Whenever people ask what they should be reading or doing while pregnant, it always makes me think of the engagement time before a wedding. During the engagement period, most women are planning their weddings (a one day event), and very few are reading, learning, and being mentored in the ways of marriage. Is it any wonder our marriages are weak and falling apart?
In the same way, most pregnant women read 'What to Expect When You're Expecting' (I did too, I'm not bashing it at all!)... and the shelves of the pregnancy section at bookstores are full of journals, books full of advice, funny stories, and magazines focused on learning about the time leading up to a one-day event (labor/delivery). But very few 1st-time pregnant women are reading, learning, and being mentored in the ways of parenting.
I think it's great to have a developmental book or website where you can keep up to date on the growth of that sweet baby. It's so fun to know which parts are developing and how big they are! And that's a special part of pregnancy.
And I would recommend that you either sit down with a well-educated midwife or mom of many and learn about the phases of labor and what your body will do-- OR read a great book about it/watch a good video about it. Because, to make a long story short: It hurts. And you can do it. Knowing about it, though, makes it less stressful and empowers you to feel more confident throughout the process.
LEARN ABOUT THE NEXT THING
But the main thing I wanted to share, though, is this: In my life, I try to learn about the next thing. Not that I'm not satisfied in or enjoying what's going on NOW-- I am! But I try to learn about what's coming up next.
Like, right now, I'm watching and learning about the adolescent years and watching families going through those last few years of having a child in the home. Which may sound crazy. But the fact of the matter is that I have less than 5 years before I'm the mom of a pre-teen. And then, before I know it, I'll have a high schooler, and then I'll blink my eyes, and we'll have raised a young man. He'll turn 6 next week, but he's not going to stop having those birthdays. And if the "teen" years are as difficult to wade through as so many say, then I need to be gleaning all the wisdom I can--now.
When I was pregnant, I was asking questions about breastfeeding and sleeping habits. When I was nursing, I was asking questions about potty training and tantrums. When I was raising a 2 year old, I was starting to look into homeschooling. And now that I've got an early elementary aged kid, I'm reading about adolescence, about the transition from boyhood to manhood, and asking as many questions as I can from parents around us and the men that I know (mostly, my husband).
I'll be honest- I don't really get the mentality of only muddling through or bracing myself for each phase. I don't just want to muddle through-- I want to do it WELL! As well as I can, anyhow. And you probably feel the same way. I want to learn from others' mistakes and not think I have it all together... if others have a well-behaved toddler and I'm just snuggling with a newborn, then that is a great opportunity to try to "peek" into their lives and ask about and watch what they've done. If I'm just teaching my Kindergartner how to read, I can be reading about how to disciple teenagers. No matter what age my kids are, I can always be learning from parents who have "successfully" raised young adults who love Jesus and live godly lives.
If you don't already do this, I'd encourage you to learn from those who are slightly ahead of you on the road. Ask about the hows and whys of their parenting and family relationships.
SO MY ADVICE IS...
So, to the pregnant women out there (several of you have written lately to ask for book recommendations or ideas), I'd encourage you to read about parenting in the early years. And don't just take someone's advice because it sounds good or right-- look at how their parenting lines up with the Bible, and look at their children's countenance, behavior, and attitudes. There's a lot of advice and opinions out there to be had, but plenty of it is not only unbiblical but will produce miserable children who are miserable to be around. Give yourself enough time to really think, research, and pray about the options and methods you see around you and read about.
Don't wait until your daughter or son falls on the floor screaming and flailing around before you think through how you'll deal with a tantrum. Don't wait until your child slaps you in the face and screams "NO!" in the middle of a shopping trip to sort out your thoughts about discipline. Don't solely parent by reacting... do some pro-active thinking now about your general philosophies and approaches to various parenting scenarios. Start getting "on the same page" with your husband now, so that when these things start happening, you all can approach parenting as a team rather than at odds with one another.
You'll be so glad later that you took the time now to look a few steps in front of you, in an effort to try to avoid missteps there, even while enjoying the view right where you are. That's my general advice to you moms-to-be out there. :) I'll list some specific book titles I personally have learned a lot from in the comments section. Any other thoughts or questions from moms-to-be?