MomsThere are plenty of things that we as parents should spend our time worrying about…and plenty of things we shouldn’t, but do anyway.  As our second baby is rapidly approaching his first birthday, it only becomes more clear to me the stuff that falls into that “shouldn’t” category.  Like…

1) Entertaining the Baby.

When my oldest was a baby I spent ages laying with him while he was on the floor doing his “tummy time.”  Not content to just let him be on the tummy time mat (because yes, at this time we had a full-on tummy time mat and not just a blanket on the floor…which is what baby brother used) and unaware of how fully I should be taking advantage of his lack of mobility at this point, I spent every minute of our time together ensuring he was being “properly stimulated.”  Music had to be on; toys had to be bright and textural; books had to be piled up nearby with bright, bold illustrations, despite the fact he couldn’t focus on a picture unless it was inches from his face, and so on and so on.  It was…exhausting.  While I’m not suggesting you ignore your baby, I will say this: your every day life is stimulating enough for a baby.  A trip to the grocery store alone provides plenty of new things to hear, see, touch and smell; chill out a little mama.  Play time will come!

Bottom Line: Relax and enjoy those early days together.  Don’t worry that you’re boring the baby or that he needs to bombarded with toys and books all day.  All he or she needs is some food, a place to sleep, and lots of cuddles.  Soak it up.  Keeping them happy won’t be that easy forever!

2) Taking the Baby Anywhere.

Going anywhere with my oldest as a baby freaked. me. out.  Even now I’m not sure what kept us homebound so much.  Maybe we were worried about all of the stuff we had to lug around with us.  Or maybe we were worried he’d have a huge public meltdown.  Even the logistics freaked us out: do we carry him?  Wear him?  Can I bring the stroller?  Do I attempt the wobbly-car-seat-in-the-shopping-cart-that’s-so-awkward-and-big-I-can’t-see-what-I’m-doing maneuver??  Whatever the reason, going anywhere with him was hugely daunting and we avoided it at all costs for a looong time.  Even going somewhere solo seemed like an impossible task – get a shower?  Get dressed? Arrive somewhere on time?!  Gah!

Bottom Line: Just pack up and DO IT.  It gets easier and more natural the more you do it.  And that rule applies no matter how many kids you have.  Going anywhere with two seemed like such a daunting task in the beginning – but now?  We don’t miss a beat.  You just gotta DO IT.

3) Leaving the Baby Unsupervised for a Few Minutes.

I remember it very clearly: my son was sleeping peacefully in the swing and I really wanted to take a shower.  But I was terrified…because I was convinced the moment I left the room and turned the water on in our bathroom (a few feet away) something horrible would happen, like his swing would suddenly malfunction and he’d be flung from the seat across the room.  Or someone would walk up to our house, see him through the window and steal him.  (Hey, sleep deprivation makes you a little crazy).  Needless to say, I had a hard time leaving him alone for a long time.

Bottom Line: If your kid is safely strapped in somewhere, or in their crib (that they can’t escape), it’s OK to leave them for a few minutes to take care of something else (like a shower!)

4) Nursing in Public.

I nursed my oldest for 12.5 months.  Never, not once, did I do it in public.  I’m not sure what the problem was – maybe I was too nervous that I would flash a mob of strangers.  But truthfully I think a big part of it was I didn’t want to make others around me uncomfortable, which sounds so silly now.

Bottom Line: I understand being a little nervous about doing it, especially if you’re new to nursing, as it can involve some acrobatics to get the baby to latch.  But seriously.  Go to any park/playground/place with kids and there’s always a mom or two nursing.  Get yourself a cute wrap and join in – don’t plan your day (and your life) around being at home when that baby needs to eat.

5) Letting the Baby Cry.

Ugh.  It’s so, so hard to sit and let your baby cry.  Understandably.  Newborn cries are designed to penetrate your brain and rouse you from sleep – how would the human race have survived otherwise?  It’s a horrible sound and it’s our instinct to drop everything, stop everything, to go and tend to the baby.

Bottom Line: There comes a point where you have to accept that babies cry.  They just DO.  They can’t communicate otherwise!  If you need a few minutes to catch your breath, it’s OK to let them go for a bit.

