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Dear Young Mother, Here Are Five Secrets To Make Your Life Easier

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Sixteen years ago in the wee morning hours of May 5th, I become a mother five weeks ahead of schedule.

I was not ready.

No diapers.

No onsies.

No breast pump.

No cute pictures on his nursery walls.

Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Although, I did have my famous To-Do lists tacked on my desk. I laugh now knowing that no amount of planning would have prepared me for motherhood.

He was a big preemie, weighing in at 6lbs 4oz, but had to stay in the NICU for a week and then had many trips back and forth to the hospital. Those early weeks were complete chaos—a time filled with worry and uncertainty. It felt like years until I was organized again.

That little dude rocked my world.

And then his sister followed.

Sometimes, I still feel like I’m trying to catch my breath and my first born is about to start his junior year in high school.

When my baby boy came home from the hospital two days before my first Mother’s Day, I wish someone had given me a child-rearing cheat sheet and made me promise to follow it. Oh how I’d love to hop on a time machine, zoom back to 2000, and have a chat with my younger self.

“It’s going to be the rockiest road you’d ever traveled,” I’d say. “but if you follow these few tips, it’ll be a bit easier.”

And then I’d whisper . . .

1. Don’t feel guilty about letting the baby sleep with you (at least you’ll sleep).

Enjoy the snuggly time and the quiet nursing. And once the baby is old enough to sleep by himself, put him into his crib and be done with it. Let him cry. You will survive. (But you might need help to do this: your husband, your mother, your sister, your best friend. Wear earplugs and go to bed.Get through the first three nights and you’ll be home free and well-rested thereafter.) The book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child will save you!

2.The days are long, but the years are short. Keep a Last Time Journal.

You’ll remember all the firsts (step, tooth, birthday) and have plenty of photographic evidence. But the lasts will slip by. You’ll forget the last time your child sat on your lap, the last time you read a bedtime story, the last time you nursed. And somehow the lasts are more noteworthy. They signal a moving forward in a profound way that’s different than the firsts—it’s the end of something that’s been a huge part of your life—no need for a party, but make a note.

3. Hold off on the electronics.

They grow quickly and soon they’ll want an iPod, iPhone, Tablet, Wii, X-box. Don’t cave. There’s no reason an elementary school child needs any of them. We made entering 6th grade a right of passage and gave our kids a phone. It was too early! The electronics fast become all consuming. Once you’re in, you can’t go back—you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. Be especially mindful of the electronics for your daughter—social media can be so appearance-oriented and superficial. And no matter what—no phones in the bedroom overnight. Read Why I Should Take My Child’s Cell Phone At Night.

4. Don’t be in a rush to start organized sports.

Hold off on club teams. There will be a day when your son is playing select soccer in third grade and a parent (substituting for the coach) will tell your son he isn’t going to play him because he wants the team to win. Remember, the superstars at eight are not the same ones at sixteen. At the end of that season, pull your son from that team. And don’t worry, as a high school freshman, your son will make varsity teams in two sports. Encourage him to play multiple sports. Make it fun. If he really is a college-caliber athlete, start to think about specializing in high school (Remember, when he’s twenty-five, his high school sports career will be reduced to a side note in a job interview—check out The Race To Nowhere In Youth Sports.)

5. Keep them reading.

Make it an absolute priority. Bribe them if you must. Do not give in too easily. Warning: the critical time is in middle school—do not let everything else become more important than books. Remember Dr. Seuss had it right when he said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Bonus Tip: Have Sunday dinner together as a family.

Life is going to get super crazy. There will be practices, lessons, and clubs that eat into your family time. But once a week, sit down for a meal. Make it a tradition that your kids will carry into their adult lives. Hold fast as this won’t be easy.

P.S. You’ll never stop worrying—once a mom, always a mom. And I hear it doesn’t end when they go to college, or get married, or have kids of their own. So find other moms who think like you do. Pull together. Help each other. Give those little cuties an extra snuggle. You’ll be me before you know it.

Good luck and Godspeed!

Heather Christie is a wife, mother, writer, real estate broker, new knitter, amateur cook, exercise freak, and avid reader. When she’s not selling houses, she’s writing books and blogging about family, food, & philosophy at Heather Christie Books. She recently completed her debut novel What The Valley Knows. You can also follow Heather on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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