As a few of you may have noticed, I haven’t blogged much lately. Partly, this is a consequence of my schedule and some lifestyle decisions I’ve made. My focus is exclusively on Harper for part of the day, so when she’s napping or I have a babysitter, I work as efficiently as possible on the stuff that, well, pays, which blogging, unfortunately, does not. Also, I try as hard as I can not to work in the evenings so that The Guy can have my undivided attention after she goes to bed.
It’s also the fact that one aspect of the reason I started blogging in the first place has changed, and not for the better. What separates blogging from, say, writing in a diary is the conversation – I write something, you guys comment on it, I comment back, and so on. Lately, though, the conversation isn’t as nearly as pleasant or even civil as it once was.
I’ve always gotten the occasional nasty comment or email. Having blogged for nine years (!) now, I’m pretty good at predicting which posts will net me at least one poorly-constructed missive about what a crappy writer/photographer/mother/human being I am. I expect it, I accept it, and while I can’t honestly say it doesn’t bother me at all, I’ve learned to move on.
But these days it seems I can’t write or say anything – on my own blog or as a comment on anyone else’s – that someone doesn’t tell me what an idiot I am. Not that I never do anything idiotic – God knows I do – but my family’s life runs pretty dadgum smoothly 98 percent of the time. I simply cannot be that much of a f–k-up (pardon my language). If I did as many things wrong as these people say I do, then I would be a walking disaster.
I have actually considered giving up blogging entirely. Like most of you, I’m an extremely busy person. Why waste time on something I don’t enjoy and that doesn’t benefit my family?
In the end, though, I decided I still have something to say, and there are still people who enjoy reading what I write. And that’s good enough for me.
But hear this:
If you don’t like what I have to say, the way I rear my daughter, worship, run my household, conduct my business, love my husband or show my friends that I care about them, then STOP READING. This is harsh, but I think we can all agree it’s true: If you say you don’t have time to clean your house, but you can find the time to type three paragraphs about what a moron I am while your children’s shoes are sticking to your kitchen floor, then, my friend, your priorities are way out of whack. Turn off the computer, and go do something productive.
Or stick around and keep reading. You might learn a thing or two.
One of my sorority sisters announced this weekend that she’s pregnant with her first child. Another of my friends is also pregnant, and yet another is in the process of adopting a child. And it started me thinking:
Being a first-time mother requires your skin to be just about as thick as your average blogger’s.
People come out of the woodwork, it seems, to tell you the most inane garbage you’ve ever heard in your life. Before I had Harper, I was no expert on babies (and I’m still not), but Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I think I can figure out not to feed the baby gasoline, thank you very much.
(I exaggerate, but not by much.)
Or they’ll tell you their Extreme Childbirth stories like they happen everyday. “I gave birth in 45 minutes, start to finish, on the side of the road in the backseat of a Volkswagon Beetle with no epidural while biting down on a tire gauge, so in your last trimester, you should stay in a hotel next door to the hospital! And if you don’t, THEN YOU’RE A BAD MOM AND I HATE YOU.”
Then there are those who get their jollies by peeing on your parade. Everybody has at least one of these in his or her life. They always start by asking a seemingly innocent question.
“What’s your birth plan?”
“Well, I actually think I’d like to attempt a natural childbirth.”
“OH MY GOD. Nobody does that. You think you want to do that, but you really don’t. You’ll see. You won’t do it. Ha ha ha ha, nice try, though!”
“So what are you doing about daycare?”
“My mom is going to keep her during the day for me.”
“Well, she’ll be sick her whole first year of school. She won’t build up any immunity if she doesn’t go to daycare. She’ll miss so much school, they’ll probably hold her back.”
(My child does not attend daycare, so at home, she exists in a hermetically sealed plastic bubble, similar to a hamster ball. There are no germs outside, in the church nursery, at the grocery store, in hotel rooms, in the mall or at our family and friends’ houses, especially if they have their own kids. Oh, and we make Cousin Emily stay home from college.)
Before Harper was born, someone asked me what I planned to do about weaning. (Understandably, we first-time moms tend to get ahead of ourselves sometimes. It’s just the nerves.) When I told her I was interested in baby-led weaning and explained what it was, she literally SCOFFED. Like, I knew the word “scoffed” and what it meant, but I had never actually seen anyone SCOFF until that moment.
Therefore, I offer no advice to my fellow first-timers; you will get more than enough in the months to come. Instead, I’ll simply tell you the things I wish somebody had told me. Hopefully, you’ll find something in here that’s useful to you.
1. You will encounter numerous people (almost always women) who will try to make you doubt yourself and your plans for yourself and your child. These jackasses are easily identifiable, as their assvice almost always begins with, “Well, I thought that too, but…”, “Bad news…” or “I hate to tell you, but…”. They don’t hate to tell you anything, and giving you their bad news delights them! They’re convinced that their experience, awful as it was, is universal, so whatever unfortunate thing happened to them will undoubtedly happen to you, too. If it worked for them, then it’s right for everybody. If they failed at it, then clearly, it’s a stupid method. Usually, they have difficult children and uninvolved spouses. They’re deeply insecure, and you doing something differently from them means they did it wrong, so they’ll do anything, including trying to undermine your confidence, to convince themselves that YOU’RE the idiot.
Ignore them COMPLETELY.
2. If you think you need to go to the doctor’s office or the emergency room, then you do. Don’t worry about looking foolish or seeming like an alarmist. Those doctors and nurses work for YOU; if there were no patients, then none of them would have jobs. If they treat you poorly, complain to their supervisors and/or go elsewhere. Not seeking medical help when you need it is how tragedies happen.
3. Remember that, despite all the horror stories you read on the Internet, the odds are overwhelming that your baby will be just fine. There are kids who grow and thrive in crack houses; as long as you’re a responsible, conscientious parent, your kid is probably going to be OK.
4. Speaking of which, whatever feeding/sleep/diapering/learning/etc. method you decide to use, it’s going to be the right one for your family. As long as it’s generally considered safe by the medical community, it’ll be fine. Just stay flexible, and if one thing doesn’t work out, try another.
5. As you can probably imagine, The Guy and I are not schedule-y people. We hang loose as much as possible. But we will nevertheless testify that ROUTINES are your FRIEND! (Can I get a amen?) Develop yours as soon as possible.
6. It takes a while to find your feet. Personally, I didn’t hit my stride until Harper was five months old. And that’s perfectly fine. Parenting a baby, especially for the first time, is one of the hardest tasks you will ever undertake. Lots of people will try to convince you that they’re naturals at it, and they didn’t have any trouble at all. That’s actually true for maybe 1 percent of them. The rest are lying. It’s normal and healthy to struggle. You’ve got more people than you think you do who want to help you out and lift you up.
7. Next go-’round, The Guy and I will set aside money specifically for baby-related expenses. Between paying doctor and hospital co-pays, buying medicine, shopping for baby gear we needed and hiring repair people, our emergency fund took a serious hit. It sounds stupid now, but we just weren’t expecting Harper to cost that much right off the bat. For future Powell babies, we’ll have a little nest egg to cushion our savings. And if we don’t use it, awesome. Having extra money saved is never a bad thing.
8. You need more baby clothes hangers than you think you do.
9. Target’s Up and Up brand diapers are, in many people’s opinions (including mine), just as good as Pampers, and they’re a lot cheaper.
10. For God’s sake, pack a diaper bag.
Parents and non-parents alike: What’s the dumbest piece of assvice you’ve ever received?