Parenting Advice: Don’t Ask Me

Parenting Advice: Don’t Ask Me. I’m just winging it.

Someone recently was asking for parenting advice because a first baby was about to arrive.  Specifically, he asked What one piece of parenting advice would you give?

Now I know that I have no business handing out parenting advice. In addition to the fact that I am no expert, giving parenting advice is a guarantee that you will be falling on your face as a parent in the very next hour.

But I decided to share a few things about what I thought I knew as a young mother.

Like most young pregnant twenty-somethings, I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, quickly followed by What to Expect: The First Year.

I did not just read those books. I highlighted and tabbed the important sections.

I became so ludicrously obsessed with figuring out how to follow EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF INSTRUCTION within these books that I made myself (and my family) crazy.

A few examples:

I denied my first child the comfort of a pacifier because of a little figment of someone’s imagination called nipple confusion. Instead I listened to him cry nonstop for the first six weeks of his life and nursed him every thirty minutes trying to pacify him that way, lest he become confused. Of course I can prove to you that I am not exaggerating about how much I nursed him because I KEPT A WRITTEN RECORD of every feeding, diaper change and nap per the HELPFUL advice of these same books. (I still have the written record in case my family needs some evidence when it’s time to lock me up.)

I also gave Cole his first bath holding open the What to Expect book to the Bathing Your Baby instructions and illustrations with my elbow. I followed the instructions step by step, reading it all carefully while Cole screamed his head off because the bath was turning cold while I was reading. I did this with my mother present in the apartment, my BRILLIANT MOTHER WHO HAD SUCCESSFULLY RAISED THREE CHILDREN!

And why did my mother not say the following words to me?

Um, honey, I’m pretty sure I can just walk you through this.

Because you can’t talk to a mom who has just given birth and is CRAZY! My mother had never even heard of the What to Expect books, and my Grandmother was making insane suggestions like crumbling up vanilla wafers into a bottle of formula. THESE PEOPLE COULD NOT BE TRUSTED.

My final act as an insanely addicted to THE MANUAL mother was to prepare the SUGAR FREE CARROT CAKE listed in the book for Cole’s first birthday. The sad part of that story is that I really love to bake. I still cannot believe I wasted a baking opportunity on such a sorry excuse for a dessert. And while I don’t advocate filling up the bottles with soda pop, I think a real cake on a child’s first birthday isn’t anything to get all worked up about.

I will admit that the What to Expect books were truly helpful for looking up questions like, At what point do you take your baby to the emergency room? But I have to wonder if people are still using them today for looking up childhood illnesses.

Surely not.

Because since I had my first baby in 1997, they have invented this really helpful thing called GOOGLE.

(That being said. DON’T GO THERE. It’s dangerous to Google ALL THE THINGS.)

So here’s my parenting advice:

Throw away all the What to Expect books.

Expect that there really isn’t any way to know what to expect, and enjoy the ride.


  1. You crack me up, girl! It’s so true, too.

  2. I too belonged to the church of what to expect only to fail miserably at the maternity part and then suffer paralyzing depression because i couldn’t follow the directions– i find the Girlfriend’s guides so much more to my liking…

    1. oh yes. BIG FAN of the girlfriend’s guides as well…

  3. Actually your problem is that you aren’t reading my book…”What to Expect when reading ‘What to Expect’ Books”. I’ll have my people forward a copy to avoid any more confusion.

  4. Hi Allison-
    We’ve never met, but Anna introduced me to your blog awhile back and I really enjoy it. Today you made me laugh out loud twice! I can so relate to the nipple confusion and bathing incidents! I still have to stop myself before abusing google looking up all sorts of ridiculous stuff… and I’m on kid #3! Thanks for sharing the hilarious truth. I’m still smiling.

    1. i feel like i know you, jen because of pictures at anna’s house. you know i do love to hang out there!

  5. you made me laugh out loud!!!

  6. Alison! I made that cake for Seth’s first birthday, too! It is was just awful and my mom sat there so kindly shredding carrots for it. Oh to be as good as our moms when it is our turn!!
    Sunday was Tori’s third birthday and there wasn’t a shredded carrot in sight!

    1. ooh…i will REALLY have to practice restraint! especially considering i have three boys. poor mary polly will have to hear it all.

  7. Alison – I loved reading this! I was not a mom who read even one page of a “What to Expect” book – partly because Bailey came way faster than 9 months and I just thought I would know what to do! I’m not sure why – I guess I thought I would just love them to death and READ ALOUD every day and everything would be just fine With God’s grace I managed to survive and so did my kids.

    Now if a ‘What to Expect From a Teenage Girl”
    book is available…… I would definitely consider

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