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Your Best Parenting Advice: From Meddling Parents To Poop Management

Martín Elfman for NPR

What do you wish you'd known before becoming a parent?

In May, we asked our audience this question at the start of How To Raise A Human, our month-long special series on how to make parenting easier.

More than 1,000 moms and dads opened up about the struggles and joys of raising children of all ages, from babies to adults, on NPR's Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.

A mom shares what she's learned about parenthood from her own resilient mother. Another mom explains a trick she uses to get her in-laws off her back. And a one dad enlightens us with the advantage of the shoulder flaps on a baby onesie.

Here's a selection of responses, edited for length and clarity.

'We are all winging it'

I wish instead of people saying "Oh, you just need to follow your instincts" or "Read this baby book," I wish someone sat me down, looked me in the eye and said:

"Hey, we are all winging it. None of us knows what in the heck we are doing and NO two kids are exactly alike."

It amazes me how many parents are afraid to admit that. -Toni Holloway-Pullum

'Just tell them ... your doctor told you to do it your way'

if your in-laws and [family] are telling you how to do things and you want to do things differently, just tell them that your doctor/pediatrician told you to do it your way. Who cares if it's true? It will usually shut them up. -Josie Bahr

'I wish I had more support'

I wish I had more support for my decisions as a parent. At the end of the day it doesn't matter if I find out the gender or wait, if I use cloth diaper or [diaper booster pads], if I breastfeed or bottle. So long as I'm not harming my child, it really doesn't matter how I do it. -zalewskijade

'Love for a child ... is complicated'

I wish someone told me that the love for a child is not as simple and clear as a softly sung lullaby. It's as complicated as any human relationship. There will be guilt, frustration when you don't understand each other [and the feeling of] pain when you're apart, like any real love between two humans. -jennymortsell

'Don't make [parenting] a chore'

I thought being a stay-at-home parent meant the house should always be clean, the meals should be from scratch, the kids should be reading at an early age, the laundry should always be done. No. If you're lucky to stay home with your kids that means you should go to the park, zoo, museums, play Barbies, board games and dress up. You have more time to have fun and enjoy your kids. Don't make it a chore. Make fun memories instead. -Angela Evans Anderson

'They will push every button'

Savor every minute yada yada yada. The best advice I ever heard after my kids were born was that ... they will push every button and test your anger beyond what you can imagine. But if you know that, you can prepare. Learn healthy coping strategies. -Megan Hausinger

'My biggest point of reference ... my own mother'

Before becoming a parent, I wish someone told me how important my own experience as a child would be in becoming a confident mother. My biggest point of reference in motherhood would be my own mother — and my memories of her mothering skills would be a bottomless well that I would draw from.

Shortly after my son's first birthday, we moved to the U.K. from Sri Lanka. Within months I realized how brutal it was to do a full-time job while nursing a baby who wouldn't sleep for more than two hours at a stretch at night. We had no family for support apart from my husband, who was then a full-time student. I remembered the grit, perseverance and resilience of my mother — and I told myself that giving less than my best to any aspect of my life, whether it be as a wife, mother or employee, was not an option. She pushed herself even in the hardest of situations. -the_stories_of_a_mama

And a few random insights

If poop or pee get on a onesie, the shoulder flaps let you pull the onesie down to take it off so you can avoid a big mess from pulling it over the baby's head. -Scott Falconer

Welcome to being tired forever. This could be because I was a first-time dad at 38. But, jeebus, I remember being tired. I still haven't recovered, and he's 20. -Scott Kennedy

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Malaka Gharib is the deputy editor and digital strategist on NPR's global health and development team. She covers topics such as the refugee crisis, gender equality and women's health. Her work as part of NPR's reporting teams has been recognized with two Gracie Awards: in 2019 for How To Raise A Human, a series on global parenting, and in 2015 for #15Girls, a series that profiled teen girls around the world.
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