By Katie Moosbrugger

*With a new year ahead of us, I thought this post would be a great reminder for parents looking to start something new or try something different. Although we ran this post five years ago, I continue to share many of these tried and true moments with new moms!

In just eight short years of parenting, I can’t believe I find myself thinking, “Wow, I wish I was better at that,” or “If only I had known to do that.” You might say it’s not too late – or it’s never too late – to make changes that my young children can still appreciate. But we all know how fast kids grow, learn and transform. Before my kids were born I wish I was given a “new mom handbook” that offered all things to do and not to do before the years slip away. But don’t we all wish this?

With this in mind, I recently jotted down a few things I wish I did – and a few things I’m so glad I did – in my first few years as a mom. I’m sure I’m not alone in my thinking, and thought this could be a great place to swap “live and learn” lessons for other new and expecting moms. Take a read of a few of my regrets and my gloats, and add yours at the bottom of this post!

Things I Wish I Did Better

Maintain Photo Albums
I am embarrassed to admit that I’ve done one mini album each for my two children that chronicle their first few weeks. I marvel at moms who snap millions of pictures for every occasion, and then print and organize them in a timely fashion. I want to be that kind of mom, but this is one big item that keeps getting pushed further and further down my To Do list. I have “most” of my pictures organized on Snapfish – so that is a start!

Shop Consignment Sales Early On
I am all about donating clothes and swapping hand-me-downs with cousins and friends, but I also like to “recycle”  clothes and get some shopping cash back in return. For years I used to sell some of my children’s clothes to an unnamed store – wasting hours of prep time for the little I earned in exchange. Then I discovered consignments sales and it was like uncovering a whole unknown, underground world! I had no idea the quality of clothes you can get for just dollars, and was pleasantly surprised at what I could earn in return. I wish I had known about this shopping secret early on. I’m now addicted to the thrill of the hunt, but my kids are close to sizing out of these sales. Don’t make my same mistake. If you’ve read our site for any period of time, you know we keep a list of our favorite Triad consignment sales here on our Directories page.

Choose One Preschool – and Stick With It
My kids are sure no strangers to change. In seven years of preschooling – between two children – here in Winston-Salem alone – we’ve attended five preschools! The reasons for the changes made sense at the time (moving across town, cost, preference). Looking back, my kids loved each school they attended (as did we), but I wish I had found one preschool that nurtured my kids from start to finish. I wish I had that connection with one school and its staff, and I envy those families who have history with their preschool. It’s like an extended family!

Bake and Craft More
Much like wanting to be the mom who is a photo pro, I wish I was all-things Martha around the house. I’ve never baked a birthday cake. I have no idea how to sew (except to replace a button). I have never made a Halloween costume from scratch. I can do the simple kid crafts, but I wish I was more artful around the house. I always thought these things came naturally when you became a mom (they definitely come naturally to some of my brilliant, crafty friends), but it couldn’t be further from the truth with me. This is another box on my To Do list that rarely gets checked. Maybe this is the year to start!

Things I Am So Glad I Did

Maintain Artwork and Keepsake Boxes
You might remember my post  about ways to manage the piles of art you accumulate as a proud parent. These are great temporary solutions, but I’m sure you’ll want to save these masterpieces, as well as other items your child will amass over the years. I started a simple system early on and I’m so glad I did so. I have several locations where I quickly stash the stuff I want to keep (a large desk drawer in the den, a shopping bag in my closet, a drawer in each of my kid’s rooms) and when those locations start to get full, I move it all to a permanent box in my attic. I also have a keepsake box in each of my child’s closets to hold mementos like certificates, awards, programs, class pictures, etc. While my “system” is only somewhat organized, at least I rest easy knowing I have a “system” for now.

Join the YMCA
I think this is one of the best investments my husband and I made early on. From the time my daughter was just six weeks I started taking her to the YMCA daycare. And both my kids continue to go at least once a week. I may not have history with one particular preschool, but the Y has been our family outside of family. Not only is it good for mom and dad’s health and well–being, but it also teaches early socialization and independence skills for kids. We’ve also enjoyed other perks like “Parents Night Out,” “Mom’s Morning Out,” membership discounts on sports, summer camps, and other programs like “Adventure Guides.” Beyond exercise, there are still so many reasons a Y membership makes sense for a family.

Take My Kids Out – A Lot – and Early On
You may gasp, but when my daughter was just three days old, my mom and I took her out to lunch at a busy restaurant and then spent an hour or so shopping at Babies R Us. And we did that almost every day after that – not at Babies R Us – but to other public places – all while carting around my infant. Emily was born in April (not during the bitter winter) so it was easier to get out and not stay indoors. Of course I know there are exceptions to staying in (baby’s health, time of year, flu season), but for the most part I never shied away from taking my babies out – and a lot. I also have no medical facts to support my theory, but to me it seems kids who are out and about more often – and beginning at a young age – get sick less frequently. Maybe it’s because they get exposed to the elements early on and develop a stronger immune system. I don’t know. But whatever it is, I feel that getting out a lot – and early on – was a benefit for my kids and for me.

Make the Library A Regular Routine
After the YMCA, the one other place I have spent regular hours with my children is the library. Trips to the library have been a constant for both my kids since before they could walk. We logged many hours at story time, reading in the cushy bean bag chairs, playing with the puzzles and computers, and picking out books. We read books to our kids every night – or let them read to us. Every educator will tell you to read to your child daily, but it’s not until they reach elementary school that you really see it pay off. The love of reading is an amazing gift to give a child, and the earlier you start a reading routine, the greater the gift will be.

Now it’s your turn. What new mom “live and learn” lessons can you share?