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When you’re expecting a baby, you receive tons of advice – most of it unsolicited. I remember standing in the grocery store as three different women lectured me about diapers, feeding schedules, and toys. I did my best to not roll my eyes since this was MY baby and I was going to be the best mom ever and I didn’t need no stinking advice. And then after Maddie came home, I became a googling machine, looking for any and all advice I could get my hands on, because who thought it was OK to let me have a baby omg I don’t know anyyyyyyyyyything!
All the parenting tips I read started with a paragraph about how different my life was going to be once I had a baby. DUH! But then, while reading the comments on one particularly scary post, I came across what I now consider my Golden New Baby Rule:
Instead of adapting your life to the new baby, adapt the new baby into your life.
That was a sage commenter, my friends. It sounds easy…and it IS easy. For example: I am a night owl. If I go to bed at midnight, that’s an early night for me. But, going to bed at 2 am means sometimes I need to sleep past 7 am. So, I put Annie to bed later. Instead of her going down for the night between 7-8pm like most kids her age, I put her down at 9pm. She then sleeps until 8 or 9 am the next morning. She’s still getting the proper amount of sleep, but it works to MY schedule. Because seriously, I am super-cranky when I don’t get enough sleep.
Here are a few other ways I’ve worked my kid into my life:
- Annie loves nothing more than hours of Elmo and Yo Gabba Gabba, so I return the favor and make her watch my VHS set of Beverly Hills 90210. I’ve come to appreciate Gabba and Elmo, and Annie has learned to fist pump when she hears the “The Donna Martin Graduates” chant.
- I need music in my house at all times. Instead of listening to silly kid songs, I play my own music mixes. Annie LOVES IT. Not only has she started singing along to the Beatles and Britney, I don’t have “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” playing on a constant loop IN MY BRAIN. Bonus: Your kid dances whenever she hears a funky fresh beat – even in the grocery store.
- You CAN eat out again! Within reason of course – don’t be those jerks who bring their crying baby to a nice restaurant. But every town has their local Mexican/Dive/American restaurant that serves reliably yummy food and is low on the fancy factor. We have a few Mexican restaurants on heavy rotation. Annie loves the mariachis, cheese quesadillas, and yummy margaritas. Wait. Scratch the margaritas. Those are for me. But the mariachis and quesadillas definitely equal a good time for Annie – AND my tummy.
What’s some of the fun advice you’ve received about parenting?
Great advice! I agree 100% about the music. We play what we like, and by playing a variety of good tunes, she now has excellent taste herself.
However some babies just don’t adapt as easily to your schedule. My daughter is an early bird and there is nothing we can do to change it. She wakes up at 6 (sometimes 5:30 sometimes 6:30) regardless of when she goes to bed. So we have adapted to her schedule. I think it’s always give and take. Though I would definitely love if she suddenly decided to sleep until 7.
My kids are both very early risers too. We go to my moms on July 4 to do fireworks and such. We normally get up early, drive 2 hours to my parent’s, help her with food (about 50 people show up to my parent’s cookout), then eat, play water squirters, silly string, etc. . ., then fireworks…….we leave their house about 11pm and get home around 1am. My kids will STILL get up around 6:30am!!!
And no naps either! They won’t even nap in the car…what is wrong with my kids?
I also agree on the music. We do play some kid music, but only things that we liked anyway (lots of Disney soundtracks), and other than that they listen to what we want to listen to. Now when they ask to listen to music, we hear, “How about some Beatles, Mama?” or “Can we listen to that Jungle song?” (Guns N’ Roses) Makes me proud!
My kids are also the same way about sleep! I am rarely in bed before midnight or 1am, and I would LOVE to sleep until 8 or 9, but no matter how late my kids stay up at night, they are up by 5:30 or 6 at the latest. I tried for waaaay too long to try and get them to sleep later, but eventually it was better for everyone when we adapted to their schedule as far as sleep goes.
