It’s hard to know how to be encouraging to new parents (or even not-so-new parents!) without being patronizing or unempathetic or just less than helpful. Here are some of the most common “encouraging” phrases that most new parents do not find helpful, plus a few suggestions for replacements!
Cherish every moment.This is a popular one and it really is meant well, most of the time. Do we all want to cherish every moment? Sure, in theory. Do we need to feel guilty if we’re currently not cherishing cracked nipples, poop on our floor, or reading Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom AGAIN? No! Something you could say instead: “This is a really hard time. You’re doing a great job even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes.” Take a picture or write down a note about your favorite part of the day — that can be helpful to look back on during the less-favorite times!
Sleep when the baby sleeps.Another concept that’s good in theory. Unfortunately it can be hard to put into practice and can be especially infuriating to hear to sleep-deprived ears. Some more helpful and encouraging things you could say: “I promise nobody cares if you take a nap instead of vacuuming or doing dishes. Your needs are important too!” or “Baby’s not hungry but only wants to be held? I’ll hold her — go take a nap!” or even just “Babies need you so much and the sleep deprivation is so hard. I promise it will get better.”
They grow up so fast! Just blink and they’ll be teenagers!We all know this. We’ve probably cried about it. It doesn’t make current challenges any less challenging. How about saying instead: “Oh, this is my favorite age!” or “Oh I love this age, but [some future age] is even more fun!” This doesn’t have to be strictly true.
Just do everything it says in X book. It’ll solve all your problems. We love a good book recommendation, but pause a moment before giving one. Did the person you’re talking to ask for your advice? They may just need to rant and don’t want to learn about your preferred baby whisperer. Children aren’t one-size-fits-all and different parenting philosophies work for different people. If they did ask for advice, great! Bring over a STACK of books! But maybe don’t obsess over whether they get read or followed or not.
You think that’s bad? My child/my cousin’s child did this MUCH WORSE THING.Your kid wakes up every two hours at night? Well, mine wakes up every THIRTY MINUTES so I WIN! Commiseration can be helpful. One-upmanship less so. Try instead: “That sounds so hard. I went through something similar with Penelope. Babies sure drive you up the wall sometimes!”
And just in case anyone reading this right now needs to hear it, you really are doing a great job, and that age your child is about to reach really is just our FAVORITE age!