*Hi friends! Erica here before passing the keyboard to Mimi, who so graciously agreed to share her hot tips for first time (or really, any time) mamas in the house. It’s no secret that my mom is my best friend and the person whose advice I seek out on everything from how to stitch clothes to how to cut a pineapple…so naturally, how to mom is right up there on the list. 😉 She’s got legit GOLDEN advice below, so soak 👏 it 👏 up 👏 – I’m happy to share Mimi as a national treasure, so we hope her words of wisdom are as encouraging + helpful to you as they are to me! Take it away, Mimi!
Let’s start with a huge congratulations to anyone reading this as a first time parent – That is definitely a major life moment and life change worth celebrating, so cheers!! Next, a little intro for anyone who doesn’t already know me- I’m the photographer behind CUR and more importantly, Erica’s mom and Mimi to the OG and little man, aka Olivia Grace and Jonah James. 🙂
The idea for this blog post came from a conversation Erica, J and I were having around their kitchen island and a random comment from J – Erica liked the idea, and J quickly came up with a title, so here we are.
I’ll begin with an obvious disclaimer – I am not a parenting nor grandparenting expert by any means. I simply love my kids and grandkids with every fiber of my being, and I’m a life-long learner. I try to stay as growth minded as possible and like to reflect on the past to grow in the present (because remember the past is past and we can’t change that). As they say, hind sight is 20/20, and parenting certainly presents so much material for reflection. Please note I did NOT say self criticism. I think we try to do the best we can in the moment based on what we know then and all the additional circumstances that affect our choices. Looking back on my own parenting journey, I can easily point to some things I consider big successes along with areas that I can now see were not. We don’t get do-overs for such things, but we do get the wisdom that comes with reflection, honesty, and a steady willingness and commitment to continued learning and growth. (Notice here I did not say the wisdom that comes with age because age alone does not just hand it to you, and I also happen to know some very wise young people. Looking at you E!) And if you get lucky like I did down the road, you get to grand parent and love on the littles all over again with new found wonder, appreciation, and insight.
Okay, now for some “tips.” When I started this, I used the Notes in my phone and quickly wrote a bulleted list of the first ideas that came to my mind. I figured those initial thoughts were probably the best ones and if I thought about it too much I wouldn’t even know where to begin because as you now know or may soon discover, parenting is ALOT. 😉
- Give yourself grace. Babies don’t come with guidebooks, and even if they did, each precious one would need their own personalized edition. You’ll live and learn, succeed, fail, try again (and again), laugh until you cry, cry in the shower, watch in awe, and so on- such is parenting. My children are wondereful independent adults, and now I’m reveling in being a grandparent- and I learn something every single day.
- Wear lipstick or perfume or both or neither- whatever makes you feel “put together” – even if you aren’t leaving your house. Smile at yourself in the mirror. You just created a human!! Hold that thought for a moment. This is not about focusing on physical appearances, but about recognizing just how freaking amazing you truly are and all that you are accomplishing daily, hourly. How you see yourself and your own reflection matters, and it impacts how you feel on the inside along with influencing how others see you, including your child(ren).
- Re: baby registries… When Erica was pregnant with Liv, she asked me to go shopping with her to get ideas of what to add to a registry. I was not much help because so many of the baby gadgets and gizmos did not even exist when I was parenting, or if they did, I did not know about them nor have them. Erica would ask me if I thought she needed a certain item, and I’d repeat, “I don’t know; I didn’t have that.” Then suddenly at less than 32 weeks, Erica’s birth story with Olivia turned our world inside out and upside down quite literally overnight. We were NOT prepared at all, but we figured it out because that is what you do. This time around, thankfully Erica got to enjoy researching the most recommended baby goodies, select some items designed to make navigating babyhood a bit easier, and actually set up a nursery and even pack a hospital bag. The bottom line is that either way, it worked out okay. The latest and greatest baby stuff may add convenience, but they’re not essentials. Whether you like all the bells and whistles or you prefer simple and streamlined, it’s your choice mama. In the grand scheme of things, please don’t stress over this one.
- Be selective about who you go to for advice. If you ask 27 different people for their opinions, you’ll get 27 different responses. So, choose wisely. The internet is also a wealth of information which can easily explode into a nightmare of info overload. I can still quickly tell when my brilliant daughter has slipped down into what I refer to as the Dr. Google rabbit hole. It’s a dark and scary place that will lead to confusion because for every suggestion, there is a counter suggestion. Again, choose wisely and select a few well-researched sources to bookmark for your reference when needed.
- You will have many rough hours, days, and nights, AND you will have many moments that take your breath away. Acknowledge them all because they are all part of this journey. Try hard not to label days as bad days. Every day is full of moments. You can be happy and sad at the same time, and angry, scared, anxious, overjoyed, and confused. Emotions can coexist, and they don’t necessarily cancel each other out. Bad moments don’t turn the whole day, so beware of assigning a label that will cloud your vision and make you miss out on the good.
- Tell your child you love them – often, very often!! Unconditionally. Forever and always.
- Tell your spouse/partner that you love them. Remember they came first, and you were a couple before becoming a parent. Look each other in the eye. Smile, flirt, talk, be affectionate, date. Even if that means coffee or ice cream on the porch, patio, or sofa – the key is to commit to regular time with each other to connect. “I love you” are three powerful words – say them often! (“Thank you” and “I’m sorry” are also powerful.). Here’s an unpopular opinion, but hey, we celebrated our 33 wedding anniversary this year, so I’m allowed: it’s okay to talk about your baby! Yes, of course it’s good to discuss any other topics of individual or couple interest, but that baby is pretty damn interesting and incredible!! So if you want to gush over each tiny smile or hiccup, you have my blessing!! My hubby and I have been talking about our kids for 29 plus years and Miss Olivia for 4.5 years, and there ain’t no stopping us. We’re simply going to add the little man as another topic to our conversations!
