Sharon Mazel, parenting and pregnancy expert, bestselling author, parenting coach, content creator on Instagram (@sharonmazel) offering super-helpful bite-sized parenting and pregnancy tips, and mom of four!
What is one thing you wish you knew before becoming a parent?
I have four children, and my firstborn was relatively “easy”. I thought to myself “I’ve got this whole parenting thing in the bag!” And then my second came along. And let’s just say she wasn’t as easy. And it made me realize that even though the environment was the same, the parents were the same, and our parenting styles were the same, every child is different and uniquely special. And that put an entirely new spin on parenting. I wish someone had told me not to compare my child to another (even another one of mine!) and to celebrate the joy of each child’s individuality. I came to realize it through my experience (and experienced it again and again with my third and fourth child), but it was an important lesson that I had to learn quickly and I wish I knew it before my first was even born. Perhaps I wouldn’t have thought I was such a great parent!
Number one piece of advice for new parents?
Take a deep breath and remind yourself that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We place so much pressure on ourselves as moms and dads to parent in a certain image of perfection that really isn’t attainable. But what I’ve learned in my over two decades as a parenting expert (and as a mom of 4!) is that there is no one right way to parent. Other than safety considerations (such as safe sleep recommendations, for instance), the right way to parent is to parent in the way that feels right for you. And that may look different for every parent.
What are a few things mom/dad should do during pregnancy to prepare for parenthood?
First time parents-to-be have a lot on their plate: navigating prenatal visits, stocking the nursery, figuring out how the baby’s arrival will change their relationship, and worrying about labor and delivery. They may also feel overwhelmed by the baby care to come, especially if this will be the first time they’re around a newborn. I always say that pregnancy is the best time to learn about baby care—before it’s 2 AM and your red-faced crying baby is in your arms and you’re not sure what you’re doing. Read a book on newborn care or take a newborn basics class so you know what to expect. Doing so will make you feel a little less clueless, reduce anxiety and help make the first exhausting weeks a little easier.
What is the most difficult part of becoming or being a parent?
At first, it’s the exhaustion. But that passes (eventually). Then it’s the worry and stress that comes along with caring for another human. That passes somewhat as you get comfortable in your new role and start to trust yourself more. While it’s different for every parent, one aspect that many parents find difficult is finding your identity and then balancing everything. Are you a parent? A partner? A colleague? A boss? In many cases, it’s all the above, and learning how to balance it all takes time—and to be honest, not all parents find their groove that quickly. That’s okay and to be expected, so my advice is always to lower the pressure of trying to do it all perfectly (that’s not possible anyway) and take it one day at a time, finding the joy in the little things and celebrating each little win.
Tips for postpartum anxiety?
Being a new mom (and dad) is scary and stressful. Lots of new moms worry about their baby’s health and development, have trouble sleeping, and feel burdened by their new baby. But 10 to 15 percent of new moms feel more than the typical new-parent worries and instead experience extreme anxiousness, persistent worries that are more intense than typical, a sense of always being on edge, panic attacks, and anxiety that is not based on any real problem. Postpartum anxiety can manifest in the way a mom might think her baby isn't meeting developmental milestones even though he or she is, or that there is something terribly wrong with her baby when they cry even though all babies cry as a way of communication. Luckily, there are ways to help ease postpartum anxiety: support from family and friends, meditation and mindfulness training, and of course therapy and medication when needed.
What is the most rewarding part of becoming or being a parent?
There’s nothing like watching your child grow and develop into an independent person. That’s one of the greatest joys of parenthood. Sometimes it’s hard to see the big picture when you’re mired in poop blowout, tantrums, and food being flung clear across the room. That’s why I always remind parents to celebrate the small things that are actually big: the smiles your little one gives you when you enter the room… and the unconditional love you get from your cutie.
Sharon Mazel is an internationally recognized parenting and pregnancy expert, New York Times bestselling author, journalist, content creator, speaker, and coach with over two decades of experience in this field. Sharon runs her Instagram account with 192k followers (@sharonmazel), offers parenting and pregnancy courses, guides, newsletters, coaching, and a blog through her website (www.sharonmazel.com).
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