I'm not sure I've ever sat in one place and spoken with one person so long - five hours we passed in her living room, chatting about a wide range of subjects. It was fantastic. I've never been able to spend much time alone with her, let alone that much uninterrupted and distraction-free. She had a whole list of questions and concerns, many of which I never would have thought to bring up.
As a consequence of our conversation, I was able to stand back and examine my own mothering philosophies. What I realized is that five years ago when I was in her same position, I never would have guessed the ideas and opinions and positions I would take.
I'm much more unconventional than I ever used to be. I wouldn't say I'm a "hippie," but compared to the relatively conservative and mainstream ideas I had before raising my children, I've strayed hugely from that path.
I have a set of cloth diapers that I use about 30% of the time. I haven't fully vaccinated my children (yet.) I have thoroughly researched homeschooling and I'm sure we'll do it one day. I try to use as natural of products as I can, meaning I try to only put on our bodies what we could also put in our bodies (ie: olive oil, oatmeal, natural soaps.) I use silver nanotechnology instead of chemical cleaning products. I breastfeed all the time, anywhere I need to, am still breastfeeding Benjamin at 13 months and I don't have any plans on cutting him off.
But, I would say my greatest philosophy (and consequently, advice) is to mother in moderation, and never say "never."
Mothering in moderation means that I don't ever take such a hard stance on something that I'm not willing to negotiate or bend a little. I try to stand by all my philosophies most of the time, while realizing that I might be making life harder for myself and my family if I don't at least consider change now and then.
Sometimes I consider something and agree to let it go. Like letting Grandparents ply my kids with sugar. It's not like their grandparents are doing this day in and day out, and the rest of the time with me they eat really healthy food. There have been a few days when this backfired on me, and poor Colin's stomach rebelled against the junk food, but that experience helped him realize that he needs to regulate himself. (By the way, it totally worked. He is always telling me that he needs to have healthy foods first and then only a small amount of junk food, so that his tummy feels okay.)
Sometimes I consider something and stand firm in my position. Like naptimes. My boys need their naps and if they miss it, get so incredibly grumpy and teary and have more melt-downs in an hour then they would usually have in a week. Plus it usually goes on for two or three days after a missed nap before they catch themselves up. So missing naptime is one I never give in to. Oh - look at that. I said "never," and that's not even really true. Over the five years, there have been two or three times that we intentionally missed nap, like on our day at Canada's Wonderland theme park. But I did bring strollers for all, a soother for Caleb, and blankets to help them get cozy. And Caleb did sleep for an hour or so.
The one other piece of advice I think is important is to read as much as you can, sift through it all, and then pick and choose what you think is best for you, your family, and your children. I don't think you can ever read too much, as long as you read with a discerning mind. Knowledge is power, and as a mother, you need all the power you can get!