Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Things I'd Do Differently, The Little Years


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.

5. I'd buy less, and save more.  Even though I think we did a great job at this, I'd do an even better job, especially when the kids were young and had so few needs.  Less toys, clothes, furniture, decorations, holiday things, gifts, "stuff", all around.

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.


32 comments :

  1. Thank you for all of your posts, but today especially for this one. I needed to read this as I am trying to say no to more with having a 2 year old and 4 month old. I want to savor these days and stop feeling so stressed out all of the time.

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  2. If I was eloquent like you I would have written the EXACT same things. Love it. My recent revelation: the nights away from the kids. We are made to feel so guilty for not wanting to/doing it until one day I thought to myself...'who cares? Some couples may need that and want it, but we don't on either count, so why am I beating myself up over it'? The two of us both agree it's too much worry and stress on our end to do it right now or have it be a enjoyable time.
    Thank you for your always grounding posts.

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  3. Thank you! I feel much the same (especially about #1 & #2) and my oldest is only 12 yrs. all of it rings true. Thank you for sharing your wisdom! And I loved your college post the other day:)

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  4. Wise words that are very relatable. Thank you for taking the time to express this so eloquently. :)

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  5. Thank you for sharing--I love this post so much. I will take it to heart. I've learned some of these things, too. Perhaps my favorite thing you said was, "Being a peaceful, unstressed, unhurried mother is more important than any event or obligation."

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  6. Thank you for sharing your wonderful insights! I respect your style of parenting so much and am so glad that I get to be exposed to your knowledge and experience. I am very grateful that social media has allowed me to learn from you. That first one is very important, and one that I discovered on my own about 6 months ago. I am a young Mom, raising my first, who is approaching two years old. Basically, I realized that I was ignoring my own mothering instincts just to adhere to the advice of a few parenting books. It never felt 'right' to me and I wish I had listened to my heart a little earlier.

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  7. Seriously, Sarah, you should put all your wisdom into a book. Please consider it. :)

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  8. So many things are reassuring about this. I'm currently scrambling to find sitters for a couple occasions and I HATE it. I do love seeing friends, but leaving a nursing baby is stressful and I don't like it - no matter how much I trust who is watching my children, even family. It's also good to hear that we all make mistakes, even experienced Moms. I am still learning for sure and beat myself up over things I wish I did differently. My oldest is 3. My youngest is 10 months. My 3 year old daughter and I are working on our rhythm every day. Nothing to make you rethink your methods like a 3 year old! Your toddler tips have helped open my eyes to how much fun this age is though, and how making sure she's well-fed, well-rested, and the magic technique of distraction make a world of difference in having a happy little
    girl. And goodness, what I wouldn't give to just get RID of most of our crap! Why do I get caught up in the perfect, age-appropriate, educational toys when all we really need to do is GO OUTSIDE, read, or sit down and engage with a handful of simple toys. How I wish I could remember this all the time.

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  9. This is all so true! I don't go anywhere I can't bring a nursing baby (when I have a nursing baby). This is all excellent advice.

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  10. love love love this. thank you for writing it! i don't have babies anymore, but so much of what you said is still applicable to my life. good reminders, always.

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  11. I also regret giving up nursing my oldest too soon like your friend. Too much stuff, way too much screen time. Now I'm trying to fix the damage my mistakes have made and boy do I just wish I could have done it "right" from the start! I think a lot of it is age/maturity on my end, when you know better, you do better! Thank you for this post, Sarah! And yes, please write a book! :)

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  12. Thank you so much for your sweet and wise words! I have five littles at home and your blog is always the reality check and encouragement I so need! In a world driven by a "me first, gotta have it now, bigger is better" philosophy, having a place to go to encourage values driven living is just so refreshing! Thank you! ; )

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  13. This is so true! My "baby" is 30 now - but I know my 3rd and 4th kids had a much better mother than the first two. As a grandmother, I am so thrilled to have some of the grandkids around me so that I can spoil them and help out their parents. How I wish I'd had local help with small children and a husband who traveled! But, I did the best I could, with what I knew and had available to me. Don't let regret steal your memories.

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  14. These are wonderful words of wisdom! I have to hold my tongue with young moms because I know they are in the thick of toddlers at their ankles and crying babies, but sometimes what I want to say is, "You think it's stressful now... just wait!" :) But really, I think God gives us the grace for the DAY that we need it, and not before.

