Saturday, May 26, 2012

Seven Mom Myths, Debunked

When you’re a new mom, everyone and their mom wants to give you advice. Do this, don’t do that. Don’t do this, do that. You’ll get so much conflicting advice that it’ll make your head spin. So I put together a list of the top seven “mom myths” that I heard as a new mom, along with an explanation of why I think they’re wrong. (Yes, I recognize the irony of giving advice on not taking advice. But I’m doing it anyway.)

1.      Germs are evil.

Yes, some germs are evil. But a moderate dose of germs are actually good for you. I certainly wouldn’t advise bringing your two-week old baby to visit your nephew with chicken pox or your aunt with the bad cold, but don’t be afraid of a little dirt. Research shows that exposure to a few germs while a baby’s immune system is developing makes it stronger. Think about this: The parents of a first baby sterilize the binky every time the baby drops it. The parents of a second baby give it a quick rinse before giving it back. The parents of a third baby wipe it on their pants. And the parents of a fourth baby hand it right back, dirt and all. There is no particular difference in how many sicknesses those four children get.

2.      You are a bad parent if you don’t nurse/co-sleep/teach your child sign language/practice attachment parenting/let your baby cry it out.

There are probably as many theories of how to raise a baby as there are babies themselves. (Probably more, judging by how many people who don’t have babies have an opinion on the subject.) There’s nothing innately wrong with the vast majority of them. So if you find one that works for you and your baby, use it. But don’t let anyone bully or shame you into using one that doesn’t feel right for you. A lot of love and a little bit of common sense go a long way in taking good care of your baby. Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to experiment.

3.      Your child needs the newest, most technologically advanced (and expensive) toys in order to be properly stimulated.

Hogwash. An electronic drum that makes different noises and talks is an exciting toy for a little one. So is an empty oatmeal box and a plastic mixing spoon. For that matter, so is a rock and a stick. Children will play with just about anything, and will use their imaginations to create whole worlds with whatever happens to be on hand. Go ahead and buy a few fancy electronic gadgets, but don’t forget the great toys you already have on hand: Tupperware, empty yogurt containers, toilet paper tubes, cardboard boxes, blankets, old hats, rocks. With those bits of “junk,” your kids can create a pirate ship, a rocket, a racetrack, a fort, a marching band. There will be stimulation aplenty!

4.      Sleep when the baby sleeps.

There are definitely times when this rule is true. With your first child, you will feel a depth of exhaustion that you have never felt before. You may go for several months without sleeping for more than 3 hours at a stretch. You will crave sleep like a junkie craves heroin. So most of the time, getting sleep whenever you can is a necessity.

But every once in a while, when your baby is sleeping, stay awake and just watch her. There is nothing in the world so peaceful as a soundly sleeping baby (especially if there was a long battle to reach that stage). Marvel at the tininess of her finger- and toenails. Be in awe of her perfect skin. Touch the unbelievable softness of her downy hair. Admire her long, thick eyelashes. Try to decide whether she’ll have your smile, or her nose will look like your dad’s, or her hair will get curly like your husband’s, or if she’ll have your sister’s freckles or your brother-in-law’s dimple or your grandfather’s crooked pinkie finger.

You can always make up the sleep later, but your baby will only be a baby for so long. Soak it in.

5.      You can do it all yourself.

You’ve heard the expression, “It takes a village to raise a child”? Once you have a child, you realize that the village is not just for the child’s benefit – it’s also for the parents’. Raising a child seems like the most natural thing in the world, and it is. But it is also exhausting, frustrating, and never-ending. Sometimes you just need a break. So when your mother-in-law offers to come watch the baby so you can take a nap (or go grocery shopping, or get a haircut, or read a book, or take a shower), let her! And if she doesn’t offer, but you need a break, ask her. Or ask your mom, or your best friend, or your next-door neighbor. It’s not a sign of weakness to need help. And it’s definitely a sign of wisdom to ask for it and to accept it when you do need it.

6.      Poop, snot, and vomit aren’t gross when they’re your baby’s.

Wrong! Poop, snot, and vomit are always gross. They’re gross when they’re someone else’s, they’re gross when they’re your own, and they’re gross when they’re your baby’s. But they’re gross for the baby, too. So you clean them up because you love your cherub more than you hate bodily excretions. Yes, it’s gross, but you deal with it and you move on. It’s good training, because a lot of parenting is like that: distasteful, but transitory.

7.      They grow up so fast.

This one is actually not a myth, although there will be times when you are convinced that it is. Some days seem like they will never end. Some phases seem like they will never end. You wonder when you’ll ever stop buying diapers and formula. You wonder if your house will smell like Desitin forever. You wonder if a weekend trip will ever require less than an entire carful of baby equipment. You wonder if you will ever again get to pee without an audience. But then suddenly your baby is a year old – or 10 years old – or 18 years old – and you wonder when that happened. I think it’s best summed up by the saying, “The days last forever, but the years fly by.”
So when you’re in the throes of a “Will this ever end?” stage, convinced that your children will never grow up, remind yourself that no stage lasts forever and that this is one saying that is not a myth. And if you have a hard time convincing yourself, just ask your mom. She still can’t believe you’re grown up enough to have a baby of your own.

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