If you already read Part I of You Don’t Have To Have Kids, thank you for your patience.
This piece has taken awhile because it’s been many years in the making.
If you didn’t read Part I, (it’s short) click on this:
And here’s Part II:
For the past 9 years, in addition to my other job, I have been a mommy. My older daughter, F, is almost 10. (Adopted from China when she was 11 months.) My younger daughter, JJ, is 7. (Biological)
This is them:
Being a mom is every bit as hard as you have heard. You’re in charge and responsible for someone else’s ENTIRE LIFE, so it helps to have help. You don’t have to have kids, (half the time I can’t even believe I have them) but if you’re thinking you might like to one day, or maybe you’re about to any day, I have a few tricks, tips and go-tos that might ease the journey.
(And you may even see some you haven’t seen anywhere else!)
1. Is there any way at all to prepare for kids? Even a little bit? Yes. Get a pet. I was a dog mom twice before I had kids. Both of my dogs were adopted from rescue agencies and both came with their own set of unique issues. Pets, like kids, learn from being taught. As the parents, WE RULE so we have the power to change certain behaviors, while accepting and embracing others. Pets learn from us and they teach us. They teach responsibility—especially if it’s a pet that relies on you to feed him and let him out. You’re either responsible, or you’re up Sh*t’s Creek. (HaHa! Pun intended!)
2. The first 3 months are rough. The first 3 months with both of my kids are a complete blur. For my first kid, everything was completely new. I was a never-before mommy with an adopted kid from a different country. Are you kidding? But wait! The second one was even harder! She may have come from my body, but she left me a disgusting bloody mess, recovering from an emergency surgery I didn’t want and wasn’t expecting. Thanks! Whatever your experience may be, the first 3 months are usually pretty rough. You just have to bear down and know you will get through it. #Buzzkill
3. You will get through it. No matter what is happening— endless crying, screaming, barfing — (Sometimes all at once!) just keep telling yourself you WILL get through it. When my younger one was born, the Darius Rucker song It Won’t Be Like This For Long was popular. I remember sitting at the kitchen table crying my head off as he crooned about the rough phases of parenting. It was such a relief when he finally revealed that the hard phases end. But then he went on to say that the good phases end too. And then I cried harder.
4. How do I keep from being totally overwhelmed? One of my friends once gave me some very helpful advice: “Keep it simple,” she said. Concentrate on your baby’s BASIC NEEDS because that’s ALL they need: Feed them. Change them. Love them. Give them ALL of you for the first 3-4 months. Be there when they need you—EVERY TIME they need you. You’re going to be exhausted and gross, but that’s just part of parenting, especially the early days.
5. You don’t have to breastfeed. I tried breastfeeding. It didn’t go well. I had all the gear and books and accessories, but no. It wasn’t for me. It didn’t take long before I made the decision to stop, and when I did, I was relieved. If it’s natural for you, DO IT. Nothing better than a real-deal mommy milk bar, but if you can’t—or it’s not for you—do NOT beat yourself up. You will soon find that every kid is weird whether they are breastfed or not.
6. You will lose the baby weight. But only if you really want to. Here’s how it works: After the baby is born, you’ll lose a bunch of weight. Fast. That’s water weight and baby gunk. After that, you’ll probably plateau for a bit and then, slowly but surely, more pounds will come off. But not all of it. There will be several stubborn mother f**kers that only come off if you take them off. Those pounds are the third helpings you thought were OK because you were pregnant, and also all the crazy-ass “The baby wants it!!!!” food you ate. Those pounds require discipline and exercise or they’re staying. I still remember exercising some nights at 11:00 because that’s the only time I could fit it in. I did not enjoy myself, but I also didn’t want to buy a whole new wardrobe just because I ate like I was going to the electric chair during my pregnancy.
7. You will forget something every time you leave the house. When we were in China adopting F, I came out of the hotel one day and realized I forgot something. One of the moms in our group (an experienced mom) said to me: “You will always, always forget something.” She was right. Sticky notes, check lists, and a back-up bag of games, clothes and crap to keep in your car all help FOR SURE, but still, you will always forget something.
8. Keep some stuff. Set aside some of your (or their) favorite clothes and things you love. Get a cute box, shove it in the corner of your kid’s closet and keep things in it. It’s a time capsule for later. It’s also fun to get some magazines and newspapers from the time of birth or adoption to look back on. One day you will get a kick of out of revisiting what was happening in the world of fashion or entertainment or politics. (Especially right now when all three are colliding!)
9. No baby ever died from crying. At a certain point (usually after the first 3-4 months of you being a beck-and-call girl) it’s OK to let your baby cry it out. When adopting a baby, the experts say to wait a year. I made it 3 months. Obviously, if your kid is choking or doing something scary, get your ass in there. But after 3-4 months of day in and day out, you will know your kid’s different cries—and if it’s just a regular cry, it’s really and truly OK to let her figure her sh*t out for herself.
If you’re scared she’s going to feel abandoned, go in for a sec, tell her you love her, give her the “Peace” sign, and then leave. Don’t pick her up or mess with her, just leave. The lights on the baby monitor will hit RAINBOW STATUS from all the crying and you will stress eat everything in your house that isn’t nailed down, but stay strong. After your kid goes down on her own ONCE, the monitor lights won’t bother you. You’ll know she’s just working you, but you’re done! I just gave you 3-4 months of EVERYTHING. You know you’re fine and so do I! Sleep tight, toots!
10. There is no “right way” to be a mommy. Actually—I take that back. The “right way” to be a mommy is to put the kid first. There’s a ton of freedom that comes with parenting because there is no one above you to tell you NOT to do something. Sometimes the lines get blurry though. Don’t be too hard on yourself, even when you are feeling judged and/or second guessing your parenting skills. Ask yourself if what you are doing is something that will royally screw up your kid in the future —and if it’s not, you’re pretty much OK.
11. Harvard isn’t taking applications yet. It’s very normal to watch your kid with another kid and gauge her progress. Why isn’t MY kid walking yet? How many words does THAT kid know? Are they reading at the same level? We all do it, but if the differences aren’t alarmingly noticeable, don’t stress. Eventually everything evens out. It’s like my girlfriend, who is a teacher, always says about parents who stress too much over baby and toddler progress: “Harvard isn’t taking applications just yet.”
12. Laundry never ends. Ever. So get ready for that hell.
I’m stopping here because I know your attention span is probably at its limit—but there’s more. Part III will come out soon with more tips, tricks and things people told me (or I wish they told me). Want to know how to get your kids to eat fruits and vegetables without having to “hide” them? Need some new punishment ideas or maybe just some help getting through the hard days?
We got you.
Hope to see you for the third (and final) installment of this post!
Thanks for being here!
The DS&D crew