Parenthood

The Only Parenting Advice You’ll Ever Need

I was one of the last of my friends to get married, and one of the last to have a baby. At 32 I was a little late to the party when my daughter was born. So when my turn came I was surrounded by ‘experts’. It was both a blessing and a curse. I wanted to be as prepared as possible, so I asked a lot of questions and read as many ‘new mom’ articles as I could. I googled things like ‘things I wish I had done when my baby was a newborn’ or ‘what I would do differently as a new parent’ so that I could learn from others and not have any regrets of my own. In addition to all of the advice I sought out, I received a lot of parenting tips without asking, too. Some good and some not so good – a patient actually advised me to ‘toughen up’ my nipples because I planned on breastfeeding (advice I most certainly did NOT take, thank goodness…but I’ll save that topic for another day). I accepted and analyzed every bit of advice passed my way because I wanted to be the best mom I could be.

And then I realized something all on my own. It has always bothered me when I hear parents wishing their child was older so they could be more independent, eagerly anticipating the next stage…when breastfeeding would finally be over, when the diaper days would be long gone, or when they could finally go out without calling a babysitter. The opposite is true, too – wishing their older child was little again or wishing they could freeze time and keep them at a certain age or stage.

Shortly before the arrival of my daughter I made myself a promise – I would never wish for her to be anything other than what she was at that moment. Something you hear a lot in the parenting world is “the days are long but the years are short”. It is true, time does seem to move in warp speed when you bring a new baby home. My daughter just turned a year old last month and this past year felt like a whirlwind. But I kept my promise. I have never asked time to slow down or speed up. The cluster feeding stage was rough (rough being a huge understatement there), but I never wished it would end. She is quite possibly the worst teether that ever lived, but I don’t wish away any one of these sleepless nights. My daughter can’t talk or tell me what hurts when she’s upset, but I don’t wish that we could skip ahead a few months until she develops that ability. She makes a mess every time she eats and dribbles everywhere when she drinks from her sippy cup, but I don’t yearn for the days when she can eat without destroying her entire outfit to end.

It doesn’t do any good to wish that time would slow down or speed up – try as you may, it will keep pressing on at its current pace, time is sort of a jerk like that. All that you accomplish while wishing to change something that can never be changed is wasted time. And wasted energy. Things no new parent has to spare! Time and energy that could be better spent enjoying each and every moment for what it is – a priceless piece of childhood.

When I was pregnant and this topic somehow came up (probably when someone was trying to offer me a bit of parenting advice), I was accused of being very scientific about it…and I’m sure the person thought there was no way I’d be able to keep that attitude up after my daughter arrived. But I have. And I believe I am a better mom because of it.

Maybe it’s because of the loss I experienced 11 months before my daughter was born. Maybe it’s because wasted time has always been my biggest pet peeve. Time is precious. So. Very. Precious. What you waste can never be returned. I had plans for that first pregnancy, that first child, an entire future imagined. And at just shy of 10 weeks into my pregnancy the rug was pulled out from under me, all of the plans I had made would never be fulfilled. I feel like I lost three months of my life, three months spent grieving, wishing for things to be different, trying to find an answer. Parents who have experienced a loss, whether it be during pregnancy, a stillbirth or at anytime during childhood will probably tell you the same thing – don’t wish your child’s life away, whether it’s going back or moving ahead. Because time comes to a halt when you experience the loss of a child, those parents would give anything for one more day, one more hour, one more minute.

So when the few friends and family members I have left that don’t yet have children ask me for advice, or when I read a question about ‘best advice for a new mom’ in one of the mom groups I belong to, my answer is always the same – don’t spend a single second regretting any moment. Don’t wish time would speed up. Don’t waste time wishing it would slow down. I’m not saying I don’t look forward to when my daughter is older and we can enjoy more things with her, or that I don’t get a little teary-eyed when I look at her newborn photos. But in those moments I say, ‘I am excited for when she can do this’ or ‘I am looking forward do doing this with her’ or ‘I really love remembering when she was little and did this’.

Enjoy every moment as it comes and cherish it for what it is. Because the days can be long. And the years may feel short. But if you live in the moment, you won’t regret a second of it.

 

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