A few days before I had my baby, my mom handed me a huge photo album filled with letters from my aunts and cousins who all had kids. Besides the usual good-luck-you'll-do-great messages, these notes were rife with pointers on being a mother, and I pored over them until I could practically recite them from memory.
But then Joshua was born and everything flew out the window. Like all newbies, I was finding my way as a parent through fits and starts and lots of fumbling. Then one day, wiped out from a colicky baby and feeling desperate, I reached for the album again and re-read my family's words of wisdom. Things were different then -- I was different -- but their guidance was still useful.
And lucky for me there was a lot of good advice: Carve out time for you, they all urged, even if it's going to the gym once a week or taking a hot bath every now and then. (Pooped, I always chose the latter.) Don't forget about your husband, my aunts advised, a notion that, pre-baby, was as foreign to me as diaper rash. Throw your arms wide open and love the heck out of your baby -- not that I needed a reminder to snuggle up with my newborn, mind you, but I appreciated the sentiment.
But my favorite tip -- and the one I find myself passing on to new mom friends now -- is perhaps the simplest: Just be good enough. Instead of stressing out over being The Best Mom On Earth, aim for the kinder, more reasonable middle spot of the bell curve.
A stubborn perfectionist, I've relied on that advice often to reel me back in from the madness of trying to keep pace with other moms in my world. So I didn't have a freezer full of expressed milk and a refrigerator stocked with jars of exotic homemade baby food. So what? I had the blessed freedom to nurse my kiddo on demand and a huge assortment of healthy food pouches that could sub in when I didn't have time to steam and puree veggies. And my child was just as fine for it.
Even now that he's out of diapers, I continue to remind myself to aim for just good enough. It's become sort of my mom mantra. It's helped steel me against the shocked looks I get when some moms find out that I don't have my son signed up for an activity every day after preschool. Or that he only speaks one language, when most of his friends are mastering at least two. (I live in New York.) Would a perfect mom be okay with any of this? Probably not. But as I'm quickly learning, I'm far from perfect at this job, and I'm okay with that. Because by being just good enough, I'm better than perfect. I'm happy.
Now it's your turn: What's your favorite piece of parenting advice? What tips would you offer to new moms?
Image of mom and baby courtesy of Shutterstock