I've always wanted to be a mom. When I was 7, my dad built a fantastic playhouse for my sister and me. I remember spending hours and hours playing "house" and dreaming about having my own kids and decorating my own home someday. I won't claim that it's something every little girl wishes for and dreams about. But I do believe that every woman has within her a desire to create and do something worthwhile in her life. Motherhood is a significant way to fulfill those desires.

Today, I find myself the mother of two young children. Overall, I love being a mother. But sometimes it's downright hard. There are so many differing opinions about everything from pregnancy, labor and delivery to daycare, diet and TV time. And people feel passionately about each topic. So how is a mom supposed to know who to trust and what to do?

Do your own research

Read opinions and gather information. The Internet provides countless resources on every topic. As you read and study, look for the things that stand out as most important and applicable to you in your situation. When you find articles you like or people who share your same opinions save them. Pinterest is a great place for collecting and organizing information that you may want to use at a later time.

Surround yourself with good friends whom you trust and can learn from

Share your concerns and questions with other mommies. Seek out seasoned moms who have similar values and priorities. Glean from their experiences. Be aware that moms often feel passionate about certain topics. Whether you agree with them or not, they are likely sharing with you what has worked for them because they care about you and want to help. Avoid being offended by zealous mothers who eagerly share their opinions.

Learn from the bad examples, too

Don't be afraid to make judgment calls about choices other people make. Recognize the behaviors or choices that you don't wish to be a part of so that you can actively avoid doing those things. This can be a tricky one. You may not know the special circumstances or reasoning behind what someone does, but you can make the call about how those decisions fit into your family's life. There is great value in identifying and learning from the decisions of others.

Talk with your spouse

Include your spouse in your parenting decisions. Ask for his opinion and respect his input. Do this parenting thing together.

Experiment and adapt

When it comes right down to it, just jump in and go for it. Some things will work, some won't. Go ahead and adapt to what is best for your family. Don't forget to look to God as you try to figure things out. Go to him in prayer, and he'll be there to guide you.

Refrain from criticizing other mothers

Motherhood (or parenting, in general) is challenging enough without creating problems by criticizing others. As moms, we can all use a little more encouragement. Strive to be a mommy that sees the good in others.

So far, motherhood has been a terrific ride. For me, it is just getting started. There's a lot to know, and there aren't many perfect answers. However, there's no arguing about one thing, love and smiles go a long way.

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