Good parents: You’re raising more than good children.

me n sageyI was one of those women who was overwhelmed with information in my first pregnancy. On modified bedrest, I had a whooole lot of time on my hands to read snarky message boards, advice from myriad sources, the 8 million registry “must-haves” from the stores themselves (duh), books that saved me and  books that made me want to jump off a ledge. I knew so much, it was hard to sort through what was important. Or what I needed to know.

I realized with all that information at my fingertips, it was all going to be mostly useless until I was actually holding a baby in my hands. What I was really missing, was the chance to just start parenting and figure things out for myself.

Fortunately I have somewhat good instincts about what’s right and wrong for me (if I do say so), and I had some wonderful counselors in my life. I was glad I listened to my OB when she specifically told me, “If you are reading that What to Expect book, immediately rip out all pages having to do with food and nutrition or you will weight 4,000 pounds after 40 weeks.” Or my mom who insisted that I leave the newborn baby with her for a night so I could go out and be a human being for just a few hours at a grownup restaurant with grownup cocktails; even if I did look ridiculous wedging my postpartum body into the one vaguely appropriate grownup outfit I still could squeeze into.

(I’ve deleted all photo evidence of that outfit, so don’t even ask.)I got great advice from other moms too–including some of the very people reading and commenting on this blog.  Because one of the coolest thing I’ve learned about the community of parents, is that we’re not reluctant to pay it forward.

So while there are already plenty of women on the internet and beyond, benevolently revealing the things they wish they knew when they were starting out, I thought I’d throw my own hat in that overcrowded advice ring today too. On Babycenter, my column is about The 12 Things I Wish I Had Known as a New Mom.

I’m sure you have a few of your own that’s not on my list, and I’d love to hear them.

If not there, then on your own blogs perhaps?

I recognize that as our kids get older, more parents are inclined to stop blogging, stop sharing; refocus energies elsewhere. I hope that doesn’t happen too much. Even if we change our focus entirely, or we blog less about our kids’ own stories, parents who have been around the block have so so much to offer. (And I don’t mean one of the girls on Sixteen and Pregnant whose publicist suggested she offer “mommy tips and advice” to my readers. Tip #1: Condom. Anyway.)

When we reveal our truths and our failures, our lessons learned and lessons yet to learn, it breeds two really important things in new parents: confidence and community. I’ve come to believe that good parenting requires both of those.  And you know, it breeds those things in not-so-new parents too. I for one am still learning every day. Sometimes my own commenters school me good. It’s tough sometimes. It’s also awesome. And it’s why I’m grateful for writers like Anna Quindlen and Lisa Belkin continue to write about life through a parenting lens, even as the novelty has worn off.

I’ve spent more than 6 years now (wow) watching parents emerge and grow online, and one thing has become abundantly clear to me:

Good parents don’t just breed good children. We help breed other good parents.

That is so very cool.

I always joke that New Yorkers aren’t unfriendly or rude; they’re just busy. But hey, ask one of us how to get to the closest A/C station and we’re likely to walk you there ourselves.


54 thoughts on “Good parents: You’re raising more than good children.”

  1. Love this. You are so right that the best parenting writing should not only make us feel not alone, but should give a little wisdom for the road ahead. I didn’t blog when I had babies, but find a lot to write about now that I have two teen-aged boys and things seem infinitely more complicated!

  2. Great post–I’ll be going to look at the list in a moment.
    But, I wanted to say thanks for the last little bit about New Yorkers. I’m always surprised when we get classified as “rude” because I also often say if I’m in any trouble, this is the only place I want to be. New Yorkers are quick to help. Like you said: we’re just…busy.
    I’m happy we’re raising our son here

  3. What?! You don’t take advice from teen moms on TV shows? Seriously, the writing that truly is revealing and helpful has been a godsend to so many women. And I think it will continue to be. Now if we could be done with whether we can, should or ought to be “having it all” every time there’s a news story about a woman like Marissa Mayer!

  4. Very nice. As a not-so-new parent, (mine are 11, 9 &7), I sometimes feel like we lose a bit of the community of parents. After all, we have become so busy shuffling our kids to soccer, piano, swimming, school, drama club or whatever that it gets hard to blog and/or connect with other parents. I am finding that I seek out advice more and more as my kids grow.. the stakes seem higher when they become more independent.

