Forget mommy perfection, if I had to do it again, I'd make a mess of parenting on purpose.
My son yelled at my ovaries the other day. It was during a conversation about how much he really wants a baby sister (even though he can't properly take care of his guinea pig). I reminded him that I am perfectly content with our little family and that I have no desire to deal with babysitters, dirty diapers, projectile vomit or sore nipples ever again. It was then that he bent down toward my belly and screamed at it, “Grow me a baby sister!”
And while his hopes for a baby sibling certainly won't be happening (Seriously, no more sore nursing nipples again, ever!) I did start to wonder what I might do differently If I were to ever get pregnant again at this over 40, peri-menopausal, midlife crisis prone, finally-getting-my-groove-back point in life. How would I handle it? Chalk it up to the wisdom of my age or to the clarity that comes from consistently sleeping through the night (3am diaper changes again? No, thank you.), but the years since early motherhood have taught me a lot. Many of my first time mommy blunders would definitely be out the door the second time around.
Instead, this would be my updated Mommy 2.0 plan for second go-around parenting success:
Get In On The Action
My kids watched TV as soon as they could sit up and they're still sweet, sane, emotionally well-adjusted little human beings in spite of it. So, I would totally let a new baby watch TV, too. But this time around, I’d be on the floor, eating banana chips and watching the Wiggles with them (or whatever the cool babies are into these days) because kiddie TV, when someone is interacting with you while watching it, can be really fun.
I’d also play hide and seek (and not just so I can sneak away to the bathroom to read 50 Shades of Grey while my kids think I'm looking for them). I’d do puzzles, and color, and hold tea parties with actual liquid in the pot. On rainy days, we’d play board games because, hey, I’m over 40 and my brain needs the memory boost, too. As for sunny days, let's just say my baby and I would make it our mission to make playing outside sexy again! The point here is: childhood is fun and I want in on that action!
Savor The Siesta
With all that playing, I’ll probably get tired. And since they might, too, why not teach my baby to be a masterful napper? I mean, I used to be really good at it ... when I was a toddler, and a teen, and then a wild, partying 20-something. But once I became a young mom, suddenly nap time became extra productivity time. I forgot how amazing and luxurious those snoozefests can be. So, instead of being the mama master of “getting sh*t done”, this time I’d be gifted at power napping with my baby. That way, we’d both be more rested, happy and raring to go when we’re awake!
Forgo the Gadgets -
My kids have owned every frickin' device, toy, game, fad, tool, widget, and backscratcher thingy out there. But, if I did this parenting thing all over, the first order of business would be streamlining. The new baby would have an empty box, a sock, some pots and a wooden spoon. And I swear the little one would be twice as happy and ten times as creative.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a girl who loves gadgets but in all honesty, I think I’d actually like to be one of those DIY moms who makes her own baby food, games and soap, and just simplify those infant/toddler years. Besides, kids lose interest in that gadget crap after about 2 minutes anyway. No baby loses interest in pots & pans drums ... ever!
As a young mom, I spent a lot of time constantly correcting and nit-picking my little ones while sharing very important life lessons in moments when they were just being kids. Now that I’m older, I've mellowed out and I realize laughing my butt off at their messy, ridiculous, silly antics actually teaches them way more than my so-called wisdom and seriousness ever did. The lesson I'd try to teach them now: life is meant to be enjoyed and messes and mistakes happen.
“You filled the bathtub with silly string? What a jokester!” “What? You shaved the dog? You crack me up!” Kid antics are funny. I've learned to laugh at them now that I'm over 40, otherwise I’d have a stroke.
Say, “Screw You, Science”
As most nervous young mamas do, I read every new baby-related scientific study out there. I knew exactly what babies and their bodies should be doing at every hour of gestation and growth and I Googled every noise, rash, delay, ingrown hair and multi-colored poop. As a result, I was a raving lunatic. Well, not this time around!
Today, I’d skip the baby-rearing stats and listen to my friends, family and, most importantly, to my own gut, instead. Pretty much every one of those damned studies was a bunch of bull anyway, and the only techniques that worked consistently for me came from “old wives” mothering advice or from my very own instincts. So, shoo, lab rats! This time, mama’s got it under control.
Bless that Mess
First diaper changes. Pee fountains in the bathtub. Strained carrots mashed into newly sprouted hair (and the carpet, and, sigh, the cat). Fingerprints on the windows. Drool on my Kate Spade dress. Getting bitten by a brand new tooth. Pages torn out of picture books. Hugs that begin as head-butts to the groin. Dropping the toy, picking it up (dropping the toy, picking it up. Dropping the toy ... well, you know how that game goes).
If hindsight has taught me anything as a parent, it’s that every single, irritating, exhausting, messy little bit of childhood is precious. And if I ever did it again, I simply wouldn’t stress over it so much, or complain about it, or grumble under my breath. I’d try to truly appreciate that those messy moments don’t last. I’d plug in, and with wine glass in hand, embrace the kiddie chaos and enjoy it.
Give More Time Outs
No, no, not to the baby. As a later-in-life mom, I would definitely give myself more "time outs" for fun time with adult friends and, more importantly, with my husband (wink. wink.). The first time around, I abandoned fun in my adult life to become the responsible, all-attention-on-kids-and-career women I thought I should be.
I’m not saying my house would turn into a dump or that I’d neglect my kids, but now that my boys have grown, I'm glad to have a social life (and sex life) again. I'm a happier person when I create space to stop being mom for a minute and remember what it’s like to just authentically be me.
Share The Love
With my first kiddos, I admit it: I was the most selfish, overprotective baby hoarder. A bazillion people offered at any time to help out and take my baby for me. But I didn’t want my babies to be taken or anyone else trying to undermine me. So, I kept them all to myself and as a result, my husband and I didn’t enjoy an adult vacation until my youngest was 3-years old and completely attached to me (cue the toddler tears!).
Well, not this time, mister! No way. In middle age, I’ve learned to ask for what I need and appreciate help when it’s offered. If “it takes a village” to raise a child, my new child would know that loving village. Which means, I've finally learned to share!
Photo : weheartit.com
The first time around, my babies (and our life) always had to look PERFECT! Perfect little man sweaters, perfect baby Nikes, perfect little haircuts, perfectly clean house with perfectly organized toys. Yep, we were living a Pinterest-worthy life perhaps, but keeping up with that ideal image was exhausting and my babies hated it.
This time around, I’d say to hell with perfection. It’s overrated and annoys others anyway. This new baby would be perfect “as is”. Whatever flows, goes. No more pressed Baby Gap ensembles with matching leather jackets. If the new kiddo is comfortable in a spiderman costume and a purple tutu, whatevs.