We both have our oldest babies in high school and one is just a summer away from his first semester of college, so time has marched on, taught us a few things, and even had its way with us. Time has also dealt us a healthy dose of perspective and if we were to go back in time and meet our younger selves, these are the 10 things we wished we had done when we were new moms.
1. Chill out.
Looking back at how worked up we would get about certain things (milestone meeting, potty-training, and early school stuff), we cringe for our younger selves. Time has taught us that babies who walked at 8 months don’t look any different than those who first walked at 15 months when they are entering kindergarten. We could have used a nice telephoto lens into the future back then. . . or a back rub and a glass of wine.
2. Trust the Momma instincts.
Erin: I second-guessed myself a lot back then. Time has proven to me that my gut instincts where my kids are concerned are dead on. I truly didn’t learn this lesson until my 4th child was born. Something was just “off” with him, and I was worried—that deep, sick-in-my-stomach, can-barely-say-the-words-aloud kind of scared—about what could be wrong.
I burst into the doctor’s office at his one year check-up, held my head up, and laid out my case. And, wonder of wonders, this beautiful doctor did not dismiss any of my concerns. As it turned out, Deacon had really, really poor eyesight correctable with glasses. From the moment that baby held my face in his hands when he finally saw me through his new glasses, I have been a new mom. I would love to hug the younger me and tell her just how smart and capable she was.
3. Read Mom Blogs.
Erin’s first baby was born in 1997. Ellen’s girl came in 1998. We barely did email back then. The online support and verification that our kids were NOT, despite all the evidence we were amassing, the spawn of Satan would have been extremely helpful and comforting. The lovely network of mothers supporting and encouraging one another through this big adventure would have been oh so welcome. . .
4. Find a Flock. . . . As was the very real, very supportive network we found in our local MOMS Club. Finding another mom that is right with you on the road is so important—birds of a feather and all that. You can all muddle through this parent thing together. And misery DOES love company.
5. Put Away the Parenting Books. We are readers so it was natural for us to go there.
Erin: But the conflicting advice and my nagging sense that I wasn’t a “one size fits all” kind of parent left me feeling a little lost. Again, time proved that my inclinations were just fine, but the fact that I was “a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll” fueled my early mom insecurities. Now, I would read less parenting books and watch some more crappy TV.
6. Play, Play, Play. We played a lot with our kids, but this easy time with toys and silliness is over way too soon. Savor every minute.
7. Get a Decent Haircut.
Erin: I couldawouldashoulda have taken a little more time for me from the very beginning. I had 3 kids in 3 years, and my needs were deadlast in every equation. Looking back, this was a mistake in every respect. I let my family consume me, and it showed. Once I decided to take some time for me and scheduled some time for that decent haircut, I also developed the confidence that I was on the right track.
8. Write Down All the Funny Things My Kids Said.
Kids get big and beautiful and strong and competent, but they definitely lose their cute factor and you miss it when it’s gone. It would be nice to have every last morsel to savor when those days are behind you.
9. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!
Erin: I had a honeymoon baby nine months after I moved to Maine. I had a few people I knew from work, but no real support network AT ALL. This is something I would definitely insist upon doing now.
Ellen: I would get a babysitter at least twice a month so my husband and I could have a break simultaneously. Without the drudgery of the kids strangling you both, you can remember why you brought them into this world and discover that you do still like each other.
This is a suggestion that usually draws a lot of protest from new moms, but we can’t stress its importance enough. Maybe we could convince everyone that it is easier than a mental breakdown?”
10. Appreciate the moment.
This one can rankle people’s nerves, but as moms on the tail end of child rearing, we can say it with authority. Resist the urge to speed up childhood. Stand strong against society’s need to move fast and jam pack it all in. Breathe in baby smells, laugh at toddler antics, rejoice in milestones, and celebrate the everyday.
Ellen once said that mothering infants and toddlers was the hardest thing she ever did, and she did time in a trauma center. Stay strong, Sisters.
Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”