The best advice I got on my wedding day had nothing to do with the vows, the flowers or the groom for that matter: A friend who had been married years earlier whispered in my ear that I should make sure to pee before putting on my dress. It hadn’t crossed my mind before, but I did what she said and once I was strapped, locked and loaded into 50 pounds of lace, silk and crinoline, I realized that it would have taken an army of bridesmaids to help maneuver me through that otherwise unremarkable activity. That was 20 years ago and I have always been grateful for those simple pearls of wisdom that helped me to avoid unnecessary difficulties and frustrations. My children are teenagers now so I’ve collected quite a few of those pearls over the years. Here are the ones that I’d like to whisper in every mom’s ear:
For New Moms
Sleep when they sleep.
Okay, you’ve probably heard this one before, but I promise, it’s the most important thing you can do for yourself. In fact, if that baby is sleeping right now and you are awake and reading this post, STOP and go to bed! Babies are the enemies of sleep. And exhaustion is the enemy of productivity, compassion and patience. A full REM cycle can be as elusive as Big Foot for parents of little ones. So if and when that rare moment arises that your baby is asleep, I beg you to resist the temptation to be industrious. The laundry can wait; so too can those thank you notes, bills and that long overdue shower. Put down the dish rag and turn off your phone. Now close your eyes, grab some Z’s and don’t worry about dinner or returning that call from your mother-in-law until you can see a little straighter or until that baby heads off to college (whichever comes first).
Elementary School Moms
Spoiler Alert: Your kid is not going to be a professional athlete.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s best that you learn this inevitable fact right now, before your child dons his first little league uniform, before you get swept up in the all-consuming madness that surrounds sports in this country. And hey, even if your kid is the fastest skater, the heaviest hitter, the best ball handler in kindergarten, the odds are simply astronomically low that that she will go pro. Only 5% of high school football players will play in the NCAA and only 2% of those college players will ultimately be drafted to the NFL. I’m not trying to dash your or your child’s hopes and dreams. I only want to urge you to lighten up and not take it all so seriously. Sure, sign your kid up for sports. They might love it. But let the other moms run themselves ragged chauffeuring vans full of rowdy superstar hopefuls to far-off towns to sit in the pouring rain on ice cold metal bleachers, shivering and cheering desperately for the game to end. Instead, might I suggest that you stay home, make yourself a cup of tea and send your kid outside to run in circles and make mud pies. You’ll both be happier and that dream of a professional sports career will be no less out of reach.
Middle School Moms
It’s not you. It’s them.
Are you pulling out your hair? Clenching your jaw? Banging your head against the wall? Are you an otherwise intelligent human who is now completely confused by the conversation, the argument or the door that was just slammed in your face? If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, I’m betting your middle schooler just got home. And middle schoolers are the most volatile, dramatic and often malodourous creatures ever to roam the earth. So take heart and stop twitching your eyes. You are not crazy. They are. You are doing just fine. It’s not your parenting style. It’s not your lack of discipline. It’s not that kids today are any more or less of anything than kids used to be. It’s just that middle school is a time when interests change, friend groups shift and hormones rage. The pressure to keep a lid on all of that upheaval during the school day means that when kids get home, BAM! mom gets the full force of their emotion and anxiety. Lucky you. I recommend looking at this overly dramatic behavior as a three-year-long audition for some B rated horror film. This approach will certainly not help your child through their own inner turmoil, but it will definitely help you to survive middle school.
That’s pretty much sums up all of the parenting advice I can offer to help preserve your health, sanity and sense of humor. Everything else is just details.
Jillian's new novel, Codename Cupcake, is a laugh-out-loud send up of motherhood, crime novels and the PTA. Check it out on Amazon. Her children's story, Off The Wall, was published by Story People Press in 2011.