    1. That’s fascinating; I always hear that new moms seek it out the most. Do you feel you seek out more advice or just different advice on issues with greater consequences?

      1. Erika! I have the same aged kids exactly! And, yes, I agree that I still want and need connection with other parents about the things our kids are going through. I find that as the kids get older, their interests pull them in different directions but we, as parents, still deal with their insecurities, peer pressure, educational issues, and—yeah—the big, scary topics that seem so far away when they are babies. One thing I like about raising kids around this age is there is less “You Must Do XYZ” advice but I guess that is what makes it so scary too.

      2. Mine are 11 & 8… and I’m feeling desperate to find information about my not-so-young-anymore boys. I didn’t have brothers and my husband doesn’t understand that I don’t understand any of them! Mir has teens, and I follow her certainly, but I haven’t found many bloggers who discuss the issues I’m ready to hear.

        I feel like this preteen thing is a bit like pregnancy. The teen years are Coming Soon but maybe we can’t prepare or understand until we have one.

      3. I have 5 kids (crazy, I know)! My older three are 17, 14, and 12 while my youngest two are only 5 and 1. I have found that the baby /toddler years are so much easier in comparison to the tween and teen phases. Hand me a colicky, gassy, hungry, tired, poopy newborn and I know exactly what to do; But stick me in a room with my emotional, hormonal, miserable teenagers who think they know everything but yet have no life experience to even begin to understand how life works…. aaaahhhh! Trust me, I seek out more advice on parenting my 3 older kids, than I do my 2 little ones. Good luck to us all!!! : )

    2. I totally agree! I remember when my oldest daughter got into middle school (she’s almost 17 now) suddenly feeling like we were in uncharted territory. Until then parenting had been so easy – we knew what we would say yes to and what was no. But the early teen years seemed to present nearly every week new requests – to spend the night at a home where we didn’t know the parents, to go to “the city” without an adult, etc. – that my husband and I had to evaluate and negotiate. We made OT through and are all in an easier place now, but those years we’re much more challenging than the newborn years!

  5. I wrote a list four years ago of 10 things all new parents should know:

    While I still believe everything on that list, I’m not sure that I would choose the same 10 things to highlight if I was making the list again today. Or I might roll several of them into one and then add a few others.

    While my beliefs and opinions haven’t changed much as my children have gotten older, my perspective has and I think that makes a difference in terms of what I see as important.

    1. That’s such a great point! We learn, we evolve, and we change our perspectives.

      The original title for this post was “New Moms Know It All…Until They Realize They Don’t” but eh…I didn’t want to start anything.

  6. This is (in large part) why I continue to write about my children. They are teens now, but man, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m fumbling around with them worse than when they were newborns. I LOVE finding voices in our community that mirror what’s happening in my home. I seek out these voices. And maybe someone who has teens will search for a similar voice and find mine.

    1. I’m so glad you do. And Mir does. Because I’m well aware that my kids will not be teething for much longer. And I’ll have other things to cry about.

    2. I think it’s reassuring to know we’re all kind of making it up as we go along. But I still love knowing there are people maybe a chapter or two ahead of me that have something I can learn from. Hey – like you, Tanis!

    3. I think parents tend to pull back on talking about their tweens/teens both online and off. I sense that it has to do with the perception (valid or not) that tween/teen struggles are a greater reflection on us as parents than newborn/toddler struggles. That is, the kids have reached the point where we can explain ourselves and reason with them, and if they don’t toe the line, that’s a failure on our part. Or so I think that parents seem to think so.

      1. Do you think? I don’t have a teen yet so I don’t know. But I certainly know moms who think they’re failures if their kid isn’t speaking French by 10 months. Heh.

    4. I’m with Tanis. I hold back sometimes on writing or referring to PunditGirl mostly because she is online now, even if only for homework and limited E-mail contact. But as much as I worried when she was little, I now realize that much of what I thought were the ultimate in parenting crises, I see more clearly now what issues are coming up and they are not pretty. Not being invited to another kid’s birthday may have hurt when she was 6, but cyber-bullying and hate E-mail are the issue of the day for us now. 🙁

  7. I loved this post! Mom bloggers are powerful people. For the exact reasons you mentioned. Natural educators, connectors, builders of community. I am a newer mom (my daughter is 16 months) and I have noticed that there is a huge community of newer moms and less of moms to older kids. I hope that I can always find the advisors, supporters, mentors I need as I grow and evolve as a mom. Thanks!

