Off the Mat: 20 Welcomed Bits of Advice for New Parents

Solicited Advice

I recently exchanged emails with a friend from yoga teacher training. Ten years younger than I am, she now lives on the opposite coast. Facebook keeps me up on her world travels, recent wedding, yoga for refugees and cancer survivors. But a personal email these days feels as rare as a handwritten letter.

“How’s your private work going? And raising a kid in Western MA? My god, how old is he now? Six?! Are you making a manual on all the great things you’re doing to bring up a kid in today’s crazy world? I’ll memorize them by heart when we jump down the family path :) lots of love”

I started a wry response, naming the importance of deep breaths and good wine. But then recognized, knowing her, she was serious. In a world of unsolicited advice, she was asking.

And I realized I have ideas to share! 

I can’t claim to be the source of the following list, (except perhaps for #15). This advice helped me survive the blurry days of parenting a newborn and the transition to motherhood.

From a mother of nine children:

  1. Before fetching the screeching baby at 2 a.m., pee first. You don’t know how long you’ll be there.
  2. Remember, he will only be this size once.

From experience:

3. Young adult fiction makes great reading during pregnancy. Talented writers produce compelling stories, yet not challenging for your sleep deprived, hormone addled brain.
4. Take off more than 3 months if you can afford to. At 3 months, you’re just starting to get some sleep. Your baby’s just beginning to be fun.
5. Expect to be irrational. Love is irrational. So is Pi.

Random pieces of advice for dealing with the irrational:

6. Don’t worry about your desire to throw him out the window. We’ve all felt it, too, e-mailed another mom shortly after his birth. Her words helped within the first few nights at home, staring out the window as he nursed.
7. You are only as happy as your unhappiest child, a man in a restaurant bathroom told my hubby. His words factored heavily into our decision to have one child. He’s happy. We quit while we were ahead.
8. The difference between people who hit their kids and those who don’t is knowing when to leave the room, a colleague’s husband shared at a holiday party. My pregnant self found his statement distasteful. Until I understood first hand.

From the fab pediatricians in my life:

9. Weeks 6 – 12 are hard. He’s more alert and harder to soothe. This is true for most babies. You’re not doing anything wrong.
10. Pick your battles wisely and win the ones you pick.
11. Don’t pick battles over what goes in or what comes out. They control those muscles. You will lose.
12. Learn about temperament – yours and your child’s.

These, I attribute to my grandmother, though she died long before my son was born:

13. Let them help while they’re young and want to. They’ll be more likely to help when they’re older and don’t want to.
14. Don’t do for them what they can do for themselves. Yes, it takes longer in the short run, but parenting isn’t a short run.

Learned through yoga practice, and strangers at the grocery store:

15. When the baby points to something, don’t hand it over. Instead, name it. This works double duty teaching language and downplaying acquisition. Please becomes the asking word.
16. Create a secure, safe perimeter within which your child can explore life on his own.
17. Practice self-care. Self-care is key to parenting with ease. Modeling it for your kids will help them become happier, healthier people.
18. Let people help.

Credit for these last two goes to the midwife who ran my newborn moms group:

19. If none of the soothing techniques works, try putting him down and leaving him alone.
20. The best advice is the advice that works for you.

[Photo credit: (c) E Goffredo]


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ginny Hamilton

Ginny is a pain specialist, yoga instructor, and Reiki practitioner, offering classes and support to busy moms carrying the pain of too much stress and too little exercise, rest, and self-care time. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice. www.ginnyhamilton.com

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