When you become a parent, you are inundated with advice. Some solicited but mostly unsolicited advice about things that never crossed your mind. My baby is 5 days old and I’m supposed to establish a bedtime routine? The best way to cure jaundice is a light lamp, like the one you find at a buffet?? If I don’t start tummy time now, he could be a three year-old that can’t hold up his own head???
Everything is overwhelming and it becomes even more so when you couple a crying newborn with sleep deprivation and the realization that it is now your responsibility to keep this sweet little perfect life alive for the rest of your life.
Here are a few things I refuse to say to new parents. Most of these phrases are well-intended. But to a new parent, some of these can provide unnecessary guilt that they are already failing as a mother or father.
It’s understandable that a new baby sends everyone down memory lane. But give new parents some breathing space! Their hearts and fears have likely tripled in size — and so have their Starbucks orders.
“Enjoy this time — it goes by so fast!”
How many hours of continuous sleep did you get last night? I’m sorry, did you say 7? A new parent is lucky if they can squeeze in an hour between cries. Two or more hours of continuous sleep and the parent wakes up in a complete panic that they’ve failed at monitoring their baby’s every breath and now something horrible has happened.
This time does not go by fast when you’re in it.
Every hour is laden with questions – is the baby hungry? Gassy? Wet diaper? Happy? Am I doing this right? Can you die from sleep deprivation? The last thing a parent needs to hear is that they’re not enjoying this enough and that enjoying this is something they need to do ASAP because hurry, time is slip, slip, slipping away!
If anyone fails to remember this sweet but arduous time, offer to babysit for a day, or better yet, a night. And, please, don’t forget to enjoy it!
“Have you tried a white noise machine? Crying it out? Blackout curtains? A sleepsack? Dream feeding? Working on the feng shui of the room?”
I have never been one for giving advice. Even if someone asks me for advice, I’ll preface it with, “well, here’s what I’ve done…”. The thing is, every baby is an individual. What works for one will not work for another. Everything is trial and error. And allow me to let you in on a little secret – new parents aren’t really looking for advice. They’re looking for empathy.
I once had another mother at work preach to me about how I needed to use the cry-it-out method to get Mason to sleep because that’s the only thing that worked with her kids. She coldly listed out step-by-step what I needed to do and if I didn’t, my child would never learn to sleep on his own. As I sat there staring at her with droopy eyelids, fighting the urge to give her a good slap in the face (yep, I said it), I thought to myself, I will never do this to someone else.
All I really wanted was a big hug, a fellow parent to tell me it was going to be alright and that there was light at the end of the tunnel. That’s it. I didn’t need advice and to be told that sorry, those black-out curtains, the white noise machine, the perfectly set room temperature, the sleepsack, and our bathtime routine were all for not.
Don’t rattle off the recipe that worked for you or the one product that changed your family’s life. Only share if the parent specifically asks you. Then look into their eyes, which have probably been open the past 48 hours or more, and give them a hug.
“But aren’t you worried that [insert catastrophic situation here]?”
This one. Out of everything you could say to a parent, this one is the worst. Questioning the way another parent is doing things then twisting the knife and laying out the potential consequences of said decision.
I’ve only experienced this a handful of times (to my face!) and could not believe these kind of people exist in the world.
This phrase is rooted in insecurity and applies to more life situations than parenthood. The person is threatened somehow by your way of doing things because it’s different than the way they do things. Let’s be honest — they’re also afraid this way of doing things might be easier or more successful than their way.
Newsflash: parenting isn’t a competition. No one gets a medal at the end of this lifelong run. No one stands on a podium and declares, “I won because I fed Jimmy organic and gluten-free meals his entire life!”
We are in this together. Look at your fellow parents as teammates. We all go through ups and downs, times we want to squeeze our children forever because we love them so much, and times we ponder just how dangerous hitchhiking could really be.
Don’t question other parents! They’re doing what works for them and you’re doing what works for you. At the end of the day, we all have crumbs in our car seats.
New parents, if you’re reading this, I got your back. I’m not saying I won’t tell you there are precious moments to be had with your newborn, because there are, but I will tell you that you’re doing a phenomenal job, you’re going through all the emotions and motions every new parent goes through, and welcome to this crazy beautiful club!