As much as I believe all veteran moms really do want to help rookies adjust to their new roles and responsibilities, it’s easy to get snarky, to forget how fragile a new mom is, and understate how overwhelmed we once felt, reducing the whole transition to parenthood to something simple, like “I could never even take a shower!” We don’t want to forget what a gentle touch is required to help support a new mom without making her feel embarrassed or like she’s “doing it wrong”.
And no one really ever knows if they’re doing it right. (My 7-year old still sleeps in a toddler bed. Good or bad?)
A book I was sent for review, Food for Thoughtful Parenting, strikes just the right tone to provide advice. The authors, Tara and Nina, each moms of three, truly sound like they are friends of mine. I could tell right away that they are my people. The format of the book is a series of lists, but the list items are not simple bullet points, they are concrete ideas and inspirations for enjoying family life more.
Here’s an excerpt from the list called “Thoughts for Newbies” which has the following five nuggets:
1. Find your people
2. Let go
3. Find your own way
4. Embrace a new rhythm
5. Back off
I appreciate that the authors acknowledge that “the laundry can wait; go take a nap” is not everyone’s style. Some new parents (my husband, for example) will feel more energized by a clean space than a nap. Or to flip it around, one might feel more distressed by the pile of laundry than by the lack of sleep. We all operate differently, hence this take on “Let go”:
Allow yourself to accept help—which can be harder than it seems. For us, one of the toughest things to “let go” of was our sense of independence and competence. We had cruised along for so many years smugly in control in the driver’s seat, takin’ care of business just fine, thank you. Amazingly, a thoughtful offer of assistance somehow cast a shadow of self-doubt, and we thought, “Am I someone who needs help?!” Pause. Reframe it. Ask yourself, instead, “Why wouldn’t I accept this kind gesture in order to have more time to bond with my baby, spend with my family, relax, sleep, work out, get to the phone (fill in the things that bring you peace and enjoyment here!) … ?” So our advice? Say yes, thank you, and let the help in! Savor the meal, soak in the clean tub, be grateful that the onesies are clean—even if they are folded in a funny shape.
Fast forward beyond the baby days, and Nina and Tara share strategies for establishing fun family traditions in their list “Feeding the Family.
Many families build traditions around the various holi- days they celebrate. But we suggest creating and formalizing additional rituals, unique to your family, which can really add a sense of closeness—like the good old secret handshake from our imaginary childhood clubs. These practices get us to celebrate the little, everyday things. In our house, when someone is sick and staying home from school or work, we get out the special sick tray. Meals and snacks are brought to the patient on the special tray in bed—a bonus for having to miss school and lay low. To celebrate accomplishments, we break out the special glasses (small port glasses work well) and give the kids mocktails or “kids’ wine” (i.e., grape juice).
You can ask your children to propose events to celebrate about each other. Someone gave up diapers or a pacifier—a great cause for celebration!
Read more about food for thoughtful parenting: 12 must-have lists for new parents & young families on Amazon.