one that opens and close one-handed.  I sold them all except for the first one gifted to me--a Graco that opens and closes one handed.

A mom only needs one good stroller.  A jogging stroller should not be considered an essential even if one is a runner, because one does not get as good a workout while pushing it.  So push the baby around the block with the one good stroller and then go for good workout run sans bebe.

Let's say you have two kids to get around the block.  Put one in ring sling or on you back in a backpack carrier or mai tai.  Women around the world do not own strollers--they wear their children in all sorts of baby wearing devices, but a stroller is unheard of.  Do invest in a good baby wearing device.  They're expensive and not all of them are right for you.  Before you buy one, borrow one from a friend and try it for a week.  Find out what works for you.

2. Travel Light - All hotels have baby beds available upon request.  We took a pack-n-play to New York City once.  We were staying with a friend.  Guess where the baby slept?  In our bed.  We lugged a pack-n-play through subways and buses late at night and it went unused during the visit!  What a disaster.  Since then we have depended on borrowing baby beds from friends or hotels.  We have pack-n-plays stored at each set of grandparents home.  They were purchased for $40 each, but they can be purchased for $20 or less at yard sales.  We have not been sorry about the baby sleeping situation since.

Diapers can be bought when you arrive.  Just take enough diapers to get to where you are going.  But, do take double clothing for children and self.  I traveled with Annie when she was 5 months old and she pooped her way through 3 outfits and two of mom's shirts while we waited to board our plane.  It was a little ridiculous.  But fortunately, I had packed all my clothes and her clothes in my carry-on.    

Don't travel with too many toys and distractions.  Kids are fascinated with traveling itself.  Help them to see the interesting things.  If all else fails, sing.  As parents, we need to brush up on all the old nursery songs.  They really do calm and entertain children.  My dad had a song called, "The Dirty Bird Picnic" (that's what we all called it; it's really the Tennessee Bird Walk), which he sang on every car trip.  We continued to delight in it even in our teens. (See below the song - you just have to imagine and Australian man singing. It was much funnier.)

Kids always get sick and out of sorts while traveling, so why aggravate the travel by loading yourself down with stuff. 

3. In the Care of Others -  My first two kids were in daycare for the first few years of their lives.  I was constantly miserable over this.  I was miserable that I hardly saw my children and was missing them growing from babies into toddlers.  Further, my children did not consistently have the same caretakers.  Let's face it, the caretakers make a low wage for a demanding job.  Of course there is going to be a high turnover.  In turn, this meant that while they sort of cared about my child, they could leave him in an instant and not care in the least about the emotional loss he incurred.  

My kids were also constantly sick and suffered irreparable damage to their health because they were so sick in the first year of life.  I missed a lot of work as well to care for them.  It hardly made sense to have me working except for the fact that I was the main breadwinner.

I was stressed.  The kids were stressed. My husband was stressed, because we were all stressed!  

Be honest.  It's an unnatural situation.  Nature intends for the young to be cared for by their parents.  This gives the offspring the best chance at survival and normalcy.  All sorts of reasons can be made to justify children being in the care of others, but in the end it really would be better to live without fine clothes, the finest food and the newest gadgets in order to have one parent at home.  It really would be best in order that the virtues of the family be preserved.  

It's our society that has normalized this convention of daycare, childcare, preschool.  Throughout history women have always worked, but it used to be that our children were alongside us as we worked.  It was in the industrial revolution that we lost our children.  Take them back.  Bring them home.  Hold them close.  Instill them with good values for the good of all.  Be brave and raise your children yourself.  I do not mean see them for a few waking hours a day and call it parenting.  I mean dare to be with them, teaching them and role modeling for them EVERY WAKING HOUR, in every precious and not so precious moment.  You have only ONE chance to raise your children--do not miss it.  Do not regret not having spent more time with them when they were under your roof. Though we have healed, I still regret the three and half years my children spent in daycare

4. Teaching Too Early - It's never too early to teach really, but subject matter and expectations of the child should be age appropriate.  I was eager to teach my son and he was eager to learn, but either my expectations of him were too much, or his expectations of himself were too high, and he never trusted me until one day he learned something useful.  This all seems crazy now, but we had lots of battles over learning.  He would always come to me wanting me to teach him something and then when I would teach him he would think I was wrong; or he would wander off before he had learned anything; or he would do it wrong and be mad at himself for not being perfect; or he would be mad at me for telling him to be patient and do it right.  I would expect him to attain suitable proficiency in whatever I taught him and he did not always agree.

