Recently, one of my best friends had her first baby and she said to me, "I'm sorry I was such a jerk when you had Cole. I had no idea..."
This heartfelt confession nearly brought tears to my eyes. I wasn't expecting her to say that, and I wasn't expecting to feel relieved when she said it. But I was. It felt really nice to have someone so close to me finally understand how I had been feeling for the past two and a half years. It was so nice to finally share stories and experiences with someone I love like a sister.
Now that she has a baby of her own, she understands how your emotions change, how your heart changes, and how you—now a Mother—are forever changed.
I re-assured my friend that she wasn't a jerk. She doesn't have a jerk bone in her body. She was just a friend who had never had a baby. There is only so much you can understand without having gone through it.
With that said, there are certainly things you can do to try and be the most supportive friend possible, because, let's be honest, having a baby changes things. Not only does it change the mother's life, it changes her friendships too.
1) BE THERE AFTER THE BABY IS BORN.
Your friend just pushed a human out of her vag (or had it cut out of her uterus)—either way, it's a freaking miracle. You should be there. Yes, the baby might be wrinkly and goopy and look like an alien, but it will mean the world to your friend that you came to meet the newest love of her life. She'll give you extra points if you tell her she looks good and that her baby is cute (even if neither are true).
2) DON'T EXPECT THE NEW MOM TO DITCH THE BABY AND HAVE A NIGHT OUT ANYTIME SOON.
It's been two months since your friend became a mom, surely she wants a night out to party just like the good old days, right? Wrong. Your friend is likely too physically and emotionally attached at this point to really *enjoy* a night out. In theory, it's a great idea. In reality, (if she's breastfeeding) there is a lot of pumping and engorgement and missing-baby-guilt that she'll have to endure for a night of drinking. Really, as fun as it sounds, it's just not worth the effort.
3) HANG OUT DURING THE DAYTIME.
Sure, maybe you just rolled out of bed at 11am, but your new mom friend has already been up for a good six hours and is dying to talk to an adult. So, call her up and see if you can meet her for lunch (even if it is your breakfast), or bring her an afternoon latte and go for a walk.
4) DON'T GET GROSSED OUT OR MAKE WEIRD FACES WHILE ASKING STUPID QUESTIONS.
So there are going to be things that your friend has gone through that may seem strange, gross, or disgusting—and they are. She likely has hemorrhoids in her ass and stitches in her vag. Her baby has probably puked in her hair twice already today. Her post-partum belly is still trying to figure out what the hell it's supposed to do with itself now that the baby is gone, so it just jiggles around awkwardly. So whatever you do, don't ask stupid questions and make stupid faces, i.e.: "What is that thing supposed to be?" when pointing at her oh-so-attractive nursing-bra contraption. It's one thing to ask questions out of genuine curiosity, it's another thing to make your already self-conscious friend feel like a freak show spectacle (even if she is resembling the bearded lady these days. I told you...weird shit happens when you have a baby...)
5) DO SOMETHING NICE FOR THE BABY.
If you like your friend, you have to like her baby (or at least pretend to). So the next time you visit, or for a special occasion, bring something meaningful. A card. A homemade blanket. A stuffed toy. A token that says, "I welcome you into this world, you screaming little ball of flesh that has forever ruined girls-nights watching The Bachelor."
6) HOLD THE SCREAMING LITTLE FUCKER.
Your new mom friend is exhausted, and as much as you might hate hearing her baby cry...she hates it ten times more. It breaks her heart. She's exhausted. So please, offer to take a turn holding the screaming baby while she goes outside to breathe for 10 seconds. She'll love you forever.
7) SAVE YOUR JUICY STORIES.
Your new mom friend is wrapped up in breastfeeding, diaper changing, and forgetting to give her newborn vitamin D drops. There is nothing she'd love more than to hear stories that have NOTHING TO DO WITH THESE THINGS. Did you get stuck in the elevator on your way to work last week? Awesome! Did you flirt with a co-worker? Even better. Did you read an article on something even mildly intelligent? Fan-freaking-tastic. Pour your friend a cup of tea and don't forget a single detail!
And that's it! See? It's really pretty easy to not be a jerk when your friend has a baby. Just remember, you'll likely have a baby one day too and you're going to need this friend like you've never needed them before. Who will you call when you're literally crying over spilt milk? Only a new mom can sympathize when your husband knocks over 5oz of freshly pumped liquid gold.
If you'd like to read more about new adventures as a new mom, you can check out one of my first posts called, "I Am A Cow: A Breastfeeding Story." Or if you want more insight into the post-partum phase, check out "Life After A Baby."
A lot of people have been talking about free-range parenting these days, even here on YMC, so I'm going to jump on the bandwagon because I'm a Leo and I hate to miss a good party! (Though, to be honest, I haven't been to a party that's free of diapers and sippy cups in a very long time. That's for another post...)
Anyway, if you somehow haven't heard the term free-range parenting, don't beat yourself up—it's hard to stay on top of the many parenting style classifications these days. What ever happened to the good old parenting style called, um...parenting? You know, the one where you just try your best to provide love, food, shelter, and generally keep your kids alive?
