Baby Care

Toddlers Are Hard: 5 Toddler Parenting Advice Tips

Pregnancy glow gets its fair share of footnotes in pop culture. Societal norms praise basking in the glow of soft newborn nuzzles and baby stretches. We know that we’ll get all the likes, claps, and validating texts when we share those first steps, first words, first graduation, first this and first that. These baby milestones know their place in our personal human history.

So color me curious as to why we downplay the toddler stage as simply “a phase.” I’m here to report from the frontlines that it can be a battlefield, a heart-racing, anxiety-inducing, nervous breakdown-invoking period in a family’s life. Toddlers can be a nightmare. Full stop. 

I’m Dinah, and I’m reporting live from a brief vacation to Atlantis Bahamas with my partner of eight years and our nearly two year old son. I won’t even use the word rambunctious because it doesn’t really capture his essence. He’s a stubborn bull, an inquisitive and courageous explorer and a daredevil stunt man.

Yes, I’m complaining. No, I don’t want your pity. I just want to air this feeling out to see if anyone else feels like they’re failing at parenting their toddler. 

I know, real talk isn’t for everyone. But I don’t see why we can’t talk about parenting toddlers with a little bit of candor? 

Recently, I’ve been pitying myself, my lack of free time, and missing the days when food didn’t go flying through the air at regular intervals during mealtimes. And I’ve come to realize that some things do help. I’m no expert in parenting, motherhood or toddlerhood, but I do know that I have to share whatever tidbits of wisdom I gather along this often lonely, unseen road to help other moms feel less alone. Read on for five actions you can try to better take care of yourself while mothering a toddler. 

5 tips for mothering a toddler

1. Cry it out (for crying out loud)

Ferber for the whole family. Let it out, Mama. Cry. Scream. Sigh in agony. I know my partner means well, but if he asks me one more time “why are you crying” I’m going to simply point at the beautiful temper tantrum called my son and run from the room. Crying serves as a much needed release during tough toddler days, and I’ve stopped counting the number of times I’ve felt physically soothed after letting myself cry with reckless abandon. So my advice is simple: cry. Whenever, wherever, for however long. Repeat as needed. 

2. Namaste away

Yoga? Yes. A massage? Double yes. A four-minute meditation on the floor of your bathroom with the door locked? Ingenious. However you find your zen, do it. And make sure to make space for all the adults in your household to do the same. We are not machines. We are humans and we need breaks. Carve out at least ten minutes a day, totally kid-free, to do you.

3. Run away

It’s no joke that endorphins make people happy (Elle Woods’ litigation tactics are steeped in fact, y’all). So go for a run. Take a hike. Dance it out in a class, in your basement, in your living room. Get your body moving in any way, because for those parents who are like me, chained to your computer and in need of sunshine and some stretching (for the soul and the body), exercise is a must. No matter how rigorous or how gentle of a workout you’re undertaking, it can be a miracle for your mental and physical wellbeing. 

4. Find your village (or at least one soul sister or mister)

While I admire those mommy groups who met online because their kids were born in the same month and they all go on vacation together, that situation isn’t for everyone. But community connection is something I do value. Whether it’s your friends with older kids, your neighbors, your siblings or your book club, find the people who can and will hold space for you. You don’t need a gigantic village, but you do need at least one person you can rely on when you’re at your breaking point that you can have come and play with your kid for an hour while you jog to the nearest forest and let out a guttural scream of anguish into the sunrise because your kid is up at the crack of dawn again (just me? really?). As Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach remind us twice a week, every week, We Can Do Hard Things. 

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got for now. But it’s been working. Every free moment doing something utterly for myself has been a precious deposit in my dwindling energy/patience/human be-ing tank. And that’s the biggest takeaway I can leave anyone with. Don’t forget that mothers need to also just be

Now back to the screaming “fun” that is the kiddie pool. 

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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