Learnings from 19 years of parenting
After 19 years of being a mom, with two in elementary and one in college, I still wonder how I made it this far. Parenting is hard and being a mom is harder. I’ve learned a few tricks that contribute to my survival and ability to identify if I should get worked up or let it pass. I’ve also learned a lot about myself and how to regulate both internally and externally.
Here is my basics to survival list – all based in real experiences, good advise received and trial and error. If you can relate, I hope this helps you too!
1. If you notice it it’s probably real
Get ahead of it
- If you notice changes in your child’s behavior something is up. Don’t assume they suddenly changed or became difficult. Talk to them and when that doesn’t work do it again. If that’s not working track the changes, monitor closely, try talking again and then talk with their doctor. Listen to them: don’t always be in parent mode ready to solve – listen to what they have to say, listen to their silence, listen to their interactions with others.
- If you notice your child has a potty mouth, a mean streak, doesn’t share or is being overly sassy do not pretend it only happens at home. Assume it is happening other places and it’s a matter of time before someone tells you. This makes the blow much softer when they do tell you and hopefully you’re now ahead of it.
- If you notice they smell bad everyone else notices too. Time to bust out a new shower routine.
- Same goes for itching. Check out why they are itching and see your doctor if there are any flags.
2. Make the most out of your doctors visits
You chose your doctor for a reason, utilize them. You’re paying a boat load for health insurance and quality care so take advantage. Ask all the questions, come prepared, don’t be afraid to bring something up. This goes both for your children’s visits and your own.
3. Is it chocolate or poop
Always assume the latter. Don’t smell it just wash it!
If you choose to join your schools PTA/PTO it’s a good decision. If you don’t that’s okay too and don’t feel bad about it. I’ve done both and learned the greatest impact I could have on my children came in the form of being present at home and in the classroom as able, being in the know of the school and it’s community, talking to my children about school life and making a genuine connection with their teachers and administration. I didn’t need to volunteer endlessly and know every single parent to impact our children – especially when I was strapped on time and it took me away from being present.
5. Make mom friends who don’t hold you to a standard
Having again done both, choose the zero expectation kind of friends. The ones who mostly have it together but admit it’s hard, they struggle, they need help and they want to help you. Make friends who don’t judge you for your home (large or small), make you feel bad about your elaborate vacation or the choice to stay-cation, or if you use only organic or choose Kraft. Stay with the ones who don’t wonder if they should call CPS when you complain about your kids. Keep the ones who tell you when you’re wrong or offer an alternate approach. Choose mom friends who appreciate you in their life. The ones who understand if you cancel because you just can’t, and the ones who show up and take your kids for a few hours just because they know you need it. Most importantly, be that friend to them.
6. It’s good to have a life
It’s essential to have a life outside of and integrated with your kids. Travel with your partner, have girls getaways, host dinner parties and BBQ’s, make friends in your neighborhood, go to lunch dates. I want my kids to see we have a life, one they are a part of, one that’s as important as theirs.
7. Book clubs
Be weary of them. I’m convinced they’re a trap. My friends drink wine without the need to read in advance. They drink wine openly on Fridays in their driveways and don’t need an excuse for a night out.
8. After school activities
After school activities are part of parenting. If your child enjoys the activity and you see positive results keep it up. Especially if the schedule is manageable for everyone. If you have something every night, no one is really committed and everyone is frazzled, it’s time for a change. There are weekend options and you can go to one sport per season. The 3-4 hours after school to bedtime is never enough for homework, meals, showers, activities and connection. There is no trophy given to the most over scheduled child or parent.
9. Every kid grows at their own pace
Each child is their own tiny human. One that doesn’t always follow the text book time frame of milestones. You’ll know if something is in need of intervention as will your doctor early on. Don’t stress about if your child is doing what someone else’s is at the exact time. Let them do it in their own time and avoid the Google rabbit hole. Crawling, walking, talking, reading, math, socializing, sports… eventually a pattern with each child will emerge and you’ll figure them out. One of ours does everything early and things come easy. Another sticks with what works (like crawling until he was 16 months) but when he gets it, he’s got it (when he walked he went straight across the house out the door to the car). Our last practices everything and perfects it over time. It takes her a bit longer to get the groove but she applies more effort than all of them combined.
Travel as often as possible with or without your kids. Go far, stay close – whatever works. Travel renews our spirts, souls and senses. The benefits to children from travel are endless. You will break your usual routines and create a sense of closeness and appreciation through travel and reap the rewards when you return home.
11. It’s okay if your kids don’t play well with your besties kids
Kids have preferences too. You don’t need the kids to be friends to keep your friend. Have lunch together while the kids are in school, go for walks and do things kid-free. It will strengthen your relationship in the long term and allow you to make the most of your time together.
12. Wash hands often and hand sanitizer doesn’t work
Have the kids wash their hands as often as possible and have their friends wash them too. Kids seem to secrete a substance from their hands that makes everything they touch sticky. You can prevent nearly everything by washing hands. Hand sanitizer basically does nothing except add to the layer of ewe. The classroom bread experiment sealed the deal on this for me. That being said, prepare for them being sick from Kindergarten on.
13. Don’t judge other parents choices
Just don’t. You don’t know the dynamics or the why. Don’t do it at the grocery store, on the playground or to your neighbor.
14. Talking to another parent about their child is hard for everyone
We are very protective of our children and we will all encounter a situation that warrants talking to the parents. You may do the talking or may be the one being talked to – both will happen. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Don’t assume your child is always an angel and know it’s really hard for the person coming to you. A rational adult is coming to you because they think you should know to get ahead of it and does not have negative intent. Don’t you want to know? No one thinks your child is terrible or has a bad heart, they just made a poor choice. Listen and try to stay unemotional. Thank them for coming to you directly and then address the issue with your child.
- If you are on the other end, understand parents are naturally protective. Wait until you’re calm if your child was involved. Begin by telling them you get they would want to know and that their child has a good heart and it was a poor choice. Tell them what happened clearly, with no exaggerations. Thank them for being receptive and open. Be respectful of privacy.
15. Give yourself a break
The standards for moms are unreal and actually not possible. You will try your best and succeed and other times come up short. It’s okay to need help and okay to give yourself a break. We can do everything great but can’t do everything great all at one time. Take that in and give yourself a break.
16. Table manners are sloppy
Dinner time in our house involves multiple asks to use utensils, sit up straight and put their legs under the table. It’s an absolute circus but I no longer let it turn quality time together into unpleasant time. It’s our job to teach them table manners but don’t let it ruin the meal. I’ve found this approach yields less interruptions overall.
17. Some days, weeks, months, years are harder than others
Sometimes it’s a day or a week or, for me, 2018. It’s okay and it’s normal. Go down the list of possibilities and be proactive if there is something you can change. Accept you may not have any control and do not start believing bad things just happen to you. Bad things happen one at at time or all at one time, to everyone. Rely on your supportive mom friends to get you through, minimize everything you’re doing, know therapy is always an option, everything is temporary, become dependent on Brad Pitt and Bradley Cooper and give yourself the time you need.
18. This is life – make sure you’re living it
Jen and I were walking (off the box of cookies I ate) and talking about all the things. I was telling her how grateful I am for all I have but still feel the itch for the structure I had while working and haven’t fully embraced the stay at home mom life to it’s fullest. Jen reminded me it’s okay to feel this way and it’s normal. She also reminded me this is life – as in this is it. Don’t live for later, you’re life is today, live it now. Don’t be in a place where you wait until the next thing happens. If that means I need more structure create it. Take advantage of the day and the fact that I am home right now. Best advice ever.