Motherhood: 5 pieces of parenting advice that are actually worth listening to
From the minute you become pregnant, prepare to receive lots of advice.
Holy cow – you literally cannot even fathom how much people have to say about pregnancy and parenting until you find yourself face to face with Karen from the office and she is ramming her 'advice' on how to DO parenting down your throat.
And this will continue, by the way. Before you give birth, there's always lots of advice. ("Make sure you get a doula." "Try to do it without an epidural, it isn't good for the baby." "Are you planning on co-sleeping, because, you know, you might be making a rod for your own back.")
And on and on and on it goes, trust me – everyone and their granny has something to say to you about how you should birth/feed/parent your child, and really – for the most part, your best bet is to just ignore it. That's if you didn't ask the person for a specific piece of advice – in which case, of course, if you did, by all means, listen.
However, parenting is a live-and-learn kind of game, and people don't bombard you with advice to torture you or make you question your own choices, they simply feel like they have learned so much by trial and failure and blood, sweat and tears through their own parenting journey, that they want to bestow some of that hard-earned wisdom upon you.
And so if you don't mind, having been a parent for almost a decade now, I will leave you with these five nuggets of 'advice' – I think they are pretty un-offensive, and hopefully, also somewhat helpful:
1. Find what works for YOU and do that
This might be the most important thing you ever learn as a parent: Whatever works for Mary up the street or your sister-in-law might not be what works best for you and your family. And there is no such thing as the "right" way to parent – you are raising your kids, everyone else is raising theirs. And so trust your gut, mum – you got this. Want to carry your baby in the sling instead using a stroller? Do. Feel your life runs better when you have a strict routine in place? Implement one that works for you. Co-sleep? Sure.
Just go easy on yourself, trust your own instincts – and remember too, that sometimes "works for now" doesn't have to mean forever. Accept that things change and give yourself permission to just go with your own flow.
2. Learn to rest
Motherhood is intense, mama – it can bring you to your knees in sheer exhaustion, in fact, and so trust me on this, learn to take care of yourself and prioritise rest. Say no to social things you cannot face going to – and don't feel guilty. Your wellbeing is more important right now. Hand the kids over to our mum (or sister or mother-in-law for the night) and just go to bed and sleep. Schedule a yoga class with your bestie and let your husband tackle bath- and bedtime. Whatever it is that you need to do to fill your own cup up, do that and do it often.
3. Reach out to your village
To a large extent, to many of us, due to many of us living apart from family, more women working outside the home and people having busier lives in general, we have lost out "village." You know, that tribe of people around us that is meant to be there to pick us up and help us when we need it – such as when you are recovering from child-birth, for instance, or have a baby who just does not sleep or when you are literally so wrung out from handling toddler tantrums you cannot even see straight. The thing is – many of us have some truly amazing people in our lives that would actually love to help us out – sometimes all you need to do is ask. So do – and when they need you, be there. Such is the power of the village.
4. Take some photos of all the REAL stuff
Yes, we all love a beautifully curated Instagram feed, I get it. And we might all strive for those perfect shots, when the kids are in their matching Christmas jammies, or jumping into the pool on holidays or just stunning pics for the 'gram' complete with clutter-free backgrounds and beautiful lighting.
However, don't forget to capture all the REAL stuff too.
The mess, the craziness, the silliness, the laughs and chaos – all those things that you will yearn to look back on years from now.
5. Water solves most problems
I came across this little nugget on one of my favourite parenting blogs, Cup of Jo, and I still live by it today:
"My favourite parenting advice is, 'if they are crabby, add water'. This has served me well over the years and believe it or not, with a 14, 10 and 8-year-old, I still use it. Run a bath, take a shower, water the garden, wash the dog, have a hot drink, have a cold drink… just add water. It works 99 per cent of the time".