I’m very excited because we have an exceptional guest on The Motherhood Podcast, I think all of us have something to do with the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Well, today we have one of its co-authors, Sharon Mazel.
Sharon Mazel is a parenting and pregnancy expert, author, journalist, speaker, parenting coach, and mom of four with over two decades of experience in the field. She is the author of the forthcoming book Bite-Sized Parenting, coming out in Spring 2023 (and is available for pre-order now!).
She reaches hundreds of thousands of parents with her popular parenting and pregnancy guidance on social media, parenting coaching, e-guides, blogs, and parenting courses. Sharon’s social media has been called one of the “Most Educational IG Accounts” for new parents and the “Best Instagram Accounts for New Moms.”
Sharon began her career as a television journalist and producer and was the listed co-author of the New York Times bestselling What to Expect When You’re Expecting (4th and 5th editions), What to Expect the First Year (2nd and 3rd editions), and seven other books and editions in the What to Expect series. She also worked on the content creation, launching, writing, and editing of WhatToExpect.com, and wrote for EverydayHealth.com, Parenting magazine, BabyTalk magazine, The Washington Post, and other publications.
To connect with Sharon head to:
- Her website: www.sharonmazel.com
- Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter: @sharonmazel
Tell us a bit about your personal and professional journeys.
I have a master’s in journalism from Columbia University and my plan was always to work as a journalist, particularly in television. And I was doing that for over five years. I was a writer and producer for Nightly News, in New York City, and I loved it. My hours were, were crazy because I was doing nightly news. And when my first child was born, I realized that it wasn’t so compatible with being a mom.
So, I made the very difficult decision to leave the world of television journalism, which was good for me because I end up having four kids. I was really able to carve out for myself as a journalist, which I switched to writing for numerous publications as an author, and a producer of video series.
I was hired by one of the original authors of the What to Expect book series. And I was hired originally as a research consultant and writer. And eventually, my role developed into becoming the listed co-author of 11 Books, New Books, and Additions in the series. I did that until November 2019 when I resigned and I was trying to figure out what to do next.
During the pandemic, I realized that I still had this opportunity to be able to reach today’s generation of new parents in different ways and formats, so I was able to focus on Social Media. I started to create a lot of different content like courses, infographics, blogs, and coaching one-on-one. And, taking all these things I just mentioned, I’m currently writing a brand new book called Bitesize Parenting, coming out in the spring of 2023. It’s a great book, it encapsulates and lets you choose what works for you as a parent.
The way western parenting is structured, it often seems like it’s designed to create anxiety in us moms because it’s so outcome-based – is my child hitting all their milestones on time, are they getting good grades, are they learning their instruments, etc…? Play, discovery, and simply being are also so important to our children’s development, right? What’s your take on all this?
As people, we want markers. We want to be able to say -Oh, I’m doing great. My child’s doing great. And so these milestones are to an extent, it helps us because if our child is not meeting milestones, it helps us flag that and get out children the help that they need and that could really even the playing field later on.
If it starts to take over our lives, if we’re looking at the milestone charts saying -Oh my gosh, my baby is four and a half months old and she’s not rolling over yet, or my baby is eight months old and he’s not crawling- It’s so important to remember that every baby is different and the range of normal when it comes to these milestones is really wide.
So it’s important to remember that just because your baby is not doing the average, which is the 50th percentile, your child may be in the second percentile, and that’s still normal. Let’s not look at one baby to the other. Compare your baby to themselves. So if she is growing, wonderful. If he has progressed from one milestone to another, amazing. That’s what we’re looking for.
Watch the journey, it’s really fascinating.
I’d love for you to speak to some of the myths about pregnancy and motherhood. What do you find are some of the expectations that society and culture can put on us moms that aren’t really serving us well?
There are so many little myths about distinct things, how to feed solids, and the best way to get your child to sleep. But I think one of the largest myths that really impacts every new parent is that you are going to love and bond with and feel attached to your baby the second that baby is born. At that moment, most parents are overwhelmed, and scared and don’t feel this connection to their child – and then the guilt sets in.
Something that I always try to remind parents is that parenting is a learning process for both the baby and us. And we get to learn how to feel attached to our child, how to feel connected and in a loving relationship, love is really about giving. And as a parent, all you’re doing really is giving to that newborn in the beginning. And the more that we give, the more that we enjoy the giving or even hate the giving, which will sometimes happen, especially at two o’clock in the morning. But the more that we give, the more we feel attached to that child but it happens over time.
Sometimes you’ll feel content as a mom or dad, and sometimes you won’t. And that’s normal. We are humans; we’re going to have ups and downs. That doesn’t take away from the love that we do have.
