I have three children, ages 37, 35, and 31. So here is a list of all my successful child-rearing strategies.
(Wait, am I really supposed to write 420 more words for this article?)
At work, when younger mothers asked me what I did with my kids, I held up my hands.
“Don’t ask me. I never got my kids to go to bed on time. I never got them to sleep through the night. And I never even tried to get them to pick up their toys.”
As I recall, my confidence level fluctuated. A lot. As a new mother, I was convinced that my own mother was constantly criticizing me.
“I did this,” she would tell me. “I did that.”
But then, despite my mother, I had the world’s most wonderful baby. He walked early, talked early, and everyone loved him. I was clearly the world’s best mother. I never lost my patience. I didn’t let him cry it out, because that was barbaric. I let him fall asleep when he wanted, because I remembered spending hours in my own bedroom as a child, staring at the ceiling, and watching the ghosts try to eat me. I could, and did, give sage advice to anyone who asked. By the time I had my second, I didn’t even feel bad when my mother insisted on telling me what “she did.”
“She’s just remembering,” I thought. “She’s just talking. I’ve got this.”
But things went downhill from there. I had somewhat less patience with the second child. Neither of them would go to bed, or sleep through the night, and I could never get them to nap at the same time. My wonderful baby with the endearing habit of sucking his thumb while holding my hair… started to pull my hair. It hurt, and I got angry.
My second child, the original velcro baby, needed my attention 110% of the time. But I still had to go to work. My children still never picked up their toys or went to bed on time. Neither my husband or my mother approved of my child-rearing techniques. My mother was tactful. My husband was not.
After I had my third child, I morphed into the horrible woman in the supermarket who constantly screamed. My 6 year old would run off. While I was looking for him, the 4 year old would try to climb into the shopping cart with the baby. I pictured my baby’s brains smashed into a million pieces on the supermarket floor, shouted “Stop!” at the top of my lungs, and ran. This wasn’t an isolated incidence; I no longer believed I was the world’s best mother. No, I was in constant competition for “Bad Mother of the Year.”
So here, from the other side, is my best advice for new mothers.
Just hang on.
Someday they’ll grow up, leave home, and be able to buy you the drinks that you so desperately need right now. The terrible memories will fade, and you can regale your own daughters’ with all your successful child-rearing strategies.
Or just talk. And acknowledge that kids are just hard, and there are no magic solutions.