Most of the advice new moms get is complete crap, but it’s all so overwhelming and cliched that it’s hard to figure out what’s useful and what’s not. As soon as your belly begins to protrude, the veteran mommy vultures will come circling, ready to regurgitate their knowledge and experience. They have learned a lot from parenthood, and they want to share it all with you. But this isn’t always helpful. Not all babies are the same, and not all parents are the same. Here are six pearls of unsolicited wisdom that you have permission to ignore:
1. “Sleep when baby sleeps.”
Why do women still insist on saying this to new moms? It is so cruel. Yes, it sounds good in the moment, but for most new moms this is no more than a parental urban legend. The daughter of a friend of a friend’s neighbor of someone I work with was able to sleep when her baby slept. It makes sense because newborns really do sleep a lot, but it’s not really that simple. Life still goes on, and that life now includes more laundry and more dishes than ever before as well as other life necessities, like eating. That stuff has to get done somehow, and unless you have Mary Poppins stopping by after lunch, you’re going to be the one to have to do it. Even if you have some help with chores or are willing to let them pile up for a few days, it doesn’t matter. At all. Because baby will make sure to snooze when sleeping is not an option for you. Like when you’re driving down the freeway, have company over, or right after you’ve chugged down your third coffee. It’s a lovely idea, but not much more than that.
2. “You NEED to buy this!”
There are so many products out there. It’s overwhelming to try to figure out what to buy, and unfortunately, you will probably waste a whole lot of money trying to figure it all out. You’ll end up with an infant bath insert that doesn’t fit in your sink. You’ll buy 3 dozen pacifiers that your baby will hate because they’d rather suck on their sock. You’ll buy some expensive and amazing organic lotion that will make your baby break out in a rash. Baby products are one enormous session of trial and error. All babies are different, so it goes without saying that while baby boy down the street couldn’t live without his Mamaroo bouncer, your baby will probably scream anytime that swing is in sight. Ultimately, there are a few things that you truly do need for baby, but the rest is anyone’s guess.
3. “Don’t buy THAT!”
I cannot count the number of people who told me how wasteful buying a wipe warmer would be, despite the fact that I did not register for one nor did I ever talk about getting one at any point. Buying a wipe warmer seems to be a universally accepted frivolity, but dammit, if I discovered that a comfortable warm wipe would mean the difference between 4 am maniacal screaming and gentle cooing during diaper changes, you can bet your kid’s cold booty I would’ve bought three.
4. “Enjoy Every Moment.”
I am giving you permission to NOT enjoy every moment. Because some of them suck big time. Sticky stinky blow out diaper trailing up the back of your favorite onesie? Don’t enjoy that. No normal person would enjoy that.
5. “Trust Your Instincts.”
This is a complicated one. Mom instincts can be powerful and amazing things, but those first few weeks for new moms are filled insecurities and self-doubt. And all those amazing instincts are often tangled in a knotted web of hormones, spit-up stains, exhaustion, padcicles, and sometimes postpartum depression. If you have someone you trust to give you solicited advice, definitely refer to them as needed.
6. “It Gets Better.”
The sad reality is it might actually get worse first. Sorry. Then it doesn’t really even get better, it just gets different for a long, long while. Then maybe it does get better, but in such small increments you barely even notice. Even then, I can’t say that it’s even the situation that gets better, but rather you just get better at dealing with things. Either way, it’s a painfully misleading statement.
The veteran moms who spout these statements are all trying to help, but they are most likely just sharing the same nonsense that someone told them when they were a new mom. And at some point between not sleeping when their baby slept and selling their unused infant swing at the neighborhood garage sale, they forgot just how unhelpful these statements can be. So the next time you find yourself cornered at the supermarket being told that every pukey, poopy, 3-am-screaming fit, getting-bitten-while-breastfeeding moment is amazing, just smile and nod, then slowly back away.
That is my best (unsolicited) advice for you.