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  15. Love!! When we moved a couple years ago we got rid of about 85% of our toys and it has been life changing! More outside play, fort building and playing board games. They didn't use the stuff anyway and we learned we didn't have to buy them as much as we thought!
    One thing I have learned is nothing is one size fits all in parenting. I have a child that I read to a lot and she still doesn't love reading and school isn't the easiest BUT still think the reading has helped her. Hope that makes sense!

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  16. This right here. With my first three I was still hard on myself. Then we had number four. I threw out all the "rules" and did what worked for us. What made the day go smoother. That was nursing my baby, not thinking about crying it out, or why the baby could sleep hours in my bed but only minutes in his own!
    I have been a long time blog reader and you have really shaped my mothering. Thank you.

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  17. Ahh... I love this blog. I always feel like I've had a nice cup of tea and a chit-chat with a girlfriend here. It's so validating. So glad you're posting more often.

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  18. I love all of this. I'm printing it and sharing it with my momma and baby yoga class. Mine are three-months to 11 years and I SO get this. Thank you for writing these, kind, true words.

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  19. I have been reading your blog for many years now and it is one of only a few that I check everyday. I think this is one of your best posts ever! I agree wholeheartedly and I have three children ages 23 to 15.

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  20. Thank you for this! I'm currently wading through the swap of sleep and guilt etc. and your first bullet point came at the perfect time! I've already been trying to do what you said (not worry) so this is encouraging.

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  22. So agree with everything you said! I felt guilty and like I had to keep quiet that I rocked them all to sleep and didn't teach them to fall asleep on their own...that I wasn't doing the right "method", I even read all the books and learned the "techniques". I remember on my first child I didn't want to wean him yet but felt pressured to. Now I think...who cares!? I also fell into the trap of way too many toys with my first few, and too many baby "Gadgets". With my last few I finally learned I don't need most of that stuff...including the never- used-pump. Thanks for sharing so we can all learn from each others mistakes! (And it helps to know we are not the only ones that wish we did a few things differently!) Just this morning I heard this poem quoted- "O time, O time, go back in flight,
    And let them be my little children for just one more night" I need to remember this and read to any of my children that will listen!

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  23. Thank you for writing this. I am 8 months pregnant, and I am constantly feeling pressure, and seeing "well this mom does this" to just make you feel bad or inadequate. Luckily I have a great group of family and friends that are supportive of me during this pregnancy so I can learn and grow as a new mom.

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  24. One of my very favorite posts of yours!! I couldn't agree more! I have a 13 year spread between my oldest and youngest. My youngest is 7 months old and I co sleep him and nurse on demand through out the night. I have heard many times that I should let him cry it out but never have. This is what works for us and what I feel good about. I don't leave my babies or toddlers either and I rarely leave my older boys. So much wisdom in this post and for sure things I wish I had done a better job with with my older set. Thanks so much for posting it!!

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  25. So very true about the reading! It is a nightly ritual, here. Either me or my husband or both of us read for 30 min. (more if we can't put down the book!) every night to the littles. It is a GREAT motivator for them to get ready for bed : ) Sometimes the older kids listen in, too. Great books are great for a lifetime.

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  26. I need to print this out and stick it on my fridge. Thank you. This blog continues to help me go with my gut...I needed to hear again about the video games. Our 5, 3, and 1 year old don't do computers and tablets and won't do them for a very long time according to my plan. I feel like the only mom who has the conviction until I come to this blog. Thank you.

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  27. Yes, yes & YES!! This mom of 3 (ages 26, 20 & 7 months) totally agrees!!!

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  28. I feel like this was written just for me. I've been feeling so guilty lately over continuing to nurse my 18-month-old to sleep, stressing about financial issues and "doing it all"... You have an amazing ability to speak directly to my heart and where I'm struggling in life. Thank you, Sarah. Grateful for your perspective.

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  29. I quit my job almost two years ago to be home full-time. I have a son in college and a daughter in elementary school, and just felt I was missing out on so much. Over the past few months, I've felt almost guilty for 'just' staying home and wondered if I should go back to work soon, what am I going to do when my kids are grown, etc. Reading this just made me realize how ridiculous that is. My dream for YEARS has been to be home with my kids, to be able to just be here for my family and make life less hectic for all of us. We are financially able to do it and I know it has made my husband's life easier, too, as he was the one who frequently had to take the kids to doctor's appointments, attend school events, etc. He's been able to focus more on his career since I've been home and I've seen a real change in him and the benefit of taking that load off his shoulders. Maybe it's not PC and it's old-fashioned for me to give up working "just" to be available to my family, but I'm realizing that it was my choice, and I don't have anything to feel bad about. I can always go back to work when my daughter is grown. But these years with my children, I will never get back. Thanks for this post.

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