26 April 2011

Review and giveaway: The Happiest Mom: 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood

Amazon: The Happiest Mom (Parenting Magazine): 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood There was a time when the title -- even the premise -- of this book would have tripped my skepticism alarm. "What can a parenting 'expert' tell me about being happy, especially in ten little steps?" Harumph.

I'm now older and more experienced, and I know better than to pooh-pooh the wisdom contained in this slim volume, much of which I've had to learn on my own (in other words, the hard way).

The wisdom. Ironically, as a new mom, I might have ignored the book's ten "secrets" as too simplistic or obvious to produce something as lofty as Happiness. "#1: Take the easy way out," "#4: keep it real," and even "#7: make your bed" ... c'mon, really?

Now that I'm eleven years into motherhood's surprises and challenges, I can say, "yes, really." Happiness as a mom has as much to do with high-level attitude shift as it does about day-to-day habits. The Happiest Mom recognizes this and lays out practical steps to help you with both. Don't be fooled by the cheerful presentation and quiz-and-checklist format: this is profound stuff. Profound and doable.

The author. Meagan Francis, mother of five and creator of The Happiest Mom blog, has been sharing her practical, positive advice for years. She's the best kind of parenting expert...one who has learned from her own experience and shares her discoveries with humor, perspective, and an open mind.

I got to know Meagan last summer at the BlogHer conference, and we spent time laughing and swapping ideas a couple weeks ago at the Mom 2.0 Summit. She's as funny and down-to-earth in person as she comes across in her writing. This is someone you want on your new motherhood team.

The delivery. Meagan manages to give advice without sounding preachy or saccharine. She shares her accomplishments with pride, and her foibles with humor and humility. It's not often you stumble upon someone you can identify with and admire at the same time.

This book is the ideal gift for a new- or expecting mother. Bonus: it comes with a free one-year subscription to the Early Years edition of Parenting magazine.

Win it! I've got three copies of The Happiest Mom to give away. To enter, leave a comment sharing your #1 new parent tip. If you could give your favorite expecting mom or dad a single piece of advice, what would it be?

I'll randomly choose three winners on Wednesday, April 27 at 5PM PST. Good luck!

The giveaway is now closed, and the winners have been announced.

At Amazon: The Happiest Mom (Parenting Magazine): 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood

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Feeding a baby in the bathtub. We took that advice yesterday and it worked out great!

Don't sweat the small stuff..

Expectant dads: start working out your shoulders now!

make the baby sleep in their own room!

Go with your gut. You know your baby better than anyone else.

Everything is a phase and it will all change quickly. The good stuff and the bad!

Give yourself a break. Nobody is perfect and there is a huge learning curve for this parenting thing. ;)

When a stranger or well-meaning older person asks if your baby is a "good sleeper," just lie. Smile and lie. If you don't lie, you will hear about how all three of their babies "slept through the night at 7 weeks old." Those same babies also potty trained at 14 months old. Yes, all three of them, at exactly the same age.

Rock your baby as often as you want to, but lay the baby in his bed while his eyes are still open! Don't rock them to sleep and then try to sneak away, or he'll cry when he wakes up somewhere different from where he fell asleep.

Buy yourself some new clothes to wear once the baby is born. Stuff that's still bigger than your original size, but never worn during your pregnancy. Putting the same maternity clothes on right after the baby comes is kind of demoralizing, and it's nice to have something shiny and new.

So much of your parenting experience is due to the temperament of your baby, which is luck of the draw and out of your control. If you have an easy baby then yay! But if you have a more challenging baby it isn't your fault and you don't suck as a mum.

Let your husband help even if he doesn't do it RIGHT (i.e. the way YOU would do it). It pays of tons later, trust me.

Have fun with and without your baby.

My biggest piece of advice would be to not worry so much about getting everything right, to do things "good enough" and remember it all goes fast-the good and the bad, so enjoy the good and know the bad is just a phase.

Things like date night might sound stupid and corny but can be so important on so many levels.

To not worry about what other kids are doing and what milestones they have met, be happy and focus on what YOUR baby/child is doing and enjoy it.

There is no one right way to do ANYTHING, so take all advise with a grain of salt.

