Approximately 99% of pregnancy and parenting advice falls into the catch-all category of unsolicited, useless and unadulterated. It’s like as soon as you pee on that stick, every friend/family member/stranger who’s ever been within sniffing distance of a baby is waiting to jump out of your linen closet with a mile-long list of their must-haves, don’t-do’s and never-ever do’s. Though it is almost always well-intentioned, advice is a tricky thing: as the receiver, you’re basically relegated to the task of sorting through a pile of filth to find that one beautiful truffle.
So here are my 3 pieces of parenting advice that don’t totally suck. (I know…I couldn’t even come up with 5!)
- Work your children into your lives, not the other way around.
Someone told me this long before babies were even on my radar, but it has stuck with me all this time because it was such a solid piece of advice. The dispenser was a mother of two girls who were in their early 20s, so I figured she had a pretty good track record if they all made it that far in one piece. She told me how she and her husband loved to go boating on the weekends before they had kids and how she played on a competitive women’s softball team that had games several nights per week. “Most of our friends gave up their lives when they had kids,” she said. “We decided that we would make them part of the things we loved instead of letting everything in our family’s life be dictated by their schedules. They sat in the back of the boat with us on the weekends and my husband brought them to watch my games during the week. In time, those things became the things my kids loved too.” I can’t tell you how much I love that sentiment, because I think it’s so important for parents to maintain some of their identity and passion post-kids. Basically what I take from that is: a lot will change, but not everything has to.
- Don’t take yourselves or your kids too seriously.
This is probably my favorite piece of advice I’ve been given and it’s one I base my whole parenting philosophy around. Basically, the idea is that parenting is easier when you come to realize that 1) You are not perfect 2) Your kids are not perfect 3) You will probably screw them up somehow 4) Having a sense of humor makes parenting a whole lot more enjoyable. In this Pinterest-perfect, social-media saturated world where everyone is always watching, the inclination is to show only our best side to the world—the perfectly coifed, well-dressed family whose kids never get in trouble for saying “fuck” at school or have a blowout on the white carpet right before the neighbors come over for game night. I think it’s really true that everything seems that much harder and more dramatic when you can’t laugh at it.
- YOU are the only expert on your child.
I read this somewhere when I was pregnant and I pass this little piece of sage wisdom onto all my pregnant friends now. It’s as simple as the phrase implies: no one else—not your opinionated friend, not your intrusive mother-in-law, not that nosey lady in Target—no one except you is the expert on your child. Sure there are pediatricians and child psychologists and teachers who are paid to know more about how kids’ bodies and minds work than the average layperson, but you are the only one who knows whether your child is capable of starting solid foods or is ready to sleep over at a friend’s house or is mature enough to see a PG-13 movie with zombies in it. There’s a lot of noise in the parenting community—you’ll do just fine if you listen to your own voice above all the others.
What’s the best piece of parenting advice you ever received? Leave it here in the comments or over on Facebook!