When I was pregnant with my oldest, I distinctly remember that moment. You know, the fated moment that you realize that you have no clue what you’ve gotten yourself into. It’s the moment where everything hits you, like a wave of uncertainty crashing over you, engulfing you with its mighty force and causing you to question absolutely everything you thought you knew about motherhood.
The fact that you thought you knew anything to begin with is quite laughable now, but then? Well you had nieces and nephews, all that experience babysitting in high school and nannying in college, and your best friend just had a baby. So you were basically a mom already, just to other peoples’ kids. Same difference, right? (Insert maniacal laughter here)
That terrifying epiphany came for me when, within not even five minutes, I was given two entirely contradictory pieces of advice. One mom advised me to feed my little guy on demand, whipping it out at his every whimper, ensuring me that this would strengthen both our bond and my milk production. Another implored of me to get him on a schedule after those first few weeks, sharing that trips to the grocery store and library time would be quite difficult if he were wanting to nurse willy-nilly.
So there it was – my overwhelming, all-consuming, how-am-I-going-to-raise-this-child moment. Those two completely opposing pieces of advice essentially assured me that whichever route I were to choose, I was going to ruin my baby. It was inevitable. Either I’d never be able to step foot in the grocery store without him demanding a feeding session right then and there, or he’d hate me and I’d have crummy production. Perfect.
But here’s the thing: once he was born, once I was holding that helpless, innocent, totally-relying-on-me (Me, really? Are you sure? Is this safe?) little guy, I figured it out. I wasn’t flailing about, wholly uncertain of what to do about feeding schedules simply because two different women had thrust upon me their two vastly different opinions. In becoming a mom, in recognizing my duty to tend to the physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs of this little person, I was able to distinguish the route that would be best for my child and family, and that was that.
So, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, a pill that may be rather difficult to swallow: the advice you give other moms, those nuggets of wisdom you’re clenching onto with white knuckles after years of arduous labor in this thing called motherhood – it just might suck. And not because it’s innately terrible advice; in fact, it could very well be perfectly lovely and encouraging and practical.
When it comes down to it, though, your friend isn’t you. Your friend’s baby isn’t yours. Your friend’s spouse isn’t yours. Your friend’s lifestyle isn’t yours. Your friend’s personality isn’t yours. Your friend’s worldview isn’t yours. Your friend’s baggage from her childhood that she unintentionally packed and brought along for her journey through motherhood isn’t yours. Every mama, every child, every family is so insanely unique that the likelihood that that precious nugget you’ve been holding onto will be a perfect fit for every mother that you encounter for the rest of your days is simply not realistic.
I’m sorry to break it to you, but that nugget might’ve been exactly the nugget that you needed in motherhood – and that might be right where it ends. And that’s okay.
I’ve come to realize that most of my nuggets regarding behavior and feedings and sleep habits and routines will be a nugget to maybe one of my friends, if I’m lucky. To everyone else, though, they’re likely an eye roll, a laughable suggestion that they attempt once only to immediately lock away in a deep, dark closet, never again seeing the light of day. But that’s quite alright with me.
So the next time you see or read or hear a piece of advice that doesn’t quite sit right with your soul, that leaves your mommy instincts waving an enormous, red flag, or just plain doesn’t suit your child’s needs, ignore it. You don’t have to huff and puff about it. You don’t have to leave a nasty comment on Facebook letting that mama know that you think she’s an absolute lunatic. (Do I need to repeat that one? Because I see it all too often, and it breaks my mama heart.) No need to wage war or make a big fuss; just keep on keepin’ on, mama.
And know that your friends may be doing exactly the same thing to you when you share with them that prized nugget, but that’s the beauty of this journey; we’re all taking such insanely diverse paths on this sacred mission of raising these incredible little humans to be incredible big humans. Let’s celebrate that, and let’s be secure enough in our own decisions to allow other mamas to determine what’s best for their own children, shall we?
So my advice to you, sweet friend, is to be wary of advice. You’ll be bombarded with it on this journey, so trust your gut, that tug on your heart, and go from there. Allow the Spirit to lead you, use your discernment, seek that which is good, and mama on.