Kids aren’t born wanting “kid food”. If I don’t want him demanding fries, nuggets, and sugar, I can limit his exposure to those things. Why this didn’t occur to me sooner, I’m not sure, but when I was pregnant, I was terrified of getting a picky eater. My husband’s family is notoriously picky and it drives me insane. Neither of us are super healthy eaters, but we both like veggies, fruit, and whole grains. When I started taking my son to restaurants, I was always disappointed with the selection on the kid’s menu. It took a few trips before it occurred to me that I could just share my own meal, which was always more varied and colorful than the nugget/mac n cheese combo on his menu.
I wish the putting my kid to bed late so he would sleep in worked. Everyone told me I could do that to.
I am a night owl as well, but from the minute he was born, he is an early riser. I tried putting him to bed later and he still woke up early and I had the child from hell for a day or two until he got back on schedule. As soon as the sun is up (and a lot of times before) he is awake and will not go back to sleep.
You are lucky!!
I was told to never let a baby cry it out……bwahahahahaha, yeah sometimes they need to cry it out a little. Mommy needs a break from all the screaming so I ran outside with a Pepsi in one hand and a bag of Oreo’s in the other hand. All while the baby was crying in her crib. Break time!
Elissa Lerma says:
The best advice I got was “be consistent”. Another I came up with myself is “No empty threats”.
I’m not anywhere near being a parent, but I do hope to be one day. You and Mike make me feel better about still having your own lives once you are parents. It’s comforting to know that you can still be your own person and you don’t have to give up everything from before you had kids. I don’t have any advice to share but I just wanted to say thanks!
Helen Pittman says:
I’m a grandma of 12 children now and my advice is some I wish I had listened to when my 5 were little. “They grow up fast! Enjoy them now. Sometimes it’s hard to remember when you are in the middle of diapers that seem to never end, but they do. Love them and spoil them yourself—don’t leave it all to grandparents”
Of course you have to have your rules and schedules but don’t forget to pick them up for extra loves or occasionally rocking them to sleep. When you look at your life span, your time with your children is a very short time. Enjoy those years!
I second listening to your own music! I do not own a single kids CD and Jacob likes many of the songs I play for me. Including a remake of T.I’s Whatever You Like by Anya Marina….
I try to be consistent with my punishments and if I say no, I mean no. It’s hard and challenging though!
That truly doesn’t work for all kids, though. My son was pretty easy to adapt to our life as a baby. We ate out often, etc. He always did wake up early, though – if you want them to sleep in you really do usually need black out curtains or something.
My daughter, however – ooooooh, no. We tried to eat out and she would scream so we had to leave. She slept with me for the first several months or else she wouldn’t sleep at all, etc. Very tough. We definitely had to adapt to her.
“Instead of adapting your life to the new baby, adapt the new baby into your life.”
I wouldn’t do it. My mother was a night owl and that is what she did with me. It ruined my body’s clock. Everything is fine until the child starts school and doesn’t want to get up. The child turns into an adult who has to go to work, her body is still on the same clock, and she is always tired. I put my kids to bed at 7pm every night when they were little. Two of the kids are now grown and my baby is 17. They are never late. They never oversleep and they have a lot of energy. They don’t complain of tiredness. I had three good sleepers who also took four hour naps in the day when they were little. My advice would be not to adapt the baby to your life, because they will suffer for it when they are older.
Yikes Jean! You sound like you have some issues to work out!!
Heather, I like your advice!! Too many people forget who they are when they have babies. It’s good to keep some normalcy for yourself, it makes for better, more adjusted parents!!
I agree with Jean. My brother and sister in law did that with their baby- kept him up late and slept in late because they were night owls. He is now 6yrs old and in school and has the hardest time getting up for school. He is often late and is tired at school and has a really hard time adjusting to school everyday. His teachers have even called his parents in for a conference because of his tiredness at school. It doesn’t seem fair to him because he didn’t make the choice to be a night owl- it was made for him. Good sleep habits are just as important to teach your child as good nutrition.
The other stuff- eating out, music, tv shows, I fully agree with Heather. Kids need to learn that parents have interests and needs. It teaches them to have tolerance, patience and respect for others feelings.