GET OUT OF THE HOUSE and join a Mommy's group or something. Having other's validate the experiences and feelings you are having is SO important. To know you are not alone.

Don't worry about getting the kiddo in the crib in another room so quick. Get a pack n play and set it up in your room/space. It makes the middle of the night stuff much easier at first.

Take some time just you the baby and your partner if you can after the baby is born. Don't have tons of folks come over to see the baby. Just nest as the 3 of you and order take out. Time spent in bed with your partner and babe watching tv, nursing and eating take out not worrying about anything else. It will get that wonderful bond started and get you on the right foot.

Let go of everything except the baby and what you need to make yourself content. Also. Accept help graciously and be prepared with a couple specific things others can do to help out.

Rest, relax and take easy on yourself ...most importantly sleep whenever u can and use all the extra help.

Listen. It's amazing how communicative babies are if we manage to slow down, take a deep breath and pay attention to their cues.

Good sleepers are born, not made. Yes, you can and should try your best to find techniques that will help your little one catch more zzz's -- but don't beat yourself up about it. Some babies nap and sleep through the night easily, some (many!) don't. It's not a reflection on your abilities as a parent.

Listen to and consider the inevitable onslaught of advice you'll be getting, but always trust your instincts.

no plan is the best plan to not be let down...We learned the hard way with an emergency c-section after planning to go all natural... AND stay in the hospital as long as you can, send your baby to the nursery to sleep, once you go home, they are ALL yours!

TRUST yourself! All the advice out there seems to contradict itself anyway. YOU are the parent and this baby was entrusted to YOU. Yes, YOU know best!

The Jones family motto "The first thousand times are the hardest."

Follow your gut.

Let your kids learn their own lessons.

Keep calm and carry on. If you have a choice between laughing and crying, laugh. And for God's sake, plan a date night at least once a month!

Take dad days once a month and spend time with just you and the kids

Find some other new parents to share the joys and struggles with, brag and complain with.

Also, try to talk about non-baby stuff!

Relax, and realize that kids start off right away with their own opinions and schedules, so you can't always "make them" fit someone else's idea of how it's supposed to be!

And if you're nursing, keep a big water bottle filled in the bedroom, because you'll get soo thirsty and will be too tired to go all the way to the kitchen.

Do it once and it's an exception, do it twice and it's a habit for the child.

Buy clothes at a resale shop. As cute as all of those new clothes are, you mommy will be much more useful in a college savings account.

Its true what they say, make time to nurture your relationship with your partner. It's so easy to get caught up in all things baby and forget who you are as a couple. It takes work, but its worth it. Makes you both better parents.

It's okay for a baby to cry and learn to soothe/calm themselves. You are their care giver but if you don't give care to yourself you won't be very good for both of you.

trust your instincts!

Trust your instincts.

"This too shall pass." When I had my first baby, I was completely overwhelmed by the sleeplessness, the crying (hers and mine!), the constant demands of a high-needs adorable bundle of scream. I thought my life was going to be like that forever--but it passed. It would have been comforting and helpful if someone had come alongside me and told me that this too shall pass. With my second baby I'm exhausted again but knowing that this is only for a season I'm better able to enjoy his babyhood.

(And don't listen to too much advice! You want baby to sleep with you, great. You want baby to sleep in his own bed, great. You want to do whatever you feel is right for your baby and your family, great!)

Cherish the bonding time when they are a baby. The battles don't begin at 13, they begin at 27 months. Once you accept that you can't control a toddler (or anyone else), you can only control yourself, you'll be much happier. Guide them to make their OWN good choices, don't make them do it cause you said so. Unless... your lifelong dream was to have a robot. Then by all means, program away!

Enjoy each moment, no matter how stressful. This time will never come again. No matter how many kids you have, each will be different.

Ok, I'm still pregnant with my first so who knows what I'm talking about, but the advice I'm most looking forward to is to cherish every moment and take lots of pictures, because the time goes so fast.

Buy lots of socks and underwear for the whole family so after the baby is born laundry is never an urgent chore.

Journal the good moments. And call upon them when things get crazy! :)

Invest in a good hand vac. The crumbs will overtake you and the last thing you will want to do is lug out a full size vacuum or a broom and dustpan multiple times a day.

