Did you ever have that friend that just seems to have the best advice (and pretty much all the answers) to your parenting questions and quandaries? Well, here at Momkindness, we have that friend. Dr. Maureen O'Brien, a child development expert and parenting coach (and mom of twins) has been a colleague and more importantly a friend for many years (and admittedly the receiver of some frantic and teary phone calls). We asked her to tell us about the most common parenting questions she hears and lessons she could share with our new parents. And... if you have more questions for Dr. Mo, check out @destinationparenting - you won't be sorry!
Dr. Maureen O’Brien:
While there are hundreds of specific questions that new parents might ask me, they really boil down to 3 general themes: exhaustion, readiness and emotional support.
1. When will I feel less exhausted?
The answer is: eventually. Not very satisfying, right? The truth is that being the caregiver of another little human is a 24/7 job for years - even decades. For many parents, the first year or two is the hardest. But the reason it’s so exhausting is that we care so much about what is best for our little ones. Parenting is a life-altering responsibility, but also brings joys that are hard for us to imagine until we hold our babies. There are some daily steps you can take to manage the undeniable stress of parenting: Routines matter. Self-care matters (hydrate and breathe deep!). Sharing the load, if you can, makes a big difference. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and sleep (f you can) when baby sleeps.
2. How do I know if my child is ready to (wean, sleep in own bed, start solids, etc.)?
This question is easy to address, but frustrating, because the answer is “It depends”. Each child has their own readiness timetable when major transitions happen. And while there are general guidelines to be found and lots of advice offered, the truth is that you need to see your own child’s progression to know when the right time is to make major adjustments. The sequence is predictable, but the timing is not. For example, liquids always come before purees, which come before solids, but the range of when each stage happens varies by months. And some children go down to sleep easier than others who need more soothing, There IS no magic answer, or everyone would be doing it! What you CAN do, however, is look for signs of readiness and watch your child’s individual progress and take it from there.
3. How am I doing as a mom?
Phew. The short response is you’re probably doing way better than you are giving yourself credit for. We are so hard on ourselves and sometimes make faulty assumptions - for instance, that everyone has this parenting thing figured out except for us! But when you are vulnerable and reach out other parents, you’ll find that they share the same struggles. Don’t believe for a second that your parents or friends know your child more than you do. So, give yourself grace: no one is a perfect parent, but you can count on one thing: your young child loves you no matter what!
Thank you for your words of wisdom Dr. Maureen O’Brien!