Further the kids want me to play with them ALL THE TIME.  Playing with them often means coming up with games and crafts, puzzles and so forth.  It's exhausting.  What it comes down to is that they want me to entertain them, which I just see as an opportunity to teach them in fun ways.  But also, they need to learn to be creative on their own and imagine their own fun and games.  This is something I can not teach them.  They must develop the skill of creative play on their own.

In the end, I believe all my battles largely had to do with age and maturity.  So, play games, teach, do preschool workbooks, even do flashcard drills.  But, do not expect too much from yourself or the tot.  Do not turn it into battles, because it will likely all work itself out with maturity.  It also has to do a lot with personality.  So do not be afraid to explore the child's personality as you teach.

Instead of teaching or battles, work on trust and discipline with young'uns.  It pays off later.  I do not mean be a drill sergeant and make your kids walk around the house doing chores and minding you.  But teach routine, hygiene, manners and so forth, and do it like a "broken record."  It does not register with them until the 4,000th time you have told them.  What's that old saying, "Patience is a virtue."  Yeah, that one was invented by parents for parents and then they decided to tell the kids about it too. ;-)

5. Babes in the Bed - I had my babies in my bed from newborn.  It started with our first.  The only way we had peace was having him in our bed.  It was lovely.  Until it wasn't.  It eventually got to a point where no one was comfortable and we were all waking each other up.  We tried the various methods of getting a child to sleep--crying, gnashing of teeth, holding, rocking, nursing.  All of it. We tried everything.  We were to the letter about each method, because we were desperate to make it work.  No one was sleeping through.  Finally with our son, around 18 months old, started sleeping through the night and has been a marvelous sleeper since.  But, that was after a year of staying in his room and holding him down (gently) in bed until he fell asleep.  Then if he woke up, he was back in our bed, because there was nothing in the world, but mom, that would get him back to sleep.  With our other two girls in our bed we had similar problems.  In fact, our four year old daughter has never slept through the night.  She still wakes up nightly and wants in our bed.  Our two year old only suddenly started sleeping through the night in her own bed when the new baby was born. She was 19 months old.  SO WITH THE NEW BABY, we decided that we were going to commit to not having her in our bed, because it was a situation that no longer worked for us.  She was in a bassinet beside our bed for the first three months.  She started spontaneously sleeping through the night at two and a half months and now at five months she sleeps in the kids' room and sleeps through the night.  The lesson we have learned is a well-rested parent can be a better parent, spouse and worker during the waking hours.  So help those babies sleep and do whatever it takes.

6. Not Resting Enough After Birth - I have responsibilities just like anyone.  Not to mention, that I like to be useful.  Sometimes you cannot shirk your duties even when you need to stop and heal.  However, after childbirth it is good to be both useful and know when to rest.  The problem is that the energy and wellness ebb and flow during the first couple months after a child is born.  Some moments you feel you must do and others you need to cocoon and rest.  So, if you find yourself in an ebb after childbirth, ask for, nay, demand help.  I always think/desire to be more capable than I am and suffer in the wake. 

7.  Pray - It's a mistake if you don't.  I have prayed a lot during my motherhood.  I cannot imagine motherhood without a prayer upon my lips every moment of every day.  This job is sooo hard.  It's harder than anything I have ever done.  I could not survive without the daily grace I receive from God.  As I spent endless hours trying to put my over anxious and asthma prone, son to bed, I said the "Hail Mary" over and over.  I said the "Jesus Prayer" over and over through all my pregnancies.   I pray a lot to become a holy mother and that I might influence holiness in my children and that they might choose it for themselves.  Pray for guidance; pray for fortitude.  Pray for it all.  Pray!  Christ is in our midst!

The Madonna in Sorrow

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