Are you a soon-to-be first-time mom? Discover the best advice for new parents that no one talks about—from fellow parents who’ve been there.
Tell anyone you’re about to be a new mom, and you’ll likely hear tons of parenting advice. The coworker who tells you it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, the friend who warns you not to rock your baby. You’ll hear about milestones to keep an eye on, and what those flaps on onesies are actually for.
But sometimes, it’s the absence of advice for new parents that’s most startling.
How no one tells you the intense and almost shameful feelings you have about wanting to have your old life back. That you’ll lose your temper in a split second, all because your baby wouldn’t nap. Or how they take pictures of themselves smiling with their new baby, but never of the times they’re miserable beyond words.
Like every first-time mom, I dove into books about what to expect with pregnancy and parenthood. I saved activities I wanted to do once my son was older, and armed myself with “reality-check” stories about changing diapers 13 times a day.
Over time, we all develop our own parenting philosophies, with few of us ever subscribing to one school of thought. But sometimes, I wish I knew more common-sense advice for new parents. The kind that would reassure me that I wasn’t alone, and that the hard days wouldn’t always be so challenging.
Advice for new parents you don’t always hear about
Having zero experience with babies or kids before, parenthood could’ve been a potentially tough and scary road with my first baby. But thanks to advice I learned and adopted, it didn’t have to be.
I asked other moms and dads what they believe is the best parenting advice for new parents. This is what I wish I had learned from the get-go, and what continues to guide me and many parents moving forward.
I hope you’ll find inspiration, practical tips, and the reassurance that you’re not alone. You’ve got this and you have one exciting adventure ahead of you:
1. Take care of yourself first
Many moms feel obligated to put themselves last. This is understandable, considering that kids can hardly do anything for themselves, especially in the first few years. But taken too far, and you’re actually depriving your kids of the kind of mom they need and deserve—one who is happy and has the capacity to give.
After all, you can give unless you’re full. What are you “giving” your kids if you’re running low or empty?
In fact, taking time for yourself has an extra benefit: your kids get the opportunity to be alone. Good parenting doesn’t mean hovering 24/7, but gradually giving them more and more space to be themselves.
So, take care of yourself, whether that’s reading 10 minutes a day or hiring a sitter so you can have lunch with a friend. It’s an overlooked necessity that will make you the better parent you want to be.
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2. Don’t nitpick everything your partner does
You and your partner are different people who won’t always do the same things. You might get upset because he put the white noise machine on “medium” when you know the baby needs it on “high.” Or maybe he isn’t swaddling tightly enough, which only makes the baby wake up halfway through the nap.
I get it. As a self-proclaimed control freak, I tended to take the reins and do a lot of things myself. I also spent more time with my kids, having more hours in the day than my husband.
But over time, I learned that my way isn’t “right,” just as his way isn’t “wrong.” It’s just different. In fact, the more we nitpick on how others aren’t meeting our standards, the more we push them away from even wanting to help.
Worse, we’re denying them and our kids the chance of developing a bond and learning what works for them. After all, we had to learn through trial and error as well—by nitpicking, we’re not even giving our partners the chance to do that.
And finally, we become the “police,” hovering over them, looking for where they messed up. As you can imagine, this is no way to have a thriving and loving relationship.
Your partner needs the space to learn and co-parent the way he or she should. Sure, you’ll want to talk about major topics or truly problematic issues, but we can let the rest go.
3. Let it go
Spoiler alert: madness will happen.
Your baby decided to poop all over her diaper right as you’re about to leave the house. You’re late to the doctor’s appointment, can’t find that darn pacifier, and you realize you’re completely out of burp cloths and onesies. Oh, and people are coming to visit and the house is a complete mess.
For someone who loves order and predictability, let’s just say that becoming a mom has tested my sanity more than once.
That’s when I learned to simply go with the flow. The more I accepted the madness around me, the more lighthearted and at ease I felt. I could almost laugh about the sleep deprivation and that our dishwasher conked out the day we brought the twins home.
Don’t exhaust yourself with unreasonable standards. Your house doesn’t have to be spotless, and dinner doesn’t have to be ready by 5pm every night. Because things will happen. The quicker we can let go of the need to control, the more we can get through these challenges.
4. Pick your battles
It really is okay if your toddler insisted on wearing sweatpants even though you had hoped he’d dress up a bit for a birthday party. Or that your kids watched the rest of the movie even though it meant they had extra screen time for the day.
Your kids will one day refuse to eat the food you prepared or cry because they don’t want to get in the pool for swimming class. They’ll want to eat a packet of gummy bears after dinner or skip a bath for the night.
And you’ll need to find that balance of staying consistent with having reasonable exceptions. Don’t feel like your kids will stop respecting your authority because you caved in and bought them a toy from the store. Or that everything has to be exactly by the rule book, no matter what.
Yes, you want to be firm and consistent on most things—and your kids will abide by them most of the time. So, when those exceptions happen, remind yourself that they almost always do what you ask with no problem.