6) What my Pediatrician Thinks of Me

I loved my son’s pediatrician from the start.  She was fun, friendly, sweet and informative.  She adored our boy and we were happy with her…until our son was about nine months old, and he woke up with blood in his diaper.  I learned pretty quickly that our pediatrician – nice as she was – didn’t have the best practice.  It took hours to get in and have her see our boy, which bothered me – but what really got me was overhearing the nurses complaining about how disgusting it was having to collect samples from my son’s diaper for testing.  Seriously?  I was livid and changed practices the next day.  Now we have a pediatrician and a practice we truly adore.

Bottom Line: YOU are your child’s advocate.  Don’t worry about being “that” parent.  Ask questions.  Demand answers.  If your gut says something is wrong and it’s being ignored, keep pushing until you’re satisfied.  No one else is looking out for your kid like you are, believe me.

7) What my Toddler Eats

Toddlers are picky eaters.  Everyone knows that.  Everything you read says that.  Yet for some reason we’re all convinced that every other two year old eats better/more/healthier than our own.  I’m here to tell you: they most likely don’t.  These days if my son says he wants peas for dinner – and only peas – guess what he gets to eat?  As long as he’s not curled up crying about how hungry he is, I’m assuming he’s managing his appetite fine.

Bottom Line: They won’t starve themselves.  Just let it go.  In a few years they’ll eat like real kids and when you’re ordering them their own individual pizzas you’ll miss the days when a can of black beans was all it took to fill them up for dinner.

8) What Age my Kid Does Anything.

As much as we try and support each other as parents, we’re also pretty freaking competitive.  We seem to think our kids need to do everything early, and that somehow if our kid does do something earlier than the average kid, it reflects well on us – like an early walker somehow means exceptional parenting skills.  The most obvious thing I’ve learned with having two kids is that there really isn’t a whole lot about them we get to control.  Most kids will walk, talk, crawl and read on their OWN timeline, regardless of what you do for them.  Crawling on all fours in front of your baby won’t make him crawl, just as watching sports on TV doesn’t make you an Olympian.  What kids need to learn boils down to two things: opportunity and time.  The rest is really up to them.

Bottom Line: Just relax and let your kid grow at their own pace, and remember that “averages” are just that: averages.  Some kids walk before their first birthday, others walk later – hence an “average” age of 12 months when kids start walking.  Some kids will be talking up a storm by the time they’re two, others will be a bit slower.  It’s OK.  Much like the growth percentiles we obsess over when they’re babies, it doesn’t mean a thing – they all even out eventually.

9) TV/Movies.

Ah yes.  The dreaded “TV.”  Everything you read tells you to avoid exposing your child to it at all costs, lest they turn into some sort of lazy, couch potato over/understimulated blob.  I remember thinking my son was to avoid TV at all costs; and now he’s a fan of Sesame Street, requests the Berenstain Bears daily, and adores Pixar movies.  Yeah, nice try Mom.  I’m not saying let your kids watch hours of unsupervised TV.  But it can definitely come in handy when you need them to sit still for a few minutes to take care of something (like dinner.  Or that shower).  And sometimes I just want to cuddle and eat popcorn in the middle of the day.  There, I said it.

Bottom Line: TV – in moderation – can be helpful.  Just don’t let it become a baby-sitter or a substitute for being a real parent.

10) Rushing Things.

I remember last summer very clearly.  My oldest was 18 months old and walking (even running) and to me that meant the playground was the best place to go with him.  Ugh.  Mistake.  Despite being able to walk and climb he tripped a lot, and didn’t listen super well.  On more than one occasion I would have to climb onto the playground with him and rescue him from wherever he had gotten stuck.  More than once I nearly had a heart attack as he would wobble too closely to a space where he could fall, or wouldn’t sit down on the slide.  This summer, with a 2 1/2 year old, everything feels better.  He can handle the playground equipment with little to no help from Mom.  He ENJOYS zooming down the slides and swinging like super man on the swings.  And I can’t help but think, why the heck was I making it so hard on myself last summer?  We rush things along, despite all of the warnings that time will fly quickly enough on its own.  We’re convinced our kids are older than they are – a fact made only more clear when a new baby is brought into the fold and the bigger sibling suddenly seems SO big and SO mature.  The truth is, next year we’ll think our 3 year olds are so big and 2 year olds are babies.  Let’s stop rushing them to be older than they are, and enjoy these “baby” days for as long as we can.

Bottom Line: It. goes. fast.  You won’t believe me, especially if you just had your first and every night and day feels a million years long.  But it does.  It’s a short trip from baby to kindergartener – lighten up and enjoy it.  Don’t worry about “doing everything right” because you won’t. 🙂 Just have fun and be there for your kids – in the end, that’s all that really matters.