What I Wish I’d Known When I Was a Young Mama

Ah, how exciting. All these years of writing and blogging and today I get to write the post that’s been on my mind since 2002…

Because, when I was a young mama, this is the kind of stuff I needed…another mom, a bit further down the mothering road than I was, but not so far that she’d forgotten what foods a one-year-old will choke on and, related, how to do the baby Heimlich.

While normally I like to give principles and not prescriptions, today I’m going to be taking a break from that philosophy and laying it on thick. So, here it goes, nineteen years of mothering condensed down into one (relatively) short list, starting with pregnancy and moving all the way to letting children leave the nest:

1. There is never a perfect time to get pregnant and you will never have enough money to start your family. Do it anyway.

2. Don’t tell everyone what you plan to name the baby. They will pipe in with why they hate it and spoil it for you. Emily, for example, was previously named Jessamyn Rayanna, but I made the mistake of telling people. If you wait until the baby is born, however, to announce the name, your family will declare it the finest one since Mary named Jesus.

3. Enjoy that moving belly every moment you can. You will miss it the most out of all your pregnancy memories.

4. Take the drugs.

5. Let the nursery take the baby for a few hours. You’ll need the head start.

6. Accept help. Especially if it comes in the form of hot lasagnas delivered to the door by your Ya-Yas.

7. Don’t create a Pinterested life. Happiness with your baby does not come from some vision someone else puts in your head of how it should look, but in accepting your unique experience and reveling in la difference, not in la perfect ideal that doesn’t exist. Rinse and repeat for every issue you will ever encounter with your child.

8. Sleep when the baby sleeps.

9. Reading stimulating literature is a salvation for a mama with three under three. Adjust to your temperament: Painting may be your thing instead, but do something.

10. Teach the baby to sleep on his own. 

11. Read Mother Teresa on mothering (The Greatest Love).

12. Studies consistently show that firm rules with lots of love makes the healthiest, happiest kids. Tuck that one away.

13. Memorize this mantra I learned from my college orchestra conductor: Keep your wits about you. 

14. When you feel the slightest stress building, sit down and breathe slowly for one full minute. Don’t wait for the full coronary.

15. Tend and water your body, mind, and soul, daily.

16. Pray for EVERY situation…not just when you’re at your wit’s end.

17. When your child is most unlovely and the most unlovable, love him the most.

18. There is no one method, philosophy, or formula…so quit looking for it and enjoy the scenery on your own journey.

19. Don’t stop hugging and kissing them just because they get facial hair. If you never stop, it never gets awkward.

20. Worry more about living life than documenting it.

21. Worry less about being perfect and more about being kind.

22. Bend to the moment.

23. Work yourself out of a job by teaching your child from birth to be competent and capable.

24. Model every trait you want your children to have and gently forgive yourself when what you model isn’t what you want them to be.

25. Be a safe confessional.

26. Talk at them less and with them more.

27. “Work while you work, play while you play. One thing, each time, that is the way. All that you do, do with your might, things done by halves are not done right.” In other words, double-tasking is a soul sucker. Do one thing at a time as often as you can.

28. “What you can’t get out of, get into wholeheartedly”—Mignon McLaughlin

29. Say ‘yes’ more often, if you are on the strict end of the spectrum.

30. Say ‘no’ more often, if you are on the soft end of the spectrum.

31. Don’t overcontrol your teenagers. Now should be the time to loosen the reigns, not tighten them like you did when they were two.

32. This, too, shall pass.

33. Exercise, even a little, every day.

34. Never, ever compare your life/child/home with another mom.

35. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect to live and enjoy right now. Even if that right now means you have three in diapers, are expecting twins, and just bought a puppy.

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Well, that’s it for now, though I’ve left out a few for a future post. What would you add to this list, older mamas?

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We’re giving away a copy of Amy Henry’s new book, Humpty Dumpty Just Needed a Nap: What Children’s Stories Teach Us About Life, Love, and Mothering. Please leave a comment below for your chance to win!

On November 2 at noon (EST), we’ll pick a name in a random drawing from all eligible entries received and send you an email notification if you are the winner!

Limit one (1) entry per person; NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. Open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and Washington D.C. who are 18 or older as of date of entry.

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