1. Parenting takes a village
As first-time parents to our daughter Philomena, we really had no idea what to expect. I definitely thought I would be able to handle everything on my own, but the truth is new motherhood can be overwhelming. I was so lucky to be able to rely on my parents and in-laws (and our extended family and pretty much anyone who would field questions from me) for advice and support. Slowly but surely, I established my core group of parent friends with whom I could share all the terrifying, wonderful, totally vulnerable moments. It’s so liberating to realize we are really meant to raise our children together, in a community — to share in that responsibility and to celebrate each other.
2. Find inspiration in the small things
Major milestones like birthdays and vacations are great to look forward to, but so are all the small moments you can have with kids every single day. Don’t stress to make every day significant; just soak up the ways your kids share their joy and wonder with you.
And please: Learn from my mistakes and take five minutes at the end of each night just to write down all the funny things they do and say. You think you’ll remember, but then it’s on to the next thing — and these fleeting moments slip away. I wish I’d done it from the beginning, but it’s something I’ve started doing recently, and I absolutely love being able to reflect on the brilliant bits of gold they come out with as they become these poignant, hilarious, real little humans.
3. Know when to follow your instincts — & when to follow the instructions
As parents, we can sense when our children need something (a hug? a snack? a nap?), and we should always embrace our instincts. That same logic doesn’t apply to how we use children’s products, though. For example, children should be riding rear-facing in the car for as long as possible — not until we think they “look big enough” to face forward. That decision should be based on research statistics rather than instinct. This is why I joined the TurnAfter2 public awareness campaign to promote a critical safety rule: Turn your kid’s seat forward-facing after they turn 2 years old.
4. Be kind to other parents
The internet can be inspiring and a great way to connect with other parents and learn from each other. But it can also be a scary place where people feel free to criticize, judge and undermine each other. I’ve been on the receiving end of mom-shaming, and it can be totally devastating — even if you realize that at the end of the day, no one loves or cares about your kids as much as you do and the opinions of strangers are really not important. I encourage all my parent friends to use social media channels for good. Parenting isn’t easy, but it’s easier when we stick together.
5. Don’t be afraid to do the things that make you feel like yourself
Maintaining a balanced lifestyle as a new parent is arguably the hardest task. It can be daunting to think about all of the things on your plate, and it’s easy to lose track of yourself and what makes you happy. Becoming a parent makes you version 2.0 of yourself; all your priorities get reorganized, but you definitely still get to be you. So don’t feel guilty prioritizing solo time, even if it’s just five minutes to actually drink your tea while it’s warm. Happy kids have happy parents who show them how it’s done.