5. Don’t compare
Comparisons will drive you nuts. The ironic part is that, a few years later, everything you’re comparing isn’t going to matter all that much.
You’ll get tempted to compare which milestones your child is hitting—and how quickly—to other kids. You’ll second-guess your decisions when you hear that other parents are doing the exact opposite. You might even beat yourself up because you don’t have the top-notch baby gear or the biggest parties.
Those things don’t make you a better or worse parent than the next. Your kids will grow up fine, regardless of how you seem to come up short right now.
You see, every child…
- Has his own interests: Just as we adults have our own hobbies and pastimes, so do our kids. Children differ in their interests and will spend effort on those that they enjoy.
- Excels at his own skills: It’s easy to forget our kids’ own amazing skills when we compare their shortcomings to others.
- Showcases his own personality: You love toddler’s inquisitiveness, humor and playfulness, but grapple with his fiery (and loud) temperament. Accept kids for who they are and stop comparing their temperaments.
- Develops at his own pace: While one of my kids started walking at 10 months, it wasn’t until he was 21 months before he finally spoke his first words.
Rather than comparing kids only to feel like we’ve failed, we can use comparisons as a way to introduce new skills and interests. Yes, notice what other kids are doing and even introduce those skills to your own, but try not to worry if he doesn’t get it or has no interest.
6. Find ways to be your best self
Parenthood will bring out the best in you—if you’re willing to look for the opportunities that will help you grow.
Every challenge you face, from sleepless nights to temper tantrums, can be the opportunity you needed to learn and improve. Because here’s the truth: if you’re still dealing with the same issue over and over, that just means you haven’t learned the lesson you needed to.
If your child’s tantrums seem to be getting worse, maybe you need to examine how you’re reacting to his behavior. If sleepless nights are making you miserable, a new way of helping your baby fall asleep could take care of it once and for all.
Because it’s exactly in those moments where we need to reflect on how we can be better.
7. Forgive yourself
Striving to be your best doesn’t mean giving yourself grief when things feel hard.
Know that you’re doing your best at this moment, even though it feels like you’re messing up or second-guessing your decisions. After all, no one intentionally chooses something knowing it’ll have a terrible outcome. We made decisions based on where we were in that moment.
When life feels overwhelming or you know you could’ve done better, start by giving yourself the forgiveness you need. There’s no point in beating yourself up even more—pick yourself up, acknowledge that you’re here and doing your best, and move forward.
8. Do what works for you
Each of us knows our kids best, in ways more profound than anyone ever will. We can listen to the advice and apply bits or all of it, but we should do so based on what works for us, our kids, and our families.
I can pinpoint many of my friends and describe ways they’re similar or different to how I raise my kids. And the nice thing is, that’s okay.
Each child, parent, and family has their own nuances. There will never be one blanket approach that works for everyone. I’ve even had a change of heart on many of the things I had at one point believed so strongly about.
We evolve. We learn more as we raise our kids. And through time we let a few things go and cling on to new ideas. We change as our kids change.
I’m certain and even hopeful you may not agree with everything I’ve written or shared. And that’s not only inevitable, but a positive part about belonging to a community of parents.
We can take information, give it a try, and decide that it works for us or not. But the minute we feel stressed or wonder if we’re doing it wrong, it’s best to stop and listen to your own needs. Do what works for you and your family.
This isn’t a cop out to disregard advice or a call to ignore information. It would be a lonely journey without the insights of other parents, and we learn well through gathering and comparing information.
But what may work for others may not always work for our needs. It’s easy to lose sight of that when we hear advice that don’t always line up with what we believe.
Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for decisions you make, especially with much thought and heart. You shouldn’t feel like you have to defend or explain yourself as to why you don’t want to give the baby a cookie or why bedtime is at 7pm.
As I say in my book, 31 Days to Better Parenting:
“After all, there is no Perfect Parent. Just the Better Parent to whom we are now, and the only one we should strive to be.”
Becoming a new parent can mean hearing a barrage of advice you can’t seem to filter through, to not hearing enough of the ones that matter. But now you’ve heard a few words on what truly is the best parenting advice for new parents.
Start by allowing your partner to learn and make mistakes just as you did, instead of nitpicking everything he does. Take time for yourself, even—perhaps especially—when life feels chaotic. Learn to go with the flow and accept the season that you’re in, including picking your battles and making exceptions.
Don’t compare, whether your child or yourself, to others, because these differences won’t matter down the line. Use challenging moments to improve and be the kind of parent you want to be, while also giving yourself the grace and forgiveness when you mess up.
And of course, do what works for you. The best advice that works for 99% of parents might not cut it in your case.
Hopefully the advice you’ve heard can help guide you toward your new adventure. Even as you’re cleaning up an explosive diaper or running late to a doctor’s appointment.
Get more tips:
- What I Wish People Told Me About Being a New Mom
- Newborn Tips and Tricks New Moms Need to Know
- 7 Postpartum Changes You Probably Didn’t Know
- Clever Solutions to the Newborn Witching Hour
- Newborn Life: Expectation vs Reality
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