Sounds more like your brothe and SIL have issues with punctuality – I don’t see how you cam blame that on a six year old. And Heather isn’t suggesting keeping kids up until all hours of the night – just an hour later than “the norm.” plus, it’s BABIES, not school-aged kids.
I put my now-elementary aged kids to bed at 8:30 or 9 when they were babies. As they got older and all of our schedules changed, our bed times changed accordingly. I make sure they’re never late and they get great grades and never have bad remarks from their teachers.
I do fully blame his parents. They are responsible for getting him to school on time. They struggle with it because he is a BEAR in the mornings because they have let him stay up late all these years and now struggle getting him to sleep at an appropriate time. (Even when they try, he doesn’t fall asleep until late) I agree with you that they could have prevented this by gradually changing his bedtime as he got older like you did with your kids. Unfortunately as he got older they knew that he should be going to bed earlier, but he would fight it and they enjoyed still having him on their schedule, so they wouldn’t force the issue. Some people might find it harder to change things like that than you did. Kudos to you!
Issues. LOL!!! I just laughed so hard, I went into a coughing fit. What issues? I never had a complaint about any of my kids sleeping habits. They took four hour naps and they slept 12 hours a night. When they started school, they were asleep at 7pm and up at 7am. I don’t agree with the advice that you should adapt the baby to your life. Sorry if disagreeing with Heather upsets you.
Biologically speaking you can’t “ruin” your body clock. It is easily (relatively speaking) adaptable and influenced by lots of things, most especially light. For example a person who flies to the other side of the world (i.e. from US to Australia) wont continue to sleep on a US schedule just because they spent 30 years on a US schedule. It might take a week or two but eventually the circadian system adapts to the new time zone.
Morningness-Eveningness on the other hand is highly heritable. Moreover, it’s possible that you have delayed sleep phase syndrome. Teenagers especially are susceptible to this. It means while you get a full nights sleep, it is shifted by several hours so that you are going to bed at 2 and waking at 10. The reason that it is a problem is that most people cant sleep in until 10 so they curtail their sleep in order to meet work and family demands.
Everyone has a great point and viewpoint. My poor mom would also have loved to have a first-born that slept. All of my life I’ve been a night-0wl and a very light sleeper and I do not like to sleep in late either. With effort and training I can dial myself back to go to sleep at 10PM for the 5AM work day, but no earlier. Given freedom to run with bedtime my body will happily stay up until 3am. Meanwhile my cousin and little sister were the babies that fell asleep between ‘good’ and ‘night’
Everyone has a great point and viewpoint. My poor mom would also have loved to have a (first-born) that slept. All of my life I’ve been a night-0wl and a very light sleeper and I do not like to sleep in late either. With effort and training I can dial myself back to go to sleep at 10PM for the 5AM work day, but no earlier. Given freedom to run with bedtime my body will happily stay up until 3am. Meanwhile my cousin and little sister were the babies that fell asleep between ‘good’ and ‘night’
“Instead of adapting your life to the new baby, adapt the new baby into your life.”
Oh, how I’ve tried this. My baby has spent the last 8 months giving that a big “F you.” I feel like I’ll never be myself again. Oh well.
The best parenting advice I ever received? – “Listen to the advice of others, politely say “Thank you” with a smile, and do what works for you! ” This came from my grandmother who raised 12 children, (first child born in the late 1940’s, last born late 1960’s) while VERY poor (no flush toilets til 1958) .
I miss you Grandma!!!!!
We received everything but that advice but it was the only we have used.
Our 10 month old rocks! She has fit right into our life just because we have not changed much about how we do things.
I think it has definitely made this first year easier.
The best parenting advice I ever got was from Mom and it was that there is no perfect way to parent a child and to not be afraid to make mistakes and learn as you grow as a parent. She would always say that just as much as the kids are growing so are we as parents. She was always so supportive and would say that as long as you love them unconditionally and realize how hard parenting is you’ll be fine.
