Breastfeed your baby to sleep so they are comforted. Don’t breastfeed to sleep or else they will be dependent. Breastfeed for the minimum of a year. Formula is just as good as breastfeeding. Hold them as much as possible as infants. Don’t hold them too much or else they won’t want to be put down. Help your child so they feel supported, but not too much or else they won’t learned independence. No screen time is good for kids. Unless its Facetime or teaching shows. Stimulate your baby with new experiences. Too much stimulation may make your baby cry more. Let your toddler eat whatever they will eat so they get enough calories. Don’t feed your toddler whatever they want or else they will be picky eaters. Expose your child to many new experiences. Don’t overwhelm your child with too many people and places. Your baby doesn’t need to go to the doctor for every little sniffle. A little sniffle can turn into a double ear infection, or need nebulizer treatment, both of which you won’t know they have because you aren’t a doctor.
Instructions, books, suggestions, advice, guidelines, rules…the list goes on and on. How is a new mom ever supposed to wade through all of the bombarding differences in opinions? For every question I asked, I got three very different answers. Sometimes I Googled, sometimes I asked the doctor, sometimes I asked mom friends, and sometimes strangers or people without kids would give me unsolicited advice. Sometimes ideas worked, and sometimes it made the situation worse.
So seriously, what is a mama supposed to do?
Here’s what I learned in 19 months of being a mother. It doesn’t matter. Okay [for the most part] it doesn’t matter. Of course there are the safety rules you should follow—car seats, rear facing, no bumpers, back is best—but then the rest? Really. Doesn’t. Matter.
It’s not that motherhood doesn’t matter. No, not at all. It has been the most soul-completing, love-gushing, ooey-gooey (sometimes from poopy) experience of my life. I found a new and improved version of me in motherhood, and it has given me a different purpose in my life.
When I say that “It doesn’t matter” I mean that your kid will turn out all right. A-okay. Just dandy.
When my baby was small, I was obsessed with clean floors and not letting him eat a single thing that touched the ground. What happens now as a toddler? He dumps his crackers on the floor and eats it faster than I can get to him. He also likes to try dirt if I’m not fast enough. You want to know the difference between my breastfed baby and his formula fed friend? Zip. They both play with the same toys and are walking and starting to talk, and do dumb and weird toddler stuff like lick windows. Some babies cry it out, some don’t. Some sleep. Some don’t. Some are advanced in walking or potty training, and other aren’t.
What matters is that you try your very best to do right by your baby, while also preserving your sanity. You are no good to anyone if you are on the verge of a meltdown. Your child needs you at your very best, so do your best for yourself and for them, and you will do just fine. Give them love. Give them kisses. Involve them in your day to day tasks. Ask what they think, then nod and agree vehemently even though you have no clue what they just said. Shower them with affection, then let them play on their own a little while you check Instagram.
Here’s the real truth. None of us have any idea what we are doing. It’s like trying to fold a damn fitted sheet over and over every day, but it never turns out straight, but it’s good enough because it’s the best we can do. Parenting is a lot like that. We do our best, and kids turn out just fine. So yeah, my kid might only want to eat blueberries for dinner sometimes. He might throw a tantrum when I won’t let him play with the toilet. But at the end of the day when we look at each other with pure obsessive adoration, I wouldn’t have him be any other way.