The other night at a baby shower for some sweet friends, we seasoned parents were asked to give some advice to the newbies.

Being the OG mom in the group, I had some sage advice for my friends as they embark on this insane trip of parenthood.  As I’ve thought more about it, and at the urging of some friends who enjoy my parenthood mishaps on social media, I decided to come up with the ultimate list of parenthood tips for you today.

Now, let’s get one thing clear – I am not a parenting expert.  I am probably a pretty terrible parent by textbook standards.  I raise my voice probably a bit too much, and I also am not very consistent in my discipline at times.  My kids love McDonald’s, and we’ve watched Trolls fifteen times this week.  Our kids went to bed way too late last night because we just couldn’t drag ourselves away from Flip or Flop long enough for bedtime routines (three cheers for the pause button).  I don’t do things right all the time, but honestly, I don’t really care.  Which leads me to point number one…

1. Don’t listen to anyone else.  Ever.  (Ok, well except maybe your pediatrician.  Listen to them.  But other parents?  Who gives a crap.)  There’s some magic that happens in people’s heads as soon as they find out you’re pregnant.  They want to tell you everything that you should do, and then get downright offended when you don’t take their advice.  They are going to tell you all about how to breastfeed, which diapers to use, how to sleep train your child, or don’t sleep train your child (it’s torture!!!!), and which schools to go through.  They are going to have opinions on your decision to work, or not work, and your decision to use a rock-n-play versus a swing.  You’re going to question just about everything you plan to do before you ever pop out the kid, and you most certainly will feel judged for whatever decision you make.

But at the end of the day, it’s your baby.  Those over-opinionated people won’t be pleading with your baby to sleep at 2:47am, nor will they change the sixteenth poopsplosion of the day.  It’s not their boobs or their dirty dishes, it’s not their careers or their time in the day, and it’s certainly not their little human to raise.  Do what works for you and your family.  Smile, say thank you for the advice, and move on about your life.  If they get mad because you didn’t do what they said, that’s on them.  Don’t let anyone pressure you into something you don’t feel is right for your kids.

Yes, I understand the irony that I’m telling you not to listen to other people on a post about parenting advice.

2. You’re going to make mistakes.  This is why you should have two kids.  I’m totally kidding, FYI.  Maybe not.  Sorry, BA.  But it’s ok to make mistakes.  You didn’t hit the ball the first time you swung a bat, you didn’t get everything right on your math tests, and you didn’t absorb all the information the first day of your job.  So give yourself a break when you make a mistake in parenting.  You have to learn what works with each kid, because every kid is different.  Try it out.  If it doesn’t work, try something else.

3.  Your kids will tell you what to do.  You can take that multiple ways.  I have two little dictators in my house.  But that’s the thing when they can’t fix their own milk.  Until they can wipe their own rear ends, they are in charge.  Let it go…

But they also will tell you what to do when it comes to parenting.  Your newborn will tell you when he’s hungry or tired, and your toddler will tell you when it’s time to potty train.  Don’t force it.  Listen to your babies.  And that hungry thing never really goes away.  “Mommy, can I have some gummies?”

4.  Take care of yourself.  I will say this is the most heard thing as a mom.  “I just didn’t have time for a shower today.”  “I can’t remember the last time I wore real pants.”  “A nap would be so nice.”  Here’s a newsflash – you had plenty of time.  You just didn’t make time.

I understand that there are certain extenuating circumstances that make things near to impossible for some parents.  I never dealt with a colicky baby or a child with special needs.  I’m not talking to you folks.  I’m talking to the 95% of the rest of us who think our baby is going to disappear into a black hole if we put them safely in their cribs long enough for us to pee or wash yesterday’s grime from our bodies.

PUT.  THE BABY.  DOWN.  This is why God made pack-n-plays.