I have a little girl who is almost 3 and I ahve 3 teenage girls and they each are so individual. I’ve learned so much from them through the years and I totally get what my Mom meant with her advice 17 years ago when I had my oldest. I set boundaries, I try to be consistent and I love them each unconditionally and so far, so good.
tiffany day says:
I too received the same advice; adapt your kid to your life and not the other way – it totally works and makes for a happier life!
I was also read that when they get to the age they crawl and pull up and walk around the coffee table – give up the nice things on the coffee table so you aren’t constantly say NO – put toys on the bottom part (if you have a bottom part of the coffee table) and also a few toys on top – toddler friendly things. I did this and it was much eaiser – both my kids knew they could go there and play and learned other areas of the living room weren’t for them.
so enjoy your blog Heather!!
tiffany day says:
P.S. Let me add – do what works for you – you can try things that are the “current trend” or what your parents did, etc. but the bottom line to me is, do what works for you! If momma aint’ happy neither is baby! Great advice from a dear friend!
so, if adapting your kid to your life works – do it – if it doesn’t feel right to you then don’t
You CAN eat out again! Within reason of course – don’t be those jerks who bring their crying baby to a nice restaurant.
Thanks for posting this!!! I read an obnoxious blog post just yesterday about how some woman is happy to let her kids freak out in a restaurant because it’s just that kind of day. Um, no. Other paying patrons deserve a peaceful meal as well.
I totally agree about the music – I ‘ve never owned a kid CD!!! And I’m starting to take back the t.v. Why, just yesterday my DD told me “Mom, it’s Kathy Lee’s birthday! Come quick!”
Gotta love it.
PS Congrats on the new house – many happy years there for you guys.
Totally agree about music and eating out. I do think most children sleep more soundly when they go to bed earlier but my older daughter is like Annie and can go to bed whenever and wake up 11-12 hours later–my younger daughter, no way. She’s up at 6 no matter what and really needs to be in bed by 7 (though this rarely happens bc of the rest of our schedules). As far as TV, I try to limit all screen time bc I feel like the world stops when the tube is on and the kids tend to stop whatever they are doing and stare blankly at the tube, so no shows for me while they’re awake and TV for them in small doses only (and none for the baby, really).
I should add–so that I don’t sound like a condescending jerk–that I watched my fair share of grown-up TV when my oldest was smaller (and when she’s at preschool and I’m home alone with the baby) but as she got older, I cut back bc she got more cognizant of what she was watching and also more likely to stop whatever neat kid thing she was doing (pretending, coloring, etc) to come stare at my show. And really, how does one explain The Real Housewives of NJ to a 3.5-year-old?
In my experience male contractors working on my house have provided unexpected pearls of wisdom. I was having my house painted and one morning while the painters were here, my 3 year old son had an epic meltdown. I pretty much lost it too. One of the painters looked at me and said, kindly, “You may not believe this now, but in 10 years you will wish these were the problems you were having with him”. Made me remember that a tantrum is not that serious in the grand scheme of things.
Years before that, while I was on maternity leave with my son and definitely suffering from a lack of sleep, a maintenance man was repairing something in my apartment. He was asking about the baby who was about 6 weeks old and I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I must have made some sarcastic remark about babies being hard. He stopped and said “He’ll never be this small again. Or need you as much as he does today.”. How true, how true.
Well, I can’t say for sure what the best advice that I’ve received is yet….since my baby isn’t here yet. Due date is two weeks from tomorrow. Eeeeekkkk!!
But I’m definitely in the midst of receiving LOTS of advice from LOTS of people, some solicited, most of it not. But I think generally, people are just trying to help. I’m going to have to remind myself of this when the nitpicking begins:)
Anyway, I love your advice and definitely plan to adhere strictly to the adult music (as long as it’s appropriate of course) thing! Also love the advice of Mary up above! Well said!
Heather May says:
Oh my, I remember my youngest son belting out “Yellow Submarine” when he was about two. My oldest, got a time out in kindergarten for singing ACDC songs too loud. Kids love our music!
I knew you would get flamed for writing about putting Annie to bed at 9pm (GASP).
