This is the face of an elated but very tired mama. My fourth baby was 3 days old in this picture. Breastfeeding was not going well. I hadn’t slept more than 2 hours in a row since he was born. I had barely seen my other kids. I was running on love and and knowledge that it would get easier. This is what I want to share with you, my friends.
Everything that I am about to tell you, I have learned because I have been there. I have felt all of the hard feelings of failure, guilt, exhaustion, defeat (this is a self-help style post so I’m not talking about the glorious moments here!). Most days, I still feel them but I am better at recognizing them as either truth or BS, than I used to be. These are not practical tips like order all your diapers from amazon prime or nap when the baby is napping. These are tips about how to manage expectations and cope with the emotional challenges of parenting.
- Bringing a new baby into your life is HARD. Every. Single. Time. I’m confident that even the “19 Kids and Couting” mother would agree with me here. Even when you think you’re prepared because, I don’t know, it’s your fourth baby and surely you have got this mom thing down by now, it will surprise you. You will be more tired than you’ve ever been. You might have gone through a tough or traumatic birthing experience. You may have postpartum depression. Breastfeeding might be harder. Your other kids might have a hard time adjusting. Any number of these challenges can be extremely hard to navigate. My solution: Give yourself ALL THE GRACE. All of it. Dig dip to find it. Meditate about it. Pray about it. When all else fails, go to sleep until tomorrow (or the baby wakes up hungry). Fresh starts do wonders for your ability to handle life.
- Transitions are hard, sister. The first time you leave your baby with anyone, it will be hard. You will leave behind an extraordinarily long note with detailed instructions (that they will not read and will become great joke fodder later. That’s okay. Do it anyway. It’s your baby.) And forget about holding it together if you are going back to work or school. Those first days are going to tear your heart to shreds. You will be a disaster; a weepy, puddle on the floor, disaster. You probably won’t make it through your first day. My solution: Allow yourself to feel all the feels. Wishing that you felt differently or that it weren’t hard will only add guilt and shame to an already tough situation. It gets easier, I promise. I’ve left my kids behind like at least 15 times now (JK). Seriously, I have gone back to work after my first three. My friends have done it. There will even come a time when you will be thrilled to be dropping off your chatty, defiant toddler. However, it is not easy to leave a new baby. Repeat after me, “My baby is fine.” He/She is loved like mad and, I’m assuming that if you care enough to take a couple minutes of your day to read a parenting article, your baby is well taken care of by a top notch grandparent or day care, much less the best mama ever. Side Note: This is really about you. If it doesn’t get easier, reevaluate your life. You have the power to change things and your happiness as a mother and human is important.
- Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, co-sleep or sleep train, stay at home or work, NONE of it says anything about how good of a parent you are. NONE OF IT. Your Facebook feed or Instagram or the lady at the desk beside you or even, heaven forbid, your BF might tell you differently. I’ll let you in on a little secret here, friend, these choices are about your happiness, they are not a reflection of how “good” you are as a mom. (In my book: happiness=good) There is no magic formula for a well-adjusted baby and mama, there is simply what works for you. Experiment until you figure that out. Ask your friends, read all the books but most importantly, listen to your intuition. I am a big believer that you and your baby were put together on purpose. You were literally made for each other. You got this mama.
- You will lose yourself. One day you will wake up and realize that it’s been weeks or months since you have done any of the things you used to love like read a book (not a parenting book, okay!) or gotten a pedicure or cooked a meal or taken a walk by yourself. It’s okay, we have all been there. You can blame this on your baby. If they weren’t so irresistible and cuddly and perfect, you wouldn’t feel the need to snuggle them all day. But one day, you will not only want to do something that is just for you, you will need this. In my experience, you will have to fight to get those things back. You will have to schedule time and ask for help from your partner, parents, friends or babysitter which are mostly likely things that you never had to do before, simply to have a minute to yourself. It takes some getting used to. Let me tell you friends, it is NEVER convenient for me to leave my husband with our four kids so that I can go do something that I want to do. NEVER. However, I come back so refreshed that my husband now encourages me to get away. If you can’t do this simply because you are worthy of it, then let me appeal to the mom in you – you will be a better mom if you do this for yourself. I guarantee it.
- Things change. I don’t know where you are at this moment. Maybe you have a newborn and have barely slept in months. Maybe you have a toddler who is glued to your side and asks so many questions that you haven’t had a thought in a year. Maybe you are navigating life with a special needs child. It will get easier and you will get better at this new version of life. Again, all the grace and patience. And the next one will help tremendously here…
- Find your tribe. I recently ran into this quote from Anna Jordan, “It turns out one of the most wonderful joys of motherhood is the other mothers.” It’s true, guys. I say this only slightly tongue in cheek but some days I love my girlfriends more than my children. I couldn’t do it without them. Thinking about them right this minute, my eyes are stinging with tears of gratitude. If you don’t have friends that make you feel this way, FIND THEM. Search hard. Scour every playground and carpool line. They are there, waiting for someone who wants to have happy hour while the kids wreak havoc in the back yard. They are there, needing a friend to call when they can’t find their keys and need someone to pick their kids up from school. They are there when your day has been awful and your not sure you can make it to bedtime. They are there to celebrate all the victories, give all the hugs and most importantly, drink all the wine.
Every expectation that the world, that your mother, that your MIL or your sister or your neighbor or that you, YOURSELF, have knowingly or unknowingly put on motherhood, LET IT GO. You hold in your arms and your heart, the most beautiful thing in the world, YOUR TINY LIFE. Don’t forget that you were also born with the gifts to help that baby thrive.
Here are a couple of non-traditional parenting books. If you need a little encouragement but don’t want a step by step book on how to be a better parent, check these out.
- Love Warrior -Glennon Doyle Melton
- Carry On Warrior -Glennon Doyle Melton
- Of Mess and Moxie -Jen Hatmaker
- Girl, Wash your Face -Rachel Hollis