  8. I really (really, really, really) wish there were more Mom bloggers writing about school aged kids. It seems those who are inclined to jump on the blogging bus do it when their kids are cute little babies, but then fade away. I absolutely benefited from those resources when my kids were infants and toddlers, but as my kids have gotten older, I’ve seen the number of blogs I can identify kind of drop off.

    As I’ve continued to blog (I started shortly after my second was born), I find I’m still bonding with readers, a good number of them personal friends who have kids who are in the same age group. I hope more people start sticking to blogging and not throwing in the towel as the kids get older.

    Oh and if I had one piece of advice for new Moms, it would be “Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out.”

  9. I love this, so true. I heard some fantastic words of wisdom during my first pregnancy, as I was sharing with my Dr. Child Development father-in-law how overwhelmed I was by all the information out there, and how my head was swimming from reading so many books, newsletters, emails, etc., and he said to me –

    “You are going to be a great parent, not because of the information you’ve read in those books, but because you’re making the effort to read them at all.”

    Total perspective maker!

  10. funny you say that… i helped some tourists find their way this AM! =)

    i started reading blogs to learn more about families raising their children bilingual, and along the way i discovered some funny, informative and great blogs that really inspire me or help me laugh at the things that happen every day, and remind me that I’m not in this alone!
    Also, as a working mom I have become an advocate for changes in the workplace, so I have started writing about that as well.
    I love reading different parenting perspectives and the struggles parents face daily, there is so much to learn from each other!

    1. And now, I look forward to reading your blog too. Always glad to meet another working mom advocating for the rest of us. Thanks Diana.

  11. I wish I knew back then that I would have the confidence and strength, no matter what my kids threw at me – be it an iphone or a special need. I was so worried about doing everything “right” when in all honesty, you can do everything by the book and still have hiccups along the way and that’s ok. The hiccups will make you stronger and make your bond stronger to your kiddos (and husband).

  12. First of all, I had to laugh at the end of your post because on my one and only trip to New York they were doing subway repairs and some of the lines were closed. Three people ended up stopping to help me and my husband and it turned into a sort of think tank on the most efficient way for us to get back to Brooklyn. Another time I pulled out a map and in this random lady stops and goes, “Okay, whaddaya need?” Totally love New Yorkers.

    Second point- I teach seventh grade and can I just say, KEEP THE BLOGS GOING. If you think a toddler is tricky to manage, wait until you have a twelve year old on your hands. If playground issues piss you off, just wait until the 6th grade gossip circles get fired up. The teen years are really fun as kids open their eyes to the world, but oh lordy, we’re all going to need this network because they will push your buttons like you are an ATM.

  13. This is right on (as is the BabyCenter article). My best resources are other moms, and I’m so glad I’ve trusted myself in this journey.

    Sidenote: When traveling in NYC with foreign friends, we had wonderful game we played. They would pull out a map of the city, and I would time how long it took a NYer to ask them if they needed help or directions. Result? Never more than one minute.

    1. Some message boards are really helpful, like the birth groups at Babycenter, for a lot of moms. I think it’s the snarky anonymous ones that are absolutely not helpful in the long run. I don’t want to get parenting advice from someone who can’t stand behind her words.

  14. I’m a new mom and I readily admit I have no idea what I’m doing! The books were fine during pregnancy, but I soon found after giving birth that I craved a community; I wanted to hear from and empathize with other moms, and I wanted to share my story, too. I discovered blogs.

    I’m currently living with my in-laws, raising a 6 month-old daughter, and without reading blogs and writing one I think it would be harder for me to stay positive about situation I’m in. I know that ultimately, I want to be a good parent who raises a good child, and if my journey can inspire others to choose a difficult path for the right reasons, it will all have been worth it.

  15. I really like this post. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have wiser, done it before mothers/friends to help guide me and give me ideas based on what works for them.

