Soliloquy: Advice from a well-worn mother

Farm Forum

I became a mother in 1979. I had two children in the ’80s, two in the ’90s and one in 2000, so my childbearing years span four decades, two centuries and two millennia.

I feel I’ve earned the right to give motherly advice, so here goes: If you are a new mom, take advice sparingly.

Advice-givers are likely to rosy up their own experiences and forget their key failures.

They might naturally be more exuberant than you or receive the help of a cadre of sisters. They might enjoy support networks you can only dream about.

They don’t have husbands who come home from work at 9:30 p.m., throwing bedtime into odd corners of your day.

They might not have the same budgetary constraints you do when they advise feeding expensive organic baby foods, hiring a housekeeper or going on impossible dates with your husband.

Experts might think they know how best to raise kids, but they don’t know your kids.

That said, I’m going to barge right in and give advice anyway.

Sleep: Sleep is overrated. You might not sleep now. You might not sleep tomorrow. You might not sleep when your kids are in school. You might not sleep when your kids are teens and out late. You might not sleep when your kids grow up. You might not even sleep when your kids start having kids of their own and call you at 11 p.m. to ask if they will ever be able to sleep. You can actually function without sleep. The sooner you get used to it the better.

Picky eaters: Kids who refuse to eat everything you cook except cheese sandwiches somehow do survive to adulthood. One day, they will call and ask how to get their own kids to eat, or they will ask for the recipe to something they wouldn’t touch when they were 7.

Potty training: No potty training advice ever works. Toilet habits develop only by magic. Kids start using the toilet, and brazen adults take credit.

Toys: The best toy kids younger than 8 can ever have is a laundry basket. A chair is a close second. Parents and kids are happier the fewer toys there are to clutter living space. Simplify.

Thanks: Gratitude is more important than many, many other things. Be grateful yourself. Even if you’ve failed here, it’s never too late to start. Force your kids to be grateful.

Reading: Make sure someone in the family reads to your kids frequently, and make sure good books are always available.

TV: If you have a TV, kill it.

Stupidity: Parenting is harder than nuclear physics. You can teach and sacrifice and theorize. You can feed all the right foods and believe all the right things and teach all the right habits — and your kid will still think it’s a good idea to drive a four-wheeler off Harney Peak or date the serial killer or tattoo anti-government slogans on his forehead.

Pray: I’ve never heard anyone regret that they prayed for their kids.

Right perspective: If you’ve chosen to spend your life caring for your kids and have bypassed a different career, you are not a “stay-at-home mom” — like some poor cinder girl at the hearth who can’t go to the ball. You are a full-time mom. Remember that.

Fake needs: You will be miserable if you immerse yourself in American marketing culture because advertisers want you to need things you really don’t need. You really don’t need the hardwood flooring, the latest gadget, the designer purse, the perfect hair. You just need to be Mom, and that’s enough.

Donna Marmorstein writes and lives in Aberdeen. You can contact her at