What the Parenting Books Don’t Tell You

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I read a handful of “parenting books” before L&H were born and I have to say, now that I’m elbow deep into life as a mom, I feel like there’s no book that can TRULY prepare you.  Yes, I read books about breastfeeding that gave me an idea of what to expect, I skimmed a book about infant milestones which was helpful in knowing when the twins might reach certain stages, and I often thumb through Raising Twins by Shelly Vaziri Flais which helps me prepare for and handle a lot of what twin motherhood throws my way.

But I feel like there’s still so much that the parenting books won’t tell you.  There’s tons you’ll learn on your own, and there’s even more knowledge that you’ll glean from picking the brains of other parents….which is exactly how this post came to fruition.

It started as a joke conversation between two dear friends of mine – also moms – about what parenting was REALLY like.  And it got me thinking.  I reached out to more friends who are parents and asked them the best piece of advice they’d give to a parent they wouldn’t get from a parenting book.  The advice was great and some had me laughing! I couldn’t help but share.

So, forget the “sleep when the baby sleeps” advice. Here are ten tips from real parents that are great to keep in mind no matter if you’re a soon-to-be first time parent or a seasoned veteran.

  1. Just know that it doesn’t get easier.  It just get’s different.  I’ve written about this before.  I apologized then and I will again now – parenting doesn’t get easier.  It just gets different.  You get through the newborn stage and breathe a sigh of relief, only to have your infant start crawling and getting into trouble.  You baby proof your whole house and then your biggest obstacle isn’t what cord your child is going to pull, but rather their picky appetite and toddler attitude.  And this is all before they start school….then learn to drive….then get a girlfriend/boyfriend…..and have to apply to college.  OY!  But don’t let this advice keep you from celebrating the easy stuff and breathing a sigh of relief when you can.  Different doesn’t mean difficult….it just means different.

  2. Embrace daytime socializing…and day drinking.   There’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning with a hangover while you stare down the barrel of a FULL day of parenting.  To ensure this does not happen to you, I advise that you stick to drinking during the daytime hours.  Get a sitter for a Day Date on a Saturday afternoon! Recruit a family member to watch the little so you can go out for Sunday Brunch with your girlfriends.  Have a few mimosas, catch a small snooze back at home while the baby naps…..and you’ll be good to go.
  3. There are things you cannot prepare for – no matter what.  Like, cutting your child’s fingernails. Hands down, the most terrifying thing about parenting: is cutting your child’s fingernails.  I dread cutting L&H’s fingernails because it is THE WORST.  It always has been.  From newborn to infant to toddler….it’s a white knuckle task.  Like, OH OKAY let me just come at my wiggling child with a sharp object all the while wondering,  will this be the time I cut their finger? Am I cutting the nail too short? Did I square it off enough? What if she gets an ingrown nail?  And don’t get me started on the difficulty of cutting toenails which are located on ticklish feet.  There are many milestones I’m looking forward to as L&H grow up….and towards the top of that list? The day they can cut their own nails.
  4. Accept that you will do at least half of the things you said you’d never do. I’ll never let my kids be the boss of me.’, ‘ I’m not going to be an iPad parent.’, ‘My child won’t touch a plastic toy – only organic bamboo in this house.’.  I am willing to bet every parent has said something like this before having children.  And I’m also here to tell you, you’ll do at least half the things you said you’d never do.  And it’s OKAY! There’s no way you could have ever guessed what life with kids would be like before you had kids.  So don’t feel guilty over doing things you said you’d never do.  ‘Present You’ knows A LOT MORE than ‘Past You’ did.  Embrace ‘Present You’ and keep on keepin’ on.
  5. Know that you’ll likely lose friends. Or at least just lose touch with friends. But don’t despair, you’ll gain friends – mom friends. Just like making the jump from high school to college, or moving to a new city – you will lose touch with friends after having a baby.  Changes in life stages can make it difficult to keep in touch with everyone in your social circle.  But what’s awesome is that you’ll gain friends….mom friends (or dad friends).  And those people will become your rock.  They’ll be the ones you text at 3am during a late night feeding or you’ll ask to look at your kids’ rash at the playground.
  6. Embrace the urge (even a small one) to save every art project.   I swore up and down I wouldn’t become that mom that treasured every piece of paper my kids put a crayon to….but I suddenly found myself with a huge stack of art projects and an even higher pile of emotions.  I’ve also even considered framing a few of them.  (WHO AM I!?!).  Give yourself grace, these things ARE important.  I’ve resolved to sort through the pile at the end of the month and weed out the less impressive pieces (sorry, L&H…I’m not saving every Do A Dot picture).  But anything with a handprint or their picture?? That’s a KEEPER!
  7. Invest in cloud storage.  The other day I scrolled through my phone all the way back to the twins’ infant days – and it’s a miracle I didn’t injure my hand because there were a LOT of photos to get through.  The beauty of smart phones is that we can capture every single moment — but that’s also the downfall of smart phones because then we have to store every single moment.  SO I urge you to invest in cloud storage because you will take 2848294838 pictures of your baby. Per day. So you better spring for the 64GB (?) iPhone – and if that becomes full (like mine) I recommend Google Photos.
  8. Register for things BEYOND infant stage. Like baby gates. And toddler proofing tools.  Swaddle blankets, tiny little outfits, bibs, burb cloths, baby monitor….these are the things you’re going to put on your baby registry. And it makes perfect sense since you’re having a BABY.  But don’t forget, as much as you try to stop it from happening, that baby will turn into a toddler – so you should strongly consider registering for things beyond the infant/baby stage.  You might not get instant gratification out of the baby gate Aunt Betsy buys you off the list, but believe me, you’ll be thrilled to have it on hand when your little starts crawling!
  9. Don’t let guilt overwhelm you. As a parent, you will feel guilt over things you didn’t think were possible. For example, one morning when the twins were about 7 months old I woke up feeling like a new person after getting an amazing 6 hour stretch of sleep.  I celebrated for a second, but quickly my feelings turned sour and suddenly I felt guilty for sleeping that long.  What if the twins had needed me while I was out cold, drooling on my pillow? What if they cried and I hadn’t woken up? Did they rest as well as I had? Seriously. I felt guilty for sleeping.  The truth is, as a parent you’ll feel guilt for many reasons – but the root cause is it’s because you care.  In many ways you can’t stop it from coming – but it’s important that you not let it overwhelm you.  Find a way – maybe it’s a mantra (you can read about some of the mantras I use) or eliminating triggers – to keep the guilt from taking over.
  10. Don’t fear failing. You will fail, or at least feel like you did, all the time.  But failing is okay! And really it’s inevitable.  There is so much about parenting that’s new – no matter if it’s your first or fourth child.  You will make mistakes, you will screw things up, you will call your child the dog’s name, you will lose your cool and yell, you will forget to pack snacks and have to listen to your kids cry in the car.  Simply put, you will fail at some point in your career as a parent.  Don’t fear it – forgive yourself, learn from it (if you can), and move on.

Have some advice you’d like to share? Comment below! And be sure to  pass this along to anyone who would find it helpful!

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