  16. I wish I had discovered this blog (and the mommy blogging community in general) earlier on in my parenting. I dealt with some of the isolation that came with caring for my first baby by talking on the phone with my grandma frequently. With my second I started to write group emails. By the third I’d finally discovered blogs and it was like having access to a world of sympathetic and funny friends just a click away, day or night. I know it helped me immensely when my husband was deployed to be able to share my thoughts and stories on my blog and not feel so alone.

    As my kids get older (they are 10, 8 and 5) they get more and more interesting. But there are more and more aspects of their lives that are private that I don’t feel entitled to write about. When they couldn’t speak for themselves it didn’t seem wrong to speak for them. Now that they have their own voices I have to be more considerate about what I put online. There are issues I have been dying to toss out into the blogging community to get feedback about, but haven’t found a way to do it that in a way that won’t cause my children undo embarrassment. (Maybe we need some kind of anonymous forum to discuss issues about older kids.)

    1. You make a very good point, and it’s one that I think about a lot. When they reach a certain point of understanding, I will certainly feel compelled to start asking permission, which will necessarily limit many of the things I might choose to write about. And certain other things, even if they gave their blessing on, I might hesitate to include in order to protect them. One thing is certain, my fledgling blog will have to grow and change, as they do, and the likely result will be that I will be including less and less detail as they get older.

  17. I think this is a great post!

    It’s funny, my dad and I were talking about this topic the other day. My daughter turns three tomorrow, so I have an eternity before I’m parenting a pre-teen or a teen (even if we adopt a child older than her, which is a very real possibility, we still have years), but…I’ve never really thought about where to draw the line with blogging. My dad’s perspective was: don’t stop. He said that he could have never parented teenagers if he didn’t have other parents telling him what THEY were going through, and he knows that other parents benefited from him telling them what HE was going through. I pointed out that a lot of bloggers are busier with older kids or more numerous broods or that they want to respect their children’s privacy more. His response? “You make time for things that matter and if connecting to other parents to help forge a community matters to you, you’ll find time. And you can find a balance with privacy. You can talk about an issue with honesty without telling the world the intimate details of some boneheaded move your child pulled.”

    Hm. Food for thought, I guess. We’ll see where the blogosphere is in 10 years and then I’ll decide!

  18. I think it is more difficult to write about teens because the issues can be very sensitive and harder to make public and the teen in question may very well be reading the blog. They may be happy to share their own story on Facebook, but less happy to have mom post it on her blog.

    1. I think you are right, that the issues encountered with teenage kids are so much more complicated and personal. I recently started blogging about my family, and most recently wrote a piece about an issue I encountered with my 17 year old son. As soon as I had the idea for the piece I wrote the rough draft and handed it to him. I told him I wanted to share it in my blog, and A) I wanted him to be okay with the fact I was talking about him, B) I wanted him to tell me what he thought about it, and C) I wanted him to let me know if I had captured everything correctly. After he read it, he told me it was fine and he was okay with sharing it. I asked him if he was sure and he told me that he appreciated the way that it was written, and that he was able to see through my writing that I understood what he was going through. For a split second my teen and I had a mother son moment…those moments are few and far between at this age! It can be done, as long as when we write, we are sensitive to their feelings, and give them an opportunity to weigh in and tell their side.

      1. Liz, is it okay if I respond to a response?
        What a lovely and caring way to deal with a tricky problem. And what a fantastic outcome, that the two of you talked this way. I read your post, and thought it was wonderful. Also have three boys and I agree it is very hard for moms to teach some of these lessons.

  19. Parenting is such a long process. It’s never ending. It doesn’t end when babies turn into toddlers or 5-year-olds ride off to school. I’m still learning and struggling every day. By the time I figure this parenting business out, my kids will be grown and having kids of their own. And they won’t want my advice! I’ll blog as long as I have something to say and can still respect my family. Some of my favorite blogs are those of women who have already been through it all. I’m not sure they realize how necessary they are to us younger, less experienced moms.

