First of all, congratulations!!! You are either currently pregnant, in the process of fostering/adopting, or holding your new little one in your arms. No matter how this special little person has made his/her way into your heart, you are now holding the keys to one of the most important jobs in the world: being a mom!
It is also one of the scariest, most overwhelming, challenging, and all-out-rewarding roles you could ever step into.
When people learn you are going to be a first-time mom, the amount of advice (I use that term loosely here) can be extremely overwhelming. Everyone and their sister will tell you how to feed your baby, diaper your baby, potty train your child, sleep-train (or not) your baby, discipline (or not), the list goes on. And once that child arrives, the amount of advice grows and grows. I’m sure most of it is well-meaning (not counting the massive amounts of parenting horror stories about poop, pee, and public humiliation… I’m not sure how any of that is supposed to be helpful). Sometimes you will get conflicting information: don’t co-sleep, but do co-sleep; don’t use a pacifier, but do use a pacifier; don’t bring your newborn out in public, but do bring your newborn out in public. Clear as mud?
But where is the advice for the nitty-gritty mom-stuff? The advice for mending and reassuring your mama heart? Once you’ve been a mom for any length of time, that is the kind of advice you will need. Especially on days when you are experiencing things that you didn’t learn in parenting books or childbirth classes. Let me share some of those things with you. 🙂
It is ok if you don’t feel love at first sight with your child. I think there is a lot of hype surrounding the first moments after laying eyes on your precious baby. Now, if you feel those awesome feelings, that is great! But if you don’t feel anything even closely resembling magic (especially if you have gone through a long adoption process, or a rough pregnancy and labor/delivery… 36 hours, anyone??), you are not a lesser mom. Just because your sister or mom or friend experienced it one way does not mean you will experience it that same way. Motherhood is not cookie-cutter-shaped. Each mom and each child is uniquely individual. Sometimes the picture we build in our heads of how things are supposed to be is the exact opposite of what we actually experience. Give yourself some time to heal both physically and emotionally, and give yourself time to build that bond with your child. It will come in time, I promise!
It is okay if your child makes you upset. Someday, when your sweet little one grows up (usually around the first birthday or shortly thereafter), he or she will start to do things that will drive you up the proverbial wall. Looking in your child’s sweet eyes during their first months of life, it is hard to imagine them doing anything so devious. But I promise you it will happen. Your kids are (imperfect) humans just like you. (They call it the terrible two’s but, in my experience, it starts much earlier than that… Who gave my kids permission to have minds of their own?! ;)) But I also promise you that those scenarios will cause you to grow more as a person than you have ever grown before: true forgiveness (for yourself and your child, over and over and over again), unconditional love (you will still love your child even though she decided to paint her baby sister with Vaseline), and even patience will blossom through this muddy, murky time. The real reward at the end of it all is seeing the wonderful little person your child is growing up to be!
It is okay if things don’t go according to plan. Motherhood is one of those things that you don’t really know how it is going to go until you are in the trenches; setting goals that you deem unbreakable can sometimes hurt you in the end. Don’t let the “failed” plans weigh you down and bring you mommy-guilt. We are our own worst critics. Goals are good, but flexibility within those goals are even better. Two mothering situations that jump into my head right away: breastfeeding and birth. It crushes me when I see a mama beating herself up because her birth did not go the way she had wanted it (who had any idea labor would hurt THAT much?! Hello, epidural!), or she feels like she has somehow failed her child because she wasn’t able to nurse her baby (the “breast is best” mantra has started many mommy wars, especially the ones in our own minds). Sometimes when things don’t work out the way we anticipated, they turn out with the same end result or even better! Moms-to-be: let’s be kind to ourselves and extend ourselves a little grace when things don’t work out the way we planned. Remember that, at the end of the day, our main goal in mothering is to raise children who know we love them and who know we have done our very best to give them a good life! I promise you will be a happier mom if you remember this.
It is okay to not worry about your kids all the time. You will quickly come to learn that you cannot protect your child from everything. (There are even times you can’t even protect your kids from themselves… Just ask my daughter who has already had two broken bones at the ripe old age of three!) Holding your helpless little miracle for the first time, the little miracle you would gladly give your life for, you suddenly realize that you are equally as helpless (in many instances) as a mom. With bullying and violence in schools, learning that your neighbor’s infant has a terminal disease, hearing of a deadly car accident involving a young family, and any of the dozen other negative events flooding our social media newsfeeds daily, it is no wonder many moms struggle with anxiety (I am one of them). It is overwhelming trying to protect your kids from all of the dangers in the world simultaneously when, at the end of the day, there are many things you have absolutely no control over. Learn to trust God with your children’s lives (after all, He loves them more than you do, which is completely mind-blowing), especially in the times you have very little control over. When you realize that worrying about all the what-ifs in life does absolutely nothing (except maybe cause you to lose sleep), and learn to “let it go” (cue Frozen), I promise parenting will be a lot more fun. 🙂
It is okay to have absolutely no idea what you are doing. When your child first enters your life, you are entering foreign territory, embarking on a new adventure. But so is your child. This is all new to both of you. It takes time to get to know each other, find some sort of new “normal”, and figure out all the little quirks each of you have. Don’t jump into parenting expecting to be a pro. For some moms the maternal instinct kicks in right away, but for other moms the maternal instinct grows over time. No matter which side or in-between of that spectrum you fall under, you are okay. Have a good support system of “seasoned” moms to talk to and bounce ideas off of as you adjust to your new little person. I promise you that, while things will never truly be “easy” again, things will get so much better over time. Life is a learning process on a never-ending continuum.
It is okay to feel some not-so-warm-and-fuzzy things. You might feel like screaming or running away some days (especially when the kids have absolutely destroyed the house while you left them with dad while you went grocery shopping). Other days you might go to bed thinking that you didn’t do anything right that day (apart from keeping the kids alive), wondering how in the world you are going to wake up and face the next day. Feeling like you love your child with all of your heart one minute, and at the drop of a hat (or cup of milk) feeling your blood boil. Missing your pre-baby body and pre-baby life (being able to pick up and go without having to pack a million-and-one things). You are not a bad mom for feeling those things because at some point we all do. The important thing is that you are trying your hardest, embracing the new life you live, learning from your mistakes (because, let me tell you, you will make mistakes), and remembering that bad moments do not make bad moms. Love on your kids as best as you know how. Rest in knowing you are the best mom your child could ever have!
Do you have any other advice you would add?