But for those of you who haven't heard of free-range parenting, it became a "thing" in 2008 after a woman named Lenore Skenazy wrote an article in the New York Sun about how she let her 9-year-old son ride the subway alone. After that, people went crazy, she became famous, appeared on many talk shows, and wrote a book called Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts With Worry). She also landed a TV show out of the whole ordeal. Not bad. Well played, Lenore, well played.
And now, I hear the term free-range parenting everywhere. Everyone is doing it. It's the "IN" thing. If free-range parenting were a fashion trend, it would be a beard. And the thing is, like beards, not everyone can pull it off. Some guys just let their facial hair grow wild without making any effort to trim, clean, or maintain it. They call it a beard. I call it laziness.
Similarly, I think some people are using the term "free-range parenting" to justify their lack of child supervision (and that's not what it's supposed to be about). Their child will be playing with a shard of glass on the sidewalk and they'll say, "Hey, relax dude. I'm free-range parenting." But what happens when that child needs 35 stitches? Then you're just a free-range-negligent-asshole, if you ask me.
Honestly, I think as parents we all need to try our best to be in tune with our own child's abilities, and also understand the limitations of their age. We're talking brain development here, people. There are certain things that two-year-olds, for example, just can't process. My son threw a fit because he wanted me to put his poopy diaper back on his bum, so there is no way I'm going to trust him to walk to the corner store and cross a busy road by himself. It's just not happening.
So now, let me ask you—where do you lie on the parenting spectrum? Are you more a helicopter-type or a free-ranger? When you see the images below, what do you see?
A grape, coffee table, and hot coffee? If yes, then you probably don't have children. Or if you do, I'm assuming you collect stamps at your local emergency room "The 10th visit gets you a free tote-bag!" Because when I look at the images above, this is what I see:
A choking hazard, stitches, and 3rd degree burns requiring a skin graft.
I guess this means I'm not a very good free-range parent, right? Perhaps I'm just a free-range-ish type. I just can't help but to err on the side of...paranoid. It's in my nature. I'm a mother. I'm a Schlumberger. It's in my DNA. Worrying and foreseeing accidents is what I do. So if that means I don't get to join the cool kids in the free-range club, so be it. I'll just un-buckle my kids helmet, loosen his bubble-wrap suit, and we'll sit in the shade and enjoy some sliced grapes as part of the My Kid Is Intact club.
I've always been on the fringes of cool, so I guess it's best to just stay here. And I'm okay with that.
So tell me, do you subscribe to the Free-Range method? Why or why not?
And if you'd like to read more about free-range parenting on YMC, check out "Why Free-Range And Helicopter Parenting Labels Suck," "How Can I Be a Free-Range Mom When I'm Afraid To Let Go?" or "Free Range Kids = Safer Teenagers."
I'm a picker. I always have been, always will be. Some people think it's disgusting and gasp at the thought of doing it, but most people I know are closet pickers. They don't want to admit it, but they get the same level of satisfaction as I do out of a great pick.
(This blog post isn't going where you thought it was, is it?) That's right. I'm publicly admitting it—I love to pick, peel, poke, and prod.
And the only thing better than picking something on yourself, is picking something on your kid. You made them, you get to pick them. That's my motto.
Now, I suggest if you are one of those "non pickers," you might want to stop reading, because the rest of this blog post might make you dry heave a little and think less of me as a human. But if you're a fellow picker, you'll understand the next statement:
Nothing excites me more than a good booger. Or an ingrown hair. A pimple. Some cradle cap. Dead skin. A hangnail even. I have superpowers that help me detect even the most miniscule bump that needs to be explored, investigated, and then immediately removed.
Yes, I realize how disgusting this sounds. But I'm being honest. I just can't stare at my child's beautiful face when they have a giant boog hanging out of their nose. It just MUST come out. It has to. I can't focus on anything else until that boog has been released, and I've developed some clever boog-removal skills as well.
The first one is called the Sneak Attack. When my toddler is watching TV or is totally distracted playing with his dump truck, I'll sneak up from behind and lunge for the booger. This is a very efficient technique, but requires the precision of a surgeon. One wrong move, and you'll miss the nostril completely and alert the toddler to your plan. Then, it's game over. So you have to be quick, and choose your angles wisely.
The second is called the Get Your Toddler Excited About His Booger technique. I've actually said, "Oh my goodness! Look at that awesome big booger! Let me take it out and show you!" This is complete with the same level of enthusiasm that I'd express over getting ice cream, by the way. It doesn't work as well as the Sneak Attack because unlike me, my toddler doesn't seem to get excited about boogers, but at least it confuses him long enough for me to go in for a grab.
As I type this, I realize how insane this sounds, and yes, perhaps my children will require therapy later in life. But who doesn't, really? I'd hate for them to be the only child in their kindergarten class who ISN'T in therapy, you know?
Will they learn to associate snuggling with having their head/eyes/backs/fingers picked at? Maybe. But monkeys pick and snuggle at the same time, so I'm pretty sure it's a natural evolutionary thing. I'm also pretty sure that I'm an expert at justifying just about anything...