I recently came to the realization that I should have given my kid more screentime when he was little. And also more candy. Though hardly hardcore like our “crunchy” brethren—he’s well-vaccinated, wasn’t “baby-worn” and, thank God, we let him “cry it out” during sleep training—we still spent years freaked out about permanently wrecking him because we had no idea what we were doing. Being in charge of life is super scary.
The multi-billion-dollar parent-industrial complex will use that fear to sell you things. I wish we owned a fraction of the parenting crap currently filling our basement because we’re too busy to put it on Bunz. (Still cool with our gifted Paul Frank Bugaboo stroller, though, we used the shit out of that.)
But more well-meaning folks take advantage, too. I wish we’d ignored the “lactivists” who convinced us we’d destroyed our newborn’s immune system for life because the hospital gave him formula when he had trouble latching and was fast losing weight. I really wish I hadn’t read that advice about not giving kids Tylenol to cut fevers because, y’know, that’s the body’s way of fighting illness. It’s also body’s way of giving your kid a febrile seizure in your arms and an ambulance ride to Emerg when his temperature rises too high, too fast.
We’ve since learned most of our fears were unwarranted and moderation is key to all things parenting. Last week, he cooked up amazing, dolphin-shaped gummies using a DIY sour candy “science kit” and even though we didn’t let him watch much TV aside from Yo Gabba Gabba and My Little Pony when he was wee, the kid recently ran through, like, 220 episodes of Naruto in a shockingly short period of time. Guess what? Not only did it not make him dumb, when finished he just moved on to reading the manga.
Look, every child is a unique snowflake (seriously, they get triggered by everything) and everyone’s parenting experience is similarly singular. Nonetheless, we asked a bunch of parents what they wish they had known before unleashing another human onto our planet.
Every single piece of advice is shit for new parents. In my experience, people just wanted to tell you how it was for them. Are daddy wars a thing? Because mommy wars are out of control. It’s the “absolute” people that make me the most angry—like it’s all natural or all medical, and no matter what you choose you’re a shit parent. “Oh, you didn’t give birth down by the river assisted by virgin deer? Poor kid.” “You took your kid to the doctor? OMG, call child services!” Then you bring up some more “natural” options to medical professionals and they tell you that you’re a shit parent for thinking virgin deer know more than they do. It honestly made me fearful of having to decipher the BS and make a decision that makes me comfortable. — Monna Hansen Lane
I would love to have known more about logistics—parenting hacks, diaper management systems, road trip logistics, food ideas, etc.—and waaaaay less unsolicited philosophical ruminations on the obvious: "it will go fast!!" or "cherish every second!" or THIS ONE I ABHOR: "It gets better!" — John WD Mullane
You can survive without mommy groups, you really can. I made a point of keeping my close friends close—at least 50 percent of them don’t have kids—and for me, that’s been a sanity-preserver. Also, you don’t just die intellectually. Yes, you’ll spend lots of time thinking about whether to introduce squash as opposed to carrot, and about poop and such. But you can still read, and I’m not talking about mommy blogs. — Deana Sumanac-Johnson
Most of the things people say will “mess up your kid” really won't. Parenting a new child is full of guilt for things you should do for your kid, your partner and yourself. But life is different now. Be OK with that. Forgive yourself for not working out four times a week anymore or working 12-hour days anymore. A bit of screentime so you can have a shower won't destroy your child. Eating McD's sometimes isn't going to destroy them either. We all want to do the best we can but sometimes you also need a break. — Lisa Louie
There Will Be Shit (And Other Stuff)
Raspberries make you poop. Didn't know that, now I do. I miss that shirt. — James R.C. Smith
Pee Pee Tee Pee. Worst. Product. EVER! If only I knew that two Ziploc bags, a diaper, wipes, and a bag of goldfish crackers was all I would ever need. — Stephen Fung
Grab handfuls of those mesh underwear from the hospital. — Kymberly Burchell
As great as the lighter coloured sleepers and clothes are, go for darker—they hide stains better. And. There. Will. Be. Stains. — Samantha Kemp-Jackson
It Does Take a Village