- Take pictures and videos. Lots of them, all the time. And make sure you are also in them! Document anything and everything that matters to them and to you, even the little things – because when you look back on them and your child looks at them with you, they will be big things. The time goes faster than it sometimes feels in those challenging hours – it still feels like my own children grew up overnight. Those photos and videos and journals will be priceless. This is so worth the time and investment. Do it.
- Create routines and schedules that work for you and make your days and nights easier – but be very willing to change what doesn’t work. It’s okay and totally normal to have alot of trial and error until you find what does suit you and your crew. And be willing to toss the schedules aside altogether for the spontaneous. Embrace (or find) your silly side. Let yourself have fun. Play is a wonderful, bond building, heart filling activity for all. Remember as well that “play” can be defined differently, so don’t get stuck on someone else’s definition. Find your own and make the most of it.
- Acknowledge when you need help and then ask for it – it’s not just okay, it’s essential. Whether it’s to throw in a load of laundry, pick up groceries or a meal, or hold the bambino so that you can shower or nap, please ask. It’s a sign of strength. This includes professional help. You can’t pour from an empty cup so find ways to add to yours on a regular basis long before you start to run dry.
- Sleep! Obviously baby sleep cycles (and feeding/nursing) can be all over the place and hard to navigate, but getting enough sleep impacts everything about your life, health, and mood. Everything. Nap when baby naps. Go to sleep when baby goes down for the night. Don’t run on caffeine. Don’t binge Netflix, scroll social media, or finish the book – once you’ve refilled your own sleep tank and kinda/sorta have a routine, then you can gradually add back in those fun extras. Just remember, getting adequate sleep should always be a goal.
P.S. Use a colored bulb instead of bright white for nighttime feedings – you only need the bare minimum of light to safely see what you are doing and not overstimulate baby. I learned this trick after baby #1 and switched to a small blue bulb for baby #2 – Erica now has a blue bulb in a small lamp in the far corner of Jonah’s nursery.
- Do not pursue perfection – in fact, run from it. (This includes Pinterest which basically makes my head spin – sorry Pinterest fans). Perfection is way overated in most things- good enough is good enough; in fact it may well be quite fabulous. Same goes for “balance” – that’s a whole other black hole by itself- just ask Erica. You may indeed be “balancing” a multitude of tasks and to-do’s, but this does not mean that somehow you are meant to magically portion out the exact same amount of energy and attention to every single one at all times in order to achieve that illusive “balance.” That sentence was even hard to write; chasing this so-called balance in your actual life is basically a set-up for stress and disappointment. Give what is needed when and where it is needed – life is not an equidistant pie chart. Sandwiches or scrambled eggs for dinner – that is “perfectly” ok. That boxed mac n’ cheese with orange powder and ingredients we can’t pronounce? Sometimes that is Michelin star worthy. True story – I once made homemade mac n’ cheese from scratch for my son when he was young because it was one of his favorites. He politely ate some and then promptly asked me to “just make the one in the box next time.” Lesson learned.
Giving it your “best” will vary – if you’ve got 100% to give, go for it. If you’re hanging on 3 hours total of sleep, the little one wants to nurse on the hour, and you’ve only got 10% left, then your 10% counts as 100%!! Pat yourself on the back.
- Anticipation over expectation. I wish I could credit the source of this wise inspiration, but I read this many years ago so alas the author shall remain unknown. The message, however, has remained with me through the years and only gotten stronger with practice. Anticipation opens you up to a broader range of satisfaction and success whereas expectation narrows the focus and makes it harder to succeed. If you plan a date night and have a mental list of very specific expectations of how you want it to go, what happens to your mood if only 6 of your 12 expectations are met. On the other hand, if you plan a date night and anticipate a relaxing and fun time without a bulleted agenda, you’re more likely to actually relax and enjoy yourself.
- Celebrate! Celebrate the big stuff, the small stuff, the in between – celebrate every freaking little thing you want to celebrate. Heck, celebrate just because. Life can be hard. We need to honor and cheer for not just every victory and success but also every effort because trying can be just as important as succeeding. And you get to decide how you celebrate – dessert before dinner, watching the sunset, a dance party in the kitchen, family movie night, the options are endless. As long as you feel like you are celebrating, then you are. Celebrate and enjoy!
- Bonus tip that is icing on any cake…Gratitude – practice it, cultivate it, find it, do whatever it takes to open your eyes to every good or positive in your life, no matter how seemingly small or mundane. Seeing the good changes everything. It can bring joy in the midst of strife, and it makes all the good stuff even better. Gratitude does not remove pain, struggle, or sadness, but it does allow you to acknowledge and fully appreciate all of the good that is also present in so many ways. If this concept is new to you or feels fake or forced, please give it a chance. It may take deliberate effort at first, but with practice, that grateful feeling becomes spontaneous and grows to encompass more and more of your world. That perfect cup of coffee, a hot shower and the scent of your favorite body wash, watching your baby smile in their sleep … once you start, you will notice big and small reasons for gratitude everywhere. You won’t have to go looking for them; you will naturally see your life and your world through a different and powerful lens.And there you have it – some of the best life and parenting lessons I’ve gained over the past three decades. I hope at least a few (or many) of these resonate with you. Feel free to reach out if you want to talk more or drop your own words of wisdom in a comment below. I’ll probably be at Erica’s snuggling my grandkids and ignoring the housework at my place because #priorities :)Blessings,