Roll with the punches! You don't know what your child will be like, and what hurdles you might encounter, for sure until s/he's here.. so cultivate a flexible attitude and go with what works for your family.

Sleep, Sleep, Sleep. For you, for baby, for everyone: Sleep.

This too shall pass.

As a new mom with an undiagnosed sensory processing disorder infant, my own mom shared this phrase with me & I repeated it often.

Listen to advise that doesn't raise your hackles, feel free to tell people who are holier than thou that you don't have time to listen (the baby is crying!), and then sift through all of it and use what makes sense to you!

Let it go. Whatever it is. The laundry can wait, someone else can do the laundry, your friends will bring you food. Take care of yourself and that baby. That's it.

everything doesn't work for every baby. you know your baby better than you think.

ENJOY THE BABY!!! There will always be plenty of errands, chores, etc, but your baby is only a baby once and it doesn't last nearly long enough!

Double up on the beds: mattress pad, sheet, mattress pad, sheet. This way, when the bed is wet or gross for some reason in the middle of the night, you don't have to remake the bed. Just pull off the first sheet and mattress pad, and you are left with another set underneath!

Despite your best intentions, not everything will work out the perfect way you'd like it to. Learn to be flexible and realistic, and/or lower your standards!

You know more than you think you do. Trust your instincts.

Whatever is going right or wrong, this too shall pass.

S L O W DOWN your pace of life for your child's "little" years (under the age of 5); they go by so quickly.

Don't worry too much about following other people's advice; try it, but if it don't work, let it go.

Try not to feel the weight of the world by thinking you are the ONLY one who can take care of your baby. Let others snuggle with your baby for little bits while you try to remember what it is like to feel human (it is okay to take a shower once in a while). It gives you time to reflect on the precious moments that go way to quickly.

Your kids are who they are before they're even born. Remember that when you're in tears after they've done something horrible and you think you're a terrible parent. And especially remember it when you're in tears after they've done something remarkable and you're patting yourself on the back. You're an influence, but their personalities are set before their first breath.

Sleep whenever the baby sleeps! (Don't expect to spend all that time living "the rest of your life" because lack of sleep will get you nowhere.)

I actually blogged about this a few months ago!: http://wonderparents.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/wonder-whether-were-preparing-expectant-parents/

Bedtime rituals and good sleep habits are the MOST important thing. It all falls apart if everyone is tired and crabby.

Crying is typically not an emergency. It won't harm babies to fuss a little and there may not be anything you can do to end it anyways.

Don't be too proud to ask for help! If people judge you or it bothers them, maybe you didn't need them in your life after all.

Always have a back-up ready before you need it....back-up bottle, shirt, diaper...if you have twins I guess you have a back-up baby haha! Having it ready before you need it keeps many potential meltdown moments from happening when you are fumbling around because the baby spit up on themselves, you're holding their legs up trying to find a diaper before their butt touches whatever you've laid them on for an impromptu changing and the paci just fell on the floor. I've had many onlookers comment on how good my baby is and I smile because I know the secret behind it....now not all meltdowns can be avoided, and no one can be prepared for everything (your diaper bag would be filled to the brim; if it isn't already), but it is less stressful for everyone when you know you can just reach in your bag of tricks and pull out "the back-up" before things escalate!

Don't feel guilty if you can't sleep when the baby sleeps. Parenthood isn't a contest.

Pretty much no matter what "it" is that's worrying you about your newborn, it's probably normal and it will pass.

My advice is to know that YOU are the expert on your baby. (Even when you feel like you have no idea what you're doing, you still know more about this particular child than anyone else.) There is a reason that the two of you ended up together!

Be kind to (and patient with) yourself and your partner. Both of you are going through big changes and into unknown territory, and you'll need each other's support through this adventure.

Whenever possible, don't wake a sleeping child. It helps them get the sleep routine down so much faster!

When expecting #2 or beyond - the baby won't remember these first few months, give the older kids a little more attention.

You'll find you're most frustrated when your little one doesn't do what you want or expect. *TRY* to readjust your viewpoint and think about what your little one wants or NEEDS. You might not figure it out all the time, but sometimes it helps just to realize your little one is going to do what he's going to do and there's not much you can do about it until they get older--and when you get there, do what you think is best.

