By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jan 24, 2011 at 5:24 AM

The notion of parenting and the reality of parenting are two entirely different animals. Most people, before having a child, harbor lots of plans and ideas, but when the bundle of joy arrives, find themselves challenged beyond what they gleaned from books.

This is when advice -- gentle, non-judgmental -- advice from other parents might come in handy. recently polled local parents with children between the ages of a few months old to adulthood, and here’s what we heard. We hope new parents, or anyone considering having kids, finds this useful. And as always, feel free to chime in with your advice via the Talkback feature at the bottom.

Kristin Vailliencourt
Mom of  two kids, ages 3 and 7

I wish someone had told me that there were going to be times in the first three months of being a parent that I would feel like a complete failure and that it was OK to feel like you wished you could go back to your life "without baby." Of course, that passed once sleep happened again.

I am a perfectionist and was seriously freaked out because breastfeeding -- among other things -- was not going like it was supposed to. My mom sat me down and told me not to worry so much. When I was a baby, she fed me formula and smoked over my bassinet most of the day. She told me I turned out fine, and my kids would too.

Dave Begel
Dad of two girls; grandparent of a boy and girl

(Dave Begel is a regular contributor to

Your kids are going to be just fine. Love and fun works much better for both of you than worrying too much.

Wendy Kogler
Mom of three kids, foster mom of 26 newborns

Make your life easier and listen and respond to your baby. They know how to communicate what is just right for them, not the books, the mothers, mother-in-laws, the doctors or the well-meaning friends or strangers.

Scott Wooldridge
Dad to two boys, ages 4 and 7

A simple phrase: "tag-team." The combination of lack of sleep and the anxiety of doing all this for the first time is more than daunting, so make sure you take turns, especially on those late nights and early mornings. If one of you is getting stressed out, the other steps up and lets that person have some time to themselves. For single parents, let your friends and relatives know you will take them up on their offers to help. Not a bad idea for couples, either.

Margaret Krueger
Mom to two boys, ages 22 and 25

Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you want them to do something, say it once. Not five times, no counting to 10, no bribing, no begging and absolutely no caving. Have expectations and meaningful consequences. You have to remember that you are the parent, so stay in control and stick to your guns. Wishy-washy doesn't work.

Melanie Whitlow
Step-mom to 10-year-old twins; mom to 9-month old boy

I think the best thing that I've done so far with the baby was to have a carrier and wear him. We don't have one of the lift-out infant seats with handles, ours is stationary in the car, so whenever we go anywhere, especially when he was really little, we carried him in the Ergo baby carrier. Now I wear it on my hip and he hangs out.

He is very tolerant of being out in crowds with people and doing all kinds of things. He'll sit calmly through lunch, or a trip to the grocery store, or a children's school performance. So, I guess my advice is, not matter how daunting the idea, get your kid out and about early so that they get accustomed to doing things and being out and then you won't end up a shut-in at home with a kid that doesn't tolerate being in public.

Nina Schmidt
Mom to an 8-year-old, 6 year-old and 2 year-old

People always say "listen to your gut," but I'm a big fan of  "listen to your kid." Even when they are babies, they are telling you something in their own way, and they actually know what they need, so instead of sticking to what the book says, or what your mom told you, consider what your little one is trying to say. Even if they are screaming it.

Jenny Plevin
Mom to two girls


Mary O’Connell
Mom to three kids

One day when my children were tiny, we were grocery shopping. The two boys were running amok and my daughter was sitting in the cart screaming. A beautiful, smiling old woman came up to me, noting the obvious strain of my facial muscles as I tried to get us out of there as quickly as possible and still manage to get enough food for the week, and she said, "Just remember dear, these days are long, but the years are short." She was SO right!

Kyla Lahaie
Mom to one 4-year-old boy

Expect more from your child than you think they can deliver. The only things your child can't do are the things they don't try. We are never too little to know our own boundaries, and how far we can push them. Your child is in the most danger when they are in a place they didn't get to on their own.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.