Monday, January 30, 2006

Advice To New Mothers

When I became a mother, I had no idea what I was doing. Having always excelled at everything from musical performances to school, I was unprepared for feeling so alone and confused. My baby could not speak to me, except through his cries, and I was not sure that I understood what he was saying. I did not feel the instant understanding that other parents report, but over the course of time, I have learned a few lessons about babies that I would like to impart to other mothers.

First take it easy. Your baby will not remember if it took you a while to figure out how to change his diaper. He will not tell you if he peed on you in the process. You do not need to be perfect at being a mother. Being a parent is hard, so give yourself time to work into it.

Do not think that you must provide for your baby. While I am sharing this tip, it is something with which I still struggle. We live in a consumer-driven world. I have taken myself out of the running for much of this consumerism by choosing to avoid advertising when at all possible. Still I feel the sting that I do not, and cannot afford, to take my infant son to classes for swimming, dancing, singing, and the like. He has not been to a single language class in his 12 months, and it is tough not to feel guilty about that decision.

We also do not have all of the cool toys. Do not misunderstand me. We have toys. We have plenty of toys. We just do not have every single toy known to the universe. The reality is that when I sit back and think, I know that my son will be better off. When I see other children his age, and this has been true since he was about four months old, I realize that he is more active than they are. He is more communicative, despite the fact that he is at home with only his mom and dad all the time. And it is in those times that I feel better for my decisions. I do not feel anxious, and I know that by not buying my son everything, I am giving him more.

Do not compare yourself to other moms. It is difficult since so many parents take their babies to playgroups. It is tough not to think that the other parents have it together more than you do. Some of them may; most of them do not. They are just as lost and confused as you are (or either this is their fifth child in which case they have things pretty figured out). When I start getting down about how much I am behind the curve, I think about it from the other person's perspective. How do I look to them? My clothes match. My hair is done. I have on make-up. My son is cleaned and well-dressed, and we have a packed diaper bag. No one can tell that I cried when I spilled pancake batter this morning or that my house is a wreck from running around to toss together the diaper bag. You should think about it. How do you look to other moms? Do you really know that they are more organized? They are probably not.

Stand by your decisions. Even with a baby, you will be tempted to give in on some issues. You may have decided that you absolutely did not want to use pacifiers, but now you cannot help but think that maybe you want to try it. Now is not the time to give in. As your baby gets older, he or she will realize that by crying or looking sad (trust me, my one-year-old already does this), it makes Mommy willing to give in. Now is the time to stand your ground.

Be confident in yourself. You will get the baby thing. You will learn how to handle everything and make it work. It really is just a matter of figuring everything out for yourself and making your own decisions. Being confident in your abilities will help you raise a wonderful baby.

By Julia Mercer

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