But as much as becoming a mom made me feel closer to all the other mothers and fathers out there, parenting is still a personal journey. There is no single right way to do it. We've all heard our fair share of "universal" parenting pointers, and most of us are guilty of offering advice to other parents, too. Sometimes the advice lands well, and sometimes it's really terrible.
Here are some of the most head-scratching parenting tips we've heard–and then promptly ignored.
Sleep When the Baby Sleeps1 of 7
This advice is a well-intentioned way of reminding new parents that sleep doesn't have to come at night. But for many, the classic tip grates on already frayed nerves.
If they're sleeping when the baby sleeps, who is washing the mountains of laundry? When does the Netflix binge happen? When do you get to call your friends and remind them you haven't dropped off the face of the planet? Not to mention, I love a nap like no one's business, but even I can't fall asleep at 9 a.m. when the baby goes down after breakfast.
Rub Whiskey on the Baby's Gums2 of 7
File this tip under 'Old Wives Tales.' Pediatricians will tell you that while liquoring up your teething baby may make them sleep better, it's dangerous, unhealthy and a very bad idea. And, if you ignore my warning to keep your baby off the sauce, please, at least take away their car keys.
Tell 'Em to Eat It or Starve3 of 7
Do we as parents cater to our kids' dietary preferences more than previous generations? Certainly. But we cater to our own preferences more than our parents and grandparents did, too. Telling the parents of picky eaters to take a hard line on mealtime battles isn't helpful.
When feeding a group of family or guests, it's always a good idea to make a variety of items so that no one goes hungry. Sure, grown-up dinner guests aren't going to tell you your casserole looks like dog food the way your kids might, but you also wouldn't tell your dinner guests to take their ungrateful butts to their rooms if they won't eat what you've lovingly prepared. Dinnertime is prime family time, and fighting over broccoli isn't worth it.
Better Safe Than Sorry4 of 7
At first, this tip makes sense. Who doesn't want to be safe, after all? It's certainly much better than being sorry. When it comes to parenting, though, these words have become the battle cry of anxious parents who see danger at every turn.
True, my stomach tightens every time I watch my kids climb a tree. But even as I envision a trip to the emergency room, I still let them climb (small trees, that is). Taking calculated chances and testing their capabilities is important, and I can't let my own fears impact my kids' development. As with swimming in pools and pedaling bikes around the neighborhood, safe means explaining the rules, observing the behavior and responsibly allowing a reasonable amount of risk.
Ban Social Media5 of 7
The internet has changed our world. We gather information differently, we communicate differently and bullies operate differently, too. As a mom, I worry about the way my kids use the internet, and I worry about how they will interact on social media in the future. Am I tempted to ban them from it completely? Absolutely. Will I actually do that? Absolutely not.
In the same way rock and roll was blamed for ruining a previous generation, the internet is incorrectly blamed for all of today's ills. We can try to shield our children from all things that may harm them, but a better idea is to teach them to be kind and resilient.
Enjoy Every Moment6 of 7
This advice is often given by parents with grown children who long for earlier days. On the receiving end, it feels like a criticism to parents in the thick of raising young ones.
Enjoy every moment? How is that even possible? Enjoy watching them get stitched up from a nasty spill? Enjoy when they've been mistreated by a friend and can't understand why? Enjoy potty-training? Enjoy when we're so exhausted all we can do is cry right along with our children? Parenting is a journey of peaks and valleys. While hindsight makes some of those valleys seem less steep, when you are at the very bottom, the focus is climbing out by putting one foot in front of the other.