It may be a cliche, but it took me a really long time to learn: trust yourself. Read books if you want, call your pediatrician or your mom or your best friend if it helps. But in the end, you know yourself and your family, and you have to live with the consequences of your decisions. So make the ones that work for your situation, and forget all the stuff other people say.

Don't try to buy everything before the baby is born. You'll make better purchases once you've met the baby and figure out what works for you and your family. I have four carriers - three of which I never use!

Trust your instincts.

Hold and cuddle your new baby as much as you want. They don't stay that small for very long!

The 2nd night after my daughter was born, I had an air bubble in my shoulder (C-section) and was in tremendous pain; she was only nursing on one side; it was one in the morning. I told myself, "Tomorrow, we learn new things. Tonight, we do what works." More often than not, I've gone back to that.

I'm ashamed to say my kids are four and six, and I'm only JUST beginning to understand what this book is about. (So much so, in fact, that we're going to try for a third kid!) I was SO intent on NOT letting motherhood define me that I never figured out how to let go and ENJOY the ride! I was just proving I could do it, powering through pregnancy, delivery, middle-of-the-night feedings, traveling, etc. So, my best advice (that I feel like everyone understood but me): Embrace the imperfection of parenthood.

I'd say that you can't spoil a baby, so snuggle them as much as you want.

even if you have had a child before - each child is different so if what you did with yoru first is not working you need to change your ways rather than forcing future children to work with YOUR chosen methods. I lost the first 4 months with my 2nd until we finally figured out new ways to get her to eat, sleep, wind down etc

Treat yourself at least once a week for something that's just for you- doesn't have to be much- maybe Starbuck's and your iPod without the baby for 30 minutes.

Find a good babysitter!!! You still need to nourish the relationship that brought this beautiful child into the world.

The beginning is VERY hard. For all new parents. You are totally normal if you too find it difficult. It's a huge change that takes getting used to.

Be courageous and ask for help whenever you can--anyone who's had a baby before knows how it feels to be overwhelmed, and will be more than willing to wash a few dishes, fold a load of laundry, hold a cute baby, or even babysit for an hour or two--while you take a shower, go for a walk in the sunshine, grab a quick coffee date with your husband--or just take a nap! Even friends who haven't had children yet are often eager to help in some practical way--so relax, enjoy this brief time in the parenthood journey, and take all the help you can get!

Let dad or partner do it their way... they just *might* have a better or unique way of doing something that the baby likes. The more you do this, the less you feel like the sole caretaker of the baby, and the more confident your partner will be in stepping up and being a true equal partner. Try it--you'll like it!

Ask a seasoned mom for their suggestions before making out your baby registry. Chances are 50% (or more) of the stuff you THINK you will need - you won't.

Be kind to yourself. Having a baby is the hardest job ever.

The days are long and the years are short!

Nap when the baby naps! (Or when the one-year-old naps, or when the toddler naps... can you tell I like naps?)

Don't waste energy feeling "guilty" for not holding baby all the time, for letting her cry, for working, for staying home, etc. Feeling guilty prevents you from being present and enjoying the moment. There's no such thing as a perfect mom...just a perfect you!

Hold them as much as you want/can ( and i know you want to ) they get so big so fast and they only love to cuddle for so long. and if it spoils them who cares? because tommorow they will be running away from your arms but today.... there is only today

Best advice -- don't stress the decision of formula vs. breastmilk. Your kid will turn out fine regardless (unless something else is wrong with him).

don't wish away the present or dwell over how fast it flies by. I hear so many parents spending time lamenting the time gone by, but it's so much better to simply enjoy as much as possible to the fullest as it happens.

Everyone is full of "helpful" advice and will give it to you whether you want it or not. The bottom line is that nobody knows your baby better than you. You can do this, you are doing it, and nobody can do it better. So trust yourself, love your baby and learn to block out the unsolicited "help."

Tip # 1: never wake a sleeping baby
Tip # 2: don't forget tip # 1

There will be highs and lows and enjoy them both because if you wait a week it will all change again. Also be kind to yourself....you will do just fine!

That baby's not going to be little forever. Hold em and rock em and snuggle em every chance you get!

Don't expect to get much done the first few weeks or months. Then if you do, bonus!

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