It took me a while to figure it out, but finally the lightbulb came on. There is no RIGHT way to parent. You have to do what works for you and your family. What works for one child might not work for another, and what works for one mother might not work for another. I’ve watched other first time moms that transition easily and naturally pick up motherhood like it’s in their DNA. On the flip side, I’ve watched first time moms struggle and stress with their new position as mom and 24-7 caretaker. The thing is, your prior experience, personality and the temperament of your baby have a lot to do with your experience. Regardless, every mother has to figure out what works. Some moms are laid back and go with the flow, while others are more structured and demand order. The point is, one is not better than another. My moto is, figure out what works with you and your baby. You are the mom, and no one knows your baby better than you. I truly believe that women have a natural motherly instinct and that they should listen to it. Listening to the advice of others can be valuable, but ultimately YOU have to go with what works. A perfect example of this is the way I was raised versus the way I am raising my boys. My mom was very laid back and we weren’t really on a “schedule.” We went to bed whenever my parents went to bed. Adversely, I am structured (although I’m a lot more flexible now that my boys are older) and my boys nap around the same time everyday and go to bed early. I would go completely nuts if I just did whatever and the boys ate whenever and napped at any given time, or not at all. We have a fairly set time for these things, for my well-being as well as for my boys, especially Max. As a baby, Max thrived once I got him on a schedule, and he was a very difficult baby for various reasons. I was happier and he was happier. Max is almost 4 years old now and he’s still the same way. He wants order and organization, he wants to know what comes next. It’s what works for me and it works for my kids. That doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you and your child, that’s for you to figure out.
Child rearing is a very controversial subject. Should I be induced or wait and go into labor naturally? Should I have a natural birth or get an epidural? Should I breastfeed (and if so, how long?) or bottle feed? Should I let my baby cry? Should I baby wear or put my baby down while I attempt to do household chores? Should I spank or do time-out? Should I discipline my baby/young child or should I just distract or “re-direct”? Should I subscribe to parent-centered parenting or child-centered parenting? Should I homeschool or put my child in public school? The list goes on and on and on. I have my opinions and you have yours, but the thing is, why in the world should I care how you parent your child? It doesn’t affect me. I’m not the one that has to deal with it. I don’t go home with you. There is one thing that my dad told me that sticks out in my mind as great advice, he told me that as a parent it is my responsibility to impose MY will on my children. To teach them to obey me. They don’t rule the house or set the rules, my husband and I do, and that is one thing that I strongly believe in. If your children don’t learn to obey you, then how can you expect them to obey God? No matter how that’s achieved, I think it should be at the forefront of every parent’s mind.
I’ve learned that if people want my advice they will ask for it, otherwise, I keep my mouth shut. I no longer give unsolicited advice, but I admit that I have in the past, and at times it has come back to bite me right in the rear. My intentions weren’t malicious, I was just overly excited to share what “worked” for me. It’s like finding a great new product that makes your life easier, you want to tell everyone about it! Well that was me, I was an overzealous new mom at times and I made a lot of mistakes. By sharing my experiences I thought maybe I could save others from going through the turmoil I went through. Regardless, I learned my lesson.
I think the best “advice” that I can give to any first time mom is to figure out what works for you and your baby. Sure, I’ll share my experiences if someone asks, but if there is one thing I have learned from having two boys that could not be more opposite, it’s that you have to parent children differently. What works for one might not work for another, and to me, that is the most difficult part to parenting. Just when you think you’ve got things figured out, they change, and you are back to uncharted territory. It’s a tough job, probably the toughest job we will ever have. Parenting is nothing to be taken lightly, we are shaping and molding these children’s lives FOREVER. Although there is a heavy weight on our shoulders, being a parent is extremely rewarding and brings such unimaginable joy and happiness!