  20. I only had books and (mostly) sage advice since I had no presence on the internet when my first child was in the womb and born. But after having 3 I completely agree with trusting your gut. Sure there’s some stuff that people can hint at and tell you but you have to LIVE it. And yes, it seems to change EVERY day!

    p.s. thanks for your comment at my place today. It meant a lot to me. 🙂

  21. This post was truly inspiring and eye-opening. And I couldn’t have discovered it at a better time. I am a newbie blogger, and still working through my own insecurities- I often wonder if I’m saying anything worthwhile to the general blogosphere, since my focus is so squarely on my own two children. But you’ve made some points I’ve never thought of before, regarding how personal blogs can be a resource, just by the sharing of trials, tribulations and experiences. Beyond the satisfaction that I know my blog is giving immediate family who don’t see us as often as they’d like to, it’s also comforting to think that perhaps some random reader of mine might benefit second-hand from a life lesson that I have to share. I’m certainly starting to benefit far more from reading the various blogs I’ve discovered since starting my own than I ever have in the crazy-judgemental cyber communities I’ve frequented for the past couple of years. I loved your list on BabyCenter, by the way, including the ever-so-controversial point about Thank You cards. I’m one of those people who really tries, and really cares, but can’t ever seem to get those things out, and it’s good to hear someone else say that just maybe it wasn’t the worst transgression that I’ve ever committed in my life, failing in that regard.

    1. So glad you commented FVA. Welcome. And could your name be any more awesome? I’m going to say no.

  22. Shall I shock you? I did not read one baby or parenting book when I was pregnant with the first. Not one. So when I actually did have that healthy shiny newborn I was ofcourse completely lost. And that is when I stumbled on blogs. I can honestly say that blogs and most importantly knowing that there were so many out there who felt the exact same mixture of scarred/proud saved my life, sanity and may just have made me a better parent.

  23. As a new mom of a now-6-month-old, I really appreciate and agree with your list. I have to say the biggest thing I’ve learned, and you alluded to it, is to take all of the developmental stages and timeframes that all books on parenting, including and especially the book “What to Expect, the First Year,” and THROW THEM AWAY! Your baby will smile, coo, roll over, laugh, sit up, crawl, etc in their own time, and not necessarily in that order, and NOT within the VERY conservative range of months prescribed in these books.

  24. As someone who does not have a my own blog, I can only implore you to continue blogging. I did not like reading blogs – I was a fact person before my kids came along. Give me consumer reports over journal, any day. But then, when second kid came around, and all the “what to expect…” books became stale, I went searching for Real Life. There are no books out there that give that intimate, personal glimpse that mistakes are OK, that they do happen, and that milestones are things that are happening to you and your kids, not some prescribed time or event. This is where life happens, this is what makes me think and comment and ask myself questions: is my perspective right? Unlike books, this community gives options, various experiences, some will enrich you, some will warn you, but all of them will make you think. And that is the road to good parenting: being mindful about what you do.

  25. As always, you manage to hit squarely and insightfully on issues that just swirl around in my head. As a working mom do many people ask how I could possibly have time to blog. What they don’t understand is that for me, blogging makes parenting so much easier – the space to process and the community to both celebrate and commiserate with is invaluable to me. I know I’ll need this forum throughout my parenting.

  26. I found your blog via #blogher12 chatter…and I’m so glad I did. This post really spoke to me…I started blogging in ’09 to “get the voices out” from battling infertility (turns out they don’t really leave when you get them out, they recycle like the dirty water at splash parks)…and then continued to blog through my triplet pregnancy and the 1st year of raising them. I finally got the courage to launch a new blog offering perspective on the culture shock of motherhood, and about every other day I think, “this has all been said. This is really not that good…talking about sticky toddler things and crying about being a failure at breast feeding…” But this reminds me and encourages me that it is worth talking about. It is building community and connection … even if it is repeated information and advice. You are so right – this parenting thing, it is a village – not to raise the child, but to become a parent. Thanks for the perspective, I needed it!

    PS, was browsing your site…came across an oldie but goodie on “blog self – promotion” and was laughing out loud…all so true, helpful and so funny – what a great angle you have!

  27. Doug French (@LOD), Helen Jane Hearn (@helenjane) and I just gave a talk at Evo about blogging and relationships (about privacy, oversharing, undersharing and more) and it was SO striking to hear about parents (myself included) talking about/struggling with the realities of blogging about older kids. And about the kind of support we needed/sought out when starting blogs (and parenting!) vs. what we need/provide now. It’s a fascinating snapshot of families, children, people and an entire industry in the process of growth.

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