I've been a mom for 11 months, 1 week, and 2 days. I am by no means an expert on the subject of raising children, but I have managed to sift through a good deal of bullshit over the last year (ish) and here is what I think all parents need to know/do:
1. Find a support group. A group of non-judgmental, 100% supportive, easy to talk to women and/or men that aren't related to you. That way you have people to turn to when it's 2:30 in the morning and your baby won't sleep. He's not mad or upset, he's just awake and you need to chat. Or if your sister is up your ass because she thinks your precious baby girl needs bows in her hair all the time because "otherwise people will think she's a boy." Or you find a weird rash all over your son's chest and belly and you're worried about whether or not you should be worried. Text your group, or post to them on Facebook. They will be an ear to listen, a sounding board, and always good for a vent.
2. Know this: You know your baby better than anyone. I don't care if your momma had 11 kids and they all "turned out fine," you will know your child better than anyone else in the world. You know what he/she needs. You know what will make them feel better, what will comfort them, and what will just make things worse. Trust your instincts. Especially that second night in the hospital, when you and your spouse are pacing around the room, rocking, humming, shushing, singing, doing everything you have heard works. Just stop, take a deep breath and relax. Swaddle him up, crawl back into your big, comfy hospital bed, cuddle the baby and breathe. It will be ok.
3. Stop focusing so much on child raising articles, books, and shows hosted by "experts". Yes, they might have good tips or tricks, but stop worshipping them. Please refer back to number 2.
4. People will give you all sorts of crazy advice. Whether you want to hear it or not. I've found the most effective way of dealing is to just smile and nod, and then go back to raising your kid the way you know is best for your baby. Crying it out worked wonders for us. You don't want to do it? Cool. My neighbor says giving your baby a pacifier will stunt his ability to self soothe and make it harder for him to latch when breastfeeding. That's cool. Smile and nod. Then move on.
5. Trust your partner. I can't tell you how many times I've heard/seen moms physically take their child from it's father because "he wasn't doing it right." First of all, there's rarely such a thing as "right" when it comes to parenting styles. Unless he's spiking the bottle or some other life threatening event, you need to chill out a little and trust him. My husband and Connor do acrobatic tricks and thanks to hubby, Connor's been climbing the stairs since before he could walk. Inside, I'm screaming "DEAR GOD!! STOP THIS MADNESS!!" but outwardly, I'm cool as a damn cucumber. Connor's having a blast, he and hubby are bonding and he's safe. I trust my husband to prioritize my son's well-being above all else. You need to try and do the same.
6. Shit happens. Both literally and figuratively. Roll with it. We had a blowout diaper in the car, on our way out to dinner as a family date night. Turns out, we only had one spare diaper, no wipes, no clean shirts, and only 1 pair of pants (a size too small). We managed. Two days ago, Connor threw up all over himself in the car seat on the way to lunch with Hubby. I used every wipe we had to clean the baby, the car seat, and myself. In a parking lot. In Texas. In the summer. Hot, sweaty, and mildly nauseous, but we survived. You will too.
7. Parenting is gross. Needs to explanation.
8. Breathe. You will be great. Your kid(s) love you. You will do everything you think is best for them. You will screw up. It's part of life. Live and learn.
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Writer and Contributor for the Motherhood Community