When I was first starting down this mom road I didn’t feel confident that I had the right directions. I was always second guessing myself, checking in with Husband, asking the genius minds at Google for help. Was I lost?
Now that I’m the mother of two (does it ever sound unweird to say that?) nothing has changed. I’m still a bit lost, I don’t always know where I’m going, and I still ask the genius minds of Google for help. This comes with the territory of being a mom, I guess. You’re never an expert because the road is always changing.
But no matter. The road is always changing and the course is sometimes bumpy and you may not always know what you’re doing but here are some things I wish I could go back and tell my my pre-baby having, younger self.
Dear New Mom,
Keep it up.
You are doing just fine. You just don’t think it right now because you’re so busy trying to be the perfect mom, the mom you think you need to be that you haven’t realized yet that that doesn’t exist. Well it does but not in the way you think. See the perfect mom isn’t just one kind of mom. The perfect mom is exactly who you are. Maybe you are a family bed kind of mom or a breast feeding mom or an organic food making mom or a working mom or a cry-it-out mom or a play date mom. Whatever type of mom you are is perfect because that’s the kind of mom you are. One of my brilliant mom friends said it best when she said There are books about all kinds of parenting so find a book that writes about the kind of parent you want to be and forget the rest.
Baby doesn’t care. Your baby doesn’t care what kind of mom you are – organic or Gerber giving, reusable diaper trying or disposable diaper buying. Your baby doesn’t care if you’re wearing yoga pants or Manolos. Overweight, underdressed, insane – no matter – your baby doesn’t care. All they care about is milk, sleep, and some cuddles. Get that done and you might as well be a superhero.
Listen to your Mother Skywalker Force. It’s with you. Mothers just know things. You may not know what to do if Baby has a fever but that is Googleable and that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the things you just know. When I tried breastfeeding with Rafaella, I knew it wasn’t working. But doctors and the fanatical Leche League women, and – yes – even well meaning family kept telling me that it was fine. Well, we were all wrong. They were wrong that it was working because it wasn’t. And I was wrong for not listening to my Mother Skywalker Force – I should have.
Own it. I had two pregnancies that were pretty easy as far as growing a human life in your body goes. And while I was ready to have both of my babies by the end of their pregnancy (“I just wanted to keep my baby in my belly for another 9 months,” said no pregnant woman ever.) I really enjoyed being pregnant. I owned that shit and can’t no one tell me I wasn’t a hot prego. I mean they can but it would fall on deaf ears. Because I felt good and sexy and big and I owned it. I was proud of being a woman, of everything being a woman means and of everything being a woman means I could do.
You need a break. This is a good one for you to know too new dads. After carrying Baby around Australian Kangaroo full pouch style, Mama needs a break – whatever that means. For some, this is a day at the spa. For others, a day by the pool. For me, this means wine on the rooftop, margaritas at the pool, sangria at dinner. But whatever the idea of a “break” is, one thing is very important… dads. Dads you have to make sure that Mom takes time for herself. She’s had 9 months of sharing her body with a growing alien that has dictated everything from her sleep schedule to the food she eats to the clothes she wears to the emotions she feels. She needs time alone to return to herself but she won’t do it unless, well, you make her. Mommy Guilt is a bitch and you have no idea how strong it could be. It will hold her back from doing things even if she knows they are good for her, even if she knows she needs it. So if you miss your wife and the woman she used to be, force her out the door once in a while. If need be kick her out and lock the door. She’ll thank you for it later.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Everyone knows being a mom is the hardest job on the planet, even if politicians don’t support it financially. All moms, no matter how easy they make it look now, were at some point, new moms and had no clue what they were doing because babies, unlike blenders, don’t come with manuals. You can’t return babies at the customer service counter or lease them out for two years and get them back when they’re running more smoothly. Babies are irrationally impossible sometimes and heartmeltingly incredible at others. Some could categorize this behavior as certifiable, parents just know this is life with kids. Children are crazy and crazy hard, but aren’t most things worth having? So don’t beat yourself up too much. Learn to laugh. And when you can’t beat crazy, join crazy. Turn the music up (so you can’t hear them) and dance or do like Glennon from Momastery and put a brown paper bag over your head and hide. Either way… you’re doing great!
