One of the gifts of having children spread out in age (there are eighteen years between my oldest and youngest) is the gift of perspective-that thing that shows you what really matters and what doesn't at all. The difference-makers, let's say, although that sounds awfully serious.
If I could do anything different as a young mother with my first three (who are now 21,19, and 16) what would I do? Seven things:
1. I'd worry less about what I was "doing wrong" in the sleep department. Oh, I thought I had messed it up so badly, and was told if only I could let them cry it out, they'd sleep twelve hours at night like "all the other babies" I imagined were. If only I hadn't let them fall asleep while nursing, I could set them in a crib and walk away. Yes, I bet life is much easier if babies just plop down to sleep, but my babies didn't work this way. And who cares? When they were old enough (maybe one or two or three depending on the child) they all were great sleepers. I wish I just would have not felt for one moment like I was doing something wrong because we were doing fine-I was a nursing mom with babies who needed to eat a lot and who liked to be close to me. I learned to just embrace what I had to do to get them to sleep whatever that was for each of them, and know soon enough things would get easier. Once I did that it stopped being a "problem" and I could enjoy them so much more. (And I also discovered that one day I would yelling from the bottom of the stairs, at those same babies, now teens, "Get up! You've been sleeping for fifteen hours straight for God's sake!" :)
2. I was never comfortable leaving my babies and small toddlers with babysitters, and again I felt like I must be "doing something wrong" by not wanting to do, or being able, to do this. I second guessed myself-was I being too protective and making them dependent, by never leaving them for evenings or weekends? Now I know that's ridiculous. I don't leave my babies or toddlers, it's just too stressful for me. I tossed the pump that I hardly used anyway, after my third. I do what is comfortable for me, and what works for my little ones, with no second-guessing now. On a side note, I was talking with another mom the other day about this subject and she said, "One of my biggest regrets is that I stopped nursing my baby because of a wedding I felt pressured to attend that was out-of-town! Now I'd say "No, sorry, can't go!" in a heartbeat. What in the world was I thinking?" This leads well into:
3. I'd give myself more credit for all I was doing and not compare myself with all everyone else was doing. I would simplify, simplify, simplify everything, to have more time for the important stuff. I would know that nursing a baby, raising babies and toddlers, being pregnant with babies while raising toddlers -it's all hard work and it's okay to say no, no, no to everything else without feeling like I need some elaborate excuse. Being a peaceful, unstressed, unhurried mother is more important than any event or obligation.
4. I wish I would have read even more to them. I don't think you can ever ever read too much to your kids! If you want the special secret on how to have really smart kids, turn off the TV, don't let them lay eyes on video/computer games ever and read, read, read. It's not one bit more complicated than that.
6. I'd put less pressure on myself to lose weight after a baby, it's embarrassing to say that I even did that, but I did. Ridiculous.
7. I'd spend less time waiting for my life to "get easier" when this or that or the other happens, and just love whatever stage of life I'm in. I'd spend less time looking for the next milestone in my baby's life (it's not a race) and just savor and really appreciate whatever stage of life they are in.