I wish I had known I’d need a lot of help from other people because it was really hard to do it on our own. I suppose it really used to “take a village” but in cities people are very isolated. We did not have grandparents around and no family other than my sister who would help out during the times of crisis—during my relapse into alcoholism or my son’s dad’s emergency eye surgery—so we were really lucky to have her. But we sucked at getting and keeping babysitters so that we as a couple could have some time to ourselves. There were almost no dates, no fancy outings—just parenting that was really stressful because I was struggling with addiction and then I was trying to get sober, which also takes up a lot of time and effort. I really wish we had more help and asked for more help. Ask for help. Set it up in advance. Surround yourself with people. Don’t isolate. The rest is easy. (It’s fucking hard but you’ll figure it out—just don’t drop the baby!) — Jowita Bydlowska, author of Drunk Mom
I wish I had known how lonely and boring it would be at times when they were really small, especially since I didn’t have any friends with babies at the time my daughter was born. — Alison Bates
To not wish away the stressful moments. I now look back fondly on 3AM diaper changes and snuggles. My daughter was formula fed, so I took night duty and taped hockey games. Many a night we spent watching hockey and feeding her a bottle. I sometimes got frustrated and wished away the time. — Justin Connors
I’d heard lots about postpartum depression, but nothing about postpartum anxiety. I wish I’d known as it hit me like a mutha the first time around, and is trying to sneak its way in this time, too. With my first kid, my PPA manifested itself in pretty typical ways—fear of leaving the house, fear of failing as a parent, anxieties about scheduling and this feeling that I had lost my identity as a person outside parenthood and that I would never enjoy or be able to do the things I enjoyed before having a child. I began seeing a therapist who gave me some skills to help me cope. After a few months of working on myself, and getting the hang of being a new mom, I started to feel a bit like the old me.
This time around is different. I’m five-months postpartum, and the anxiety is there but I’m not plagued by worries as much—this time it’s manifesting itself in white-hot rage. I’m getting help for it, but I suspect it has a lot to do with the lack of control that comes with having a two-year-old and an infant.
I was better able to recognize something wasn’t right and spoke to a nurse about it right away. It also helps that I’ve told my close family and friends about what I’m feeling so I don’t feel so alone and they understand a bit better if I’m not quite myself or if I’m struggling and need help. — Michelle Lee Friesen
You Can’t Prepare for Everything
I wished I'd known about purple crying. Found it by Googling "why are my babies crying so much?" around week six with newborn twins. Just knowing this is an actual thing made me feel better and get through it with more sanity intact. — Hannah Wise
Oh my god, the breastfeeding troubles! Like is there enough milk?! How can I produce more?!? The pain of your boobs/nips/wrists, the worry of mastitis, the anger over your husband’s useless nipples! Like now, what were we freaking out about? — Leanne Sampson
Your Emotions Will Be Challenged
Plan for the hardest scenario and hope for the easiest. My first kid was easy. I remember watching her as a sleeping baby and waiting for some sort of difficulty to occur. Never happened. My second was born and any issues, we had them—feeding, sleep. That girl was literally screaming every time she would be out of my arms. Physically it was hard but mentally we were prepared. We just had it too easy the first time around. — Svetlana Putintseva
You're so caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day that you fail to pay attention to long-term relevance. We bought products and classes we didn’t need. We stressed more than we had to. We worried more than necessary. Give them love. Keep them smiling. They don't need to be spoiled. — Buzz Bishop
For me it was all about everything that would be taken away—choice, sleep, privacy—but no one told me how much joy would be given in exchange. — Will McGuirk
You don't know 'til you know, man. Now that we have our four-year old and a two-year-old, everything with the second is like "he's just two, this is how it is." While with our four-year-old, things are more WTF? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?! IS THIS SHIT NORMAL?!? — Casey Evertove Palmer
I have so much to say, and so little energy. — Tyler Clark Burke Follow Joshua Ostroff on Twitter.