Love your Baby Daddy. He is the only one on your team. It’s you two against them. And when those babies grow up – because they will – and move out – because they do – and live their own lives – because they have to – the only one who will still be there is your partner – because that’s how it is. Your partner is your first priority. And your kids will learn to love by the way you love each other.
It’s ok to NOT Carpe Diem. When older women or moms of older kids see newborns or babies they have a tendency to tell you to Love this moment. Be in this moment. Because it all goes so fast. But when a newborn drenches you in spit up at 3 am or your kid is in the middle of throwing a colossal tantrum over a raisin or your twins think playing human piñata with each other is fun, you may not want to seize that moment. Not every moment of being a mother is a Google Mother’s Day commercial. Sometimes being a mom is dirty and exhausting and not in the slightest what you imagined it would be when you were younger and thought that you were going to be the hottest, bestest, coolest, funniest mom ever. You will seize so many moments as a mom that you don’t need to feel bad if you don’t want to seize everyone.
Bring on the toddlers. After Husband and I were the proud parents of two dogs for over a year we both realized one thing that’s very important in us having a dog – we wanted DOGS not puppies. We thought Puppies are so cute but too much work. For us, grown rescue dogs that were a bit less energy and a lot more trained was the way to go. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that after Rafaella’s first 3 months, I finally spilled my guilty guts and told Husband I just don’t think I’m a newborn mom. I had felt so guilty about this for months that I questioned whether or not I was a good mom, whether or not I was cut out to be a mother. All because I wasn’t good at one phase. Some moms are naturals with newborns. For me, they are squirmy little puppies that sleep a lot and slurp up milk and make a mess a bunch of times a day but they’re sooo cute so you love them anyway. I love puppies but I’d rather have a dog. The point is, just because one phase of Mommahood isn’t for you doesn’t mean that all of Mommahood isn’t for you. Another very smart mother I know very eloquently said Why the hell do you have to like everything? GENIUS! She’s right. It’s ok to not love every phase of this, we’re human. Newborns, I’ve realized, are not my schtick. But damn! Do I love toddler Rafa. Teenage Rafaella… I’ll get back to you on that.
Just wait. These are the echoing words of wisdom spoken by every veteran parent to newer parents at one time or another. Just wait til he starts walking… then he’ll really hard. Just wait til she starts talking… then you’ll really get an earful. Just wait til there’s two… then she won’t be so easy to deal with. She’ll get jealous, just wait. Just wait til they are teenagers… you’ll really be in for it then. They mean well, they mean to bond and remind you that we’ve all been there but NEW MOM, believe me when I tell you that the “just waits” aren’t blanket statements. They don’t cover all babies, all kids, all teenagers. They don’t take into account that maybe you’re a parent like Husband that enjoys running and jumping and sweating and so a mobile toddler is awesome. They don’t take into account that I am as social a mariposa (butterfly) as they come and a writer to boot so a talking Rafaella is too exciting for words. Your experience and your choices and so your child will be different. Just wait… you’ll see.
You walk this way only once, my dear. I saw these words on a friend’s daughter’s prayer flag and those words climbed inside of me that night and made a home there. I wrote them down so I would never forget them, both for me and for Rafa at the time, and now for Santiago. And for you, new mom. You don’t know what is ahead; what battles you will face, what victories you will celebrate, what companions will join you in your journey. But know that you will see many roads in only one journey.
Enjoy what you can.
Don’t belittle yourself. Believe in yourself. Don’t compare yourself, do yourself that favor. You have gotten to where you are because you are amazing. And motherhood… it’s just another road to walk down…
so walk strong.
What new advice would you give to a new mom?