I want to talk to you about the newborn phase. Any advice for first-time moms adapting to life with a newborn? What kind of guidance can you give moms dealing with overwhelm in those first months?
First, you are not alone. It is normal to feel lonely, and it is even in your emotions. The thing is that, even if you don’t think it’s true, everybody is struggling. I have never met a mom of a newborn who isn’t struggling in some way. It may not be the same way of struggle but everybody is because it’s one the most overwhelming times in parenthood. You are being thrust into one of the hardest jobs ever and you’re being told to wing it.
I have a newborn course and I always recommend it towards the end of your pregnancy so that you know what to expect, what’s coming down the pike,, what you need to do when your baby’s crying, how to discern what your baby cry sound like, the differences between them, how to breastfeed if you choose to do that. Something that’s very natural, but it doesn’t always come easily to new moms.
I always suggest to parents to try to learn something. Don’t make yourself overwhelmed because there’s a lot of information but you could take a course, read a book, or speak to a coach who can give you sort of the highlights that at least will prepare you somewhat (you’ll never be fully prepared).
I also want to say that it will pass. You’ll sleep again. Your baby will sleep eventually; your body will start to feel like your own again. Take it one day at a time. I know it seems forever, the days are long, but it’s only 8 weeks. You’ll look back and say – Wow, look at me. I am a warrior because I got through that.
Can we talk about potty training? I think this is another thing that moms can tend to put pressure on themselves about. What are some signs to look out for that would indicate our child is ready to start potty training and what do you think is the best way to go about doing so?
We hold these numbers off, you know, what our kids should be doing and where they should be. And then we rate our kids. We all do it. For potty training, 35 months is the average for girls and 39 months is the average for boys. Again, the range is very wide. One thing also that’s important for parents to know is that you can certainly start trying to potty train at any age. But if you’re starting before age two, it will take a lot longer than if you start trying after age two.
Something to remember is that we should give our children the opportunity to try to use the potty seat or the toilet, but they’re going to have to take that step themselves. They’re the ones who are going to have to learn how to listen to their body signals. And anything that we do, or everything that we do, isn’t necessarily going to push it faster if they’re not ready.
You asked for some of the signs. So, if your child can stay dry for two hours if your child understands the words for toilet poop if he/she doesn’t like to be wet. None of them are significant enough in a vacuum; you’ll be looking for them all together. In parenting, when it comes to potty training, our job a, as a parent is to create a supportive learning environment.
When my children were really young, I was so proud of their palates. They would scarf down all their vegetables and ate pretty much whatever I put in front of them. However, once they turned 3-4ish they started to become more particular about which foods they’d eat. Is this normal? And for those of us who are in a season of picky eaters, what’s your advice for a well-rounded diet without a daily power struggle?
There’s just this in this theme, it’s all about patience. It’s about creating the right opportunities for your child, in that learning environment. It’s also normal for a child, especially a toddler, to be contrarian and to exert some kind of control if we are always controlling their environment.
And you described how your children when they were babies, when they were first starting solids, how loved everything because it’s such an exciting sensory stimulatory opportunity for them. Most babies will get very excited in the beginning and then when they’re toddlers and they realize I could say no, I’m going to throw this thing off my tray or off my plate because I can, Yeah. I have that power.
I think that one of the most important tips that we can internalize as parents is not to bring emotion to the table. So if we bring emotion to the table, if we get upset that our child isn’t eating what we’ve put in front of them, if we are pushing more food because we don’t think they ate enough, whatever enough in our minds happens to be. The babies are not going to associate positivity with mealtime. And then, when they’re toddlers and they’re picky, then it’s going to become a power struggle because mommy’s pushing another bite and I can say no. So one of the best things that we can do is offer the food. Give them the opportunity to learn how to eat different foods, taste textures, and then sit back. Because our child’s job is to decide how much and whether to eat. That’s great. No child is going to starve themselves.
I think sometimes as parents, especially of little ones, we can find ourselves slipping into “bad” habits because we’re in survival mode. Whether it’s the bedtime routine, where our kids sleep, what they eat, or just something we’ve found ourselves doing that we know we shouldn’t be – how do we go about changing something our baby or toddler is accustomed to and keeping our sanity?
Don’t feel guilty about it. We are in survival mode, we have to get through the day and however we get through the day with our kids, that is surviving and that is amazing. Aside from safety considerations, all the other things are not something to worry too much about as parents. Do the rules say X? Fine, that’s true. That would be ideal, but we don’t live in an ideal world, so we should strive for that.
If we can learn to get to a certain place, that’s wonderful. If we don’t get there every day, that’s fine. If it takes months to get there. That’s also fine.