My awesome piece of parenting advice when I had my first baby came from my own mother – and I quote this verbatim:
“Don’t worry Eden. Babies have been surviving stupid mothers for centuries.”
Which is kind of indicative of why I never write about my mother on my blog.
I love your advice, Heather. I’m nowhere near ready to have a family of my own but I know when the times comes that I will still be able to be me. Changes will have to be made, obviously (not so dense as to not realize that), but I will only the best Mom I can be if I also remain true to my self.
I think that’s what I’ve learned from my Mom. She doesn’t really give advice, she just leads by example, as I feel you are also doing.
I sort of agree. The baby is joining a family that has already been established for awhile. However, if you have a guest come stay with you, would you expect them to stay up to 2am just because you do? What if you have a baby that doesn’t naturally have the same bodily rhythms as you? Would you force the baby to stay up so late, just so you can?
My youngest would stay up way later than me if she could; I can’t exactly force her to go to sleep at 8pm just because I want to have some peace and quiet and watch my soaps. Some babes are easily molded into your life, some aren’t. I think more appropriate advice would be to respect your baby’s natural cycles/rhythm and don’t try to force them to change if they aren’t the type that changes easily. It’s much easier for an adult to change than a baby
Right now the biggest rule in our house is repeating to the baby “we don’t pet our kitty’s butthole.”
But for me, the biggest thing has been just remembering that it’s about surviving. We are big on the path of least resistance, especially when it comes to sleeping. I let the baby nurse and nap in my lap, and she’s already out of her crib and sleeping in a queen sized bed with a bed rail, because she’ll sleep longer that way. Sure she’s not “trained” to sleep alone in her crib without soothing, but you know what? She naps during the day, and we all sleep at night. Winner winner, chicken dinner.
erica @ expatriababy says:
I’m a relatively new follower and a first-time commenter but I felt compelled to write because this post proved that I am, in fact, a gigantic ass.
I was reading it and being all, whaaaat? Only jerks fail to accomodate 100 percent their children. Only sub-par moms don’t bend entirely to the whims and demands and schedules of their progeny.
And then I thought about it. I love sleep and I’ve recently worked out a way (MIRACLE!) to get my girl to sleep till 8 am. A 8:30 bedtime and lave avro nap did the trick. I love going out to restaurants, but a lack of babysitters (we live overseas in a country where we don’t speak the language) means dinners out are a no-go, so I take her with me on lunch dates. She’d probably prefer to go to the park, but we have a good time eating ramen together. I find being at home all day with little grown-up conversation to be stultifying. So, while my daughter would prefer to listen to some crappy kids music, I’m sure, I often have podcasts playing in the background to keep me entertained while I wash dishes.
So, you right. Shaping the rhythms of your day with baby in such a way as to maintain some vestiges of one’s fun and fab child-free life is totoaly the way to go. And I’d go so far as to say nearly everyone does this to a certain degree.
Luckily, we never really had to listen to kids music, but I believe my husband and I enjoy more than the kids, the “Ralph’s World” series of CDs.
He actually has some great music – very adult friendly (great beats, music, etc) and yet the songs are kids’ songs… Seven Monkey’s in a Tree… fun song! We went to one of his concerts and “we” (aka hubby and I) really enjoyed it! lol
oh, and we definitely kept our meals the same after the kids were born – don’t get me wrong, we do enjoy kid-friendly foods, but it didn’t stop us from having spicy food, sushi, Thai, etc. And now at least my older kid is very adventurous with new foods.
I love the bit about playing music around your kids. My mother was a huge Morrissey/Smiths fan, and a lot of their stuff came out when I was a baby. She played the records and CDs non-stop, and had tapes for in the car. She resurrected them when I was in high school, and I screamed with delight when I realized I recognized a bunch of the songs. Morrissey’s “Bona Drag” album is actually one of my earliest memories. And I’m a huge Smiths/Moz fan now, too, right down to the “There is a light that never goes out” tattoo on my back. My mom and I also saw Morrissey together right before I graduated from high school. Good stuff, right there