You will be a much better mother when your needs are taken care of – you are well rested, refreshed after a hot shower, and put on real pants and maybe even some mascara.  Lipstick, if you’re feeling over-ambitious.  Go for a walk (don’t leave the baby at home for that, please), take in some fresh air.  Accomplish one small task a day – a basket of laundry, a load of dishes, paint your toenails.  You will leave yourself overwhelmed if you don’t take the time for yourself.  A healthy mommy leads to a happy baby.

5.  Take the help.  If someone wants to bring you dinner, or says, “Is there anything I can do for you?” let them.  Better yet, know which friend can be your SOS call when you’ve had it up to there and need 30 minutes to scream into a towel in the bathroom.  Parenting is horribly terrifyingly overwhelming, and experienced moms know this.  They aren’t just being nice when they offer help.  They get it.  Take the help.

6.  Don’t forget your spouse.  Unfortunately, those little dictators tend to consume every thought in your mind.  Don’t forget that you were somebody else’s before you were theirs.

Let me break it down for you – it’s different for mothers than it is for fathers.  I’m not saying that fathers don’t bond with their children, but there’s a reason that fathers don’t have maternal instincts.  A mother’s focus shifts completely to these little creatures that grew in her belly and are now the most precious things her eyes have ever laid eyes on, even covered in poop.  Your man is going to feel totally left out of a lot of this process.

Those first few months are really hard as you both adjust to this new normal, but once that kid is sleeping through the night, make that your time.  We have “date nights” which consist of ice cream from the freezer and DVR shows.  We sit at the dinner table for another 15 minutes after the kids run off to have adult conversation.  Remember, it’s not that you didn’t have time.  It’s that you didn’t make time.  Don’t let these beautiful humans that you made together because of your love be the very things that drive your love apart.

7.  Forget everything you ever said before you were parents.  Ten years ago, I was an excellent parent.  Then I had kids.  We all have done it.  We all sat at the restaurant across from screaming kids and exhausted parents and said, “My kids will never be like that.”  Here’s a big dose of humble pie for you – it will absolutely be you one day.  So all those times you said you would never let the tv babysit your kids, or that you would never bribe your kid to behave with candy, or that you would always leave the house on time, it won’t happen.  Your precious angel is going to throw a fit in the toy aisle at Target, and you will chase them through a crowded restaurant, and you will give them a brand new pony if they will just stop talking during church.  All the while, you will smile sheepishly at the judging strangers and apologize because “they never act like this.”  YEH OK.  We all know you’re lying.

And that’s fine.  Lie.  They will forget about your problems in about five minutes.  And every once in a while, you’ll meet a kind stranger who will hand you a tissue, or will raise their salute Katniss-style to your feeble attempts to calm down the banshee, and you’ll remember that there has never been a perfect kid except for Jesus Christ himself, and there has never, ever been a perfect parent.

8.  Love your kids.  So this might seem like the most asinine piece of advice.  Of course you love your kids.

Trust me, there will be some days when you just don’t like your kids.  You will want to run away and join protective services, just for some quiet time.  It’s ok to send them off to play in their rooms so you can sit for just a minute.  It’s ok to tell them you’re playing the quiet game just because you can’t handle their voices anymore.  It’s ok to completely hate the 2nd year.  (Two year olds are jerks.)

But I’m saying LOVE your kids.  Talk to them about their days in the car on the way home from school.  Find out who their friends are, and help them understand relationships.  Fold the laundry after they go to bed so that you can lay in the floor and play cars with your son.  Build tents and forts and learn all the names of their stuffed animals.  Let them eat cake and candy and stay up past bedtime sometimes.  Move heaven and earth to be at their school parties and sports events.  Take lots of pictures and tell them how proud you are of them every single chance you get.  Put your phone down and go jump in puddles with them.

They won’t remember the details of their childhood.  But they will remember if you were there.  Let their memories of you be of your love and your time and your encouragement to stay a child as long as possible.  Love your children.  That’s all that really matters in all of this.  They are little humans who are hysterically funny and brutally honest and need every ounce of affection and affirmation you give them.  Do your children know they are loved?

I certainly know mine do.