Here Are Some Incredible Mothering Tips I’ve Picked Up Along The Way By Watching What My Mom Friends Do

These mom’s butts also share tips and tricks

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I don’t know if I’d know that you could feed kids pretzels if I hadn’t seen another mother do it first. That may not seem like a big deal, but pretzels are pretty great. They are filling and make a not horribly unhealthy snack, they’re inexpensive, you can get them anywhere and my son just absolutely loves them. I pick the salt kernels off of them and voila. Perfect on the go food to tide baby over until we can get real grub.

Same goes for pizza. I have mixed feelings about feeding my son pizza but if you saw the look on his face while he is making almost a full slice of the cheesy bread disappear, you’d understand why I can’t keep him away from this tasty treat from time to time. Again, not the worst thing ever; I sort of think of it as “hot salad”. It’s even better if it’s homemade with whole wheat crust and quality ingredients. Just dab off the excess oil with a tissue and make sure it’s not too hot. We do pizza nights a couple times a month and now that I know my baby loves pizza so much, I have an extra reason to look forward to it. I wouldn’t have ever known my baby would eat pizza, grilled cheese, crackers, soup, chili or many other foods if it weren’t for other adventurous moms inadvertently showing me the ropes.

Every time I go over to a mom’s house for a playdate or visit, I learn something new. I have learned that pretty much anything can be a toy, it doesn’t have to just be a toy. Kids love to play with plastic bottles, grown up books and items, coasters, anything shiny, medicine — JK, don’t let kids play with medicine.

Here are a half dozen other things I learned from moms.

  1. Montessori is pretty cool. For those of you who don’t know, Montessori is a style of learning that develops and uses kids’ natural interests and desires versus traditional education. And every time I see or hear something about Montessori, it’s something really cool. One mom turned me on to Montessori beds. Another told me about how she tries not to say no to the baby unless he is in danger and lets him explore her home with a little more freedom instead of helicoptering and taking everything away from him all the time. Of course we’ve all heard of the Montessori schools. Because of this information, I’ve been able to relax a little bit more and I think it helps my son to relax more, too. Then again, maybe I’m just getting more comfortable being a mom. But it could be both.
  2. Wooden and vintage toys (or even things that are not toys) are the best. My friend has a wooden train set for her son and it’s absolutely beautiful and so much fun. We love to put the tracks together, put the trains onto the rails and set up the signs, gates and little wooden trees. The thing doesn’t beep, buzz or ding, there are no flashing lights, it just is what it is. I like it. Of all my son’s toys, he seems to like his books and things that are “not toys” the best. So when I saw the wooden toy train set and how much fun he has playing with it, I realized that maybe all the lights and buzzing and noise was not necessarily even that interesting to him. Maybe it’s just excess input that he doesn’t even want or need. Not to mention, vintage (but safe) and wooden toys aesthetic is nicer. They look better, they are often times hand-crafted and they are worth saving and handing down. Now I’m looking for toys for him with a more discerning eye. Although we love Legos. I wonder if they make them out of wood? (Yep, totally. Of course there is. Thanks, internet!)
  3. Food doesn’t have to be prepared on demand. You can make oatmeal and other kinds of foods in advance, stick them in the fridge and heat them up for a couple days, prepare meals for babies in large batches then freeze them in ice cube trays and defrost them as you go, purchase pre-cooked foods and heat them up instead of cooking them from scratch and make rice in the morning in a rice maker as you go about your daily lives to use later for dinner. When you’re making 3–4 meals per day for a baby and a couple for yourself too (let’s be honest, what mom has time to make separate meals for herself AND her baby!?), shortcuts are queen. In fact, that’s my next tip.
  4. Shortcuts are queen. From watching moms work, I’ve learned that there are shortcuts, tips, hacks, tricks, secrets, tidbits and sneak attacks for just about every task that needs to be accomplished: cooking, changing the baby, laundry, keeping the child entertained, feeding, cleaning, all of it. Moms work twice as fast and accomplish twice as much because we are shortcut queens. We eat our kids’ leftovers, we make food in batches and pour it into ice cube trays, we nap baby in a sling while we clean the house, we multitask like mofos and are task masters. If being a mom were a game, it’d be Chutes N’ Ladders, because of all those slides that take you from point a to point z. Here’s one shortcut I learned from a mom friend: keep a togo baby bag packed with a couple diapers, a clean onesie, wipes, a pacifier, a book, a small make-up bag / phone charger / spare key, and a light blanket, and if you have to run out in a hurry, you’re ready to roll. Brilliant — but obvious, but…still totally brilliant.
  5. Nap whenever you can. There’s no shame in the napping game. It’s part of having a baby. They take a lot out of you, and you need to sleep. So if you aren’t getting those zs at night, get them at day, or heck, anytime is a great time for a snooze. I’ve heard people complain that napping makes them feel lazy or old and those people just don’t get it — napping is vitality in a nutshell. It’s like putting gas in the car, strawberries in the blender, tequila in the margarita. It’s the key to longevity on those long long days and it helps you get through the hard days faster, too. ‘Oh, look at that, it’s dinner time already…’ because some days just can’t go by fast enough. Not that I suggest anyone wish these beautiful days away, but, let’s face it, some days are harder than others.
  6. New sucks. Used rules. OK, in some cases (diapers, formula, underwear), new is better. But in many, many cases, used is just fine. Toys, baby clothing, furniture, household items, baby proofing and you name it are just fine gently used. Put the word out to moms or mom groups that you’re looking for this or that and your wish may very well be granted. Moms are also always looking for ways to clear space out in their homes because you collect a LOT of stuff as a parent / family with child / children. My kid has 48,287 toys, and each one has a box and takes batteries and goes into a bucket or a bin and that’s a lot of extra stuff taking up the space where we used to have a cat, a coffee table, a not-constantly-blinking life. So when they age out of items, you can bet moms are chafing at the bit to bid it bye bye. And moms love to give things to other moms. It’s good juju. Check out Facebook Marketplace, your local mom group, Goodwill or Salvation Army, yard sales, Craigslist or ask your friends directly. Here’s a great trick a mom group taught me: Post a “Wanted To Buy” ad on social media or a mom group asking for the thing you’d like to get your hands on. I did this and I got a hiking pack for baby so that we can stick him up in the air, closer to the sun and cart him around through nature. I tell myself it’s good for him and that he loves it, and maybe someday I’ll even be speaking the truth.

There’s no way not to watch a mom in action for a week, an hour or even a minute and not pick up some neat little trick or technique. They sneak veggies into sweets, they turn garbage into a child entertainment system, they can whip up a 4 course meal with leftovers and a seemingly empty cupboard. Moms are pretty incredible people, if I do say so, myself, and it’s because I’ve seen them up close and in a new light. It even took becoming a mom to appreciate my own mom, but now the fact is, I see moms for everything they truly are; nothing short of downright incredible. Tired? Yes. Human? You betcha. Learning on the fly and failing and flailing all along the way? Uh huh. But doing it with grace and wizardry, just the same.

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Jessica Delfino

Jessica Delfino

I write about life with 1 husband, 1.5 kids, 1 cat, at times funny. www.Twitter.com/JessicaDelfino Bylines: New Yorker, The NY Times, The Atlantic, McSweeney’s.