Welcome to motherhood. It’s the most difficult and rewarding job in the world and one that you will fail and succeed at every single day. And so, before I share with you the unsolicited advice that you have to listen to because I’m the oldest and I say so, let me say this: your precious girl is beyond blessed that you are her mama. You are just as wonderful as she thinks you are, and if anyone tries to tell you any differently you just let me know (I know a guy who will take care of them).
[quote]Your precious girl is beyond blessed that you are her mama. You are just as wonderful as she thinks you are.[/quote]
Here are a few of the things I learned in those early days of motherhood, some I wish someone had shared with me, some I had to learn on my own, and some I am still learning:
Your body will never be the same, and neither will you. The relocation of your parts should serve as a small physical reminder of all that’s about to change. You have months ahead of being a saggy, soggy mess, and that’s just how it’s supposed to be. The softening of your body and your soul will help you be a better mother. You’ll be more compassionate because of it, and you’ll give more comfortable snuggles.
Offer grace. Then offer some more grace. And then, take a deep breath and offer some more grace. Like weddings, babies can often bring out the best and worst in the people we love the most. Family and friends (me included) will probably say and do things that are unintentionally hurtful. Please forgive us and realize that somewhere in your new-mama-helplessness you too may require grace. So grant it to us, but don’t forget to grant it to yourself. You are expecting more of you than any of us are – trust me. And speaking of people who will need lots of your grace…
Your husband is different than you. And because he’s different he’ll do things differently! You will likely be frustrated by it, and your way may, in fact, be more efficient or more effective, but it doesn’t matter. He has been given the equal task of parenting your child, and he wants to help, so let him. He will bring a unique perspective to every situation, and the two of you together will be more successful than you would be alone.
It’s ok to walk away. A screaming baby will reveal to you what it really means to be helpless, and it’s impossible to make clear-headed decisions in the chaos. Lay the baby somewhere safe and walk to another room for a minute. Pray about it, think about it, and then commence with the rock and shush combo.
Working outside the home does not make you a bad mother. I won’t lie to you – it’s going to be hard, and there will be times when it even sucks, but staying home has those times too. There is no perfect solution here, only the solution that is best for the three of you. So stay in communication with your husband, talk about it every couple months and see how it’s going. (Note: I give this same advice to mama’s who stay home full time). Be honest with yourself about what it is that you want and need, and remember that…
You can change your mind. There are so few rights and wrongs in parenting (which is part of why it’s so difficult). You will simply have to experiment to find out what works for you. You might intend a whole lot of things, but once reality hits you might need to change your mind. Be ok with that. Supplementing with formula because it hurts to nurse, giving a pacifier because your ears are bleeding, or snuggling with your baby so they’ll sleep are not indications that you are a failure – they are indications that you want what’s best for your baby (and incidentally sometimes that is also what’s best for you).
Life is seasonal. What you used to do when it was just the two of you may not be what you can do now. Pulling back from some things (for a season) is healthy for you – it gives you the margin you will need to keep a pace that allows you to focus on the important things. Keeping or adding other things (for a season) is also healthy for you – it gives you an opportunity to merge the baby into the wonderful life you have already created instead of creating a whole new life around her. And speaking of her, her life is seasonal too. Everything she does is temporary, so be patient. Soon enough there will be a new challenge and a new joy.
Do not compare yourself to another mother. She is mama to her kiddos and you are mama to yours. If you happen to catch another mother on her best day, or her worst, remember that you have no way of knowing which it is. The only thing you have in common with her is that you are both doing the very best you can. And on that note, do not compare yourself to me. Just because I joined the club first doesn’t mean I know a thing – not a darned thing. I can guarantee you that every time I think I might know something your precious niece and nephew change it up on me. I am not an expert, and not even always a good example, so take the pressure off of you (and me).
If you happen to catch another mother on her best day, or her worst, remember that you have no way of knowing which it is. The only thing you have in common with her is that you are both doing the very best you can.
You are not enough. Yep, I said it. The world would have us believe that we should be wonder-women (or even that we are already), but we are not. We need a whole lot of Jesus for this job. The sugar-substitute, see-you-on-Sunday, feel-good Jesus won’t do. We need every ounce of patience he has to offer, every drop of discernment he’ll grant, and every single grain of grace he’s willing to pour out over us. And the thing is, we can have it. Every time I don’t scream at my kiddos, it’s only because he has granted me peace and perspective. Every time I offer them unconditional love (despite the giant mess they may have just made) it’s because that love was shown first to me. So go to the source sister. Seek him first, in the quiet moments and the loud ones. He is faithful. He made you just the mama your baby girl needs, and he will continue making you if only you will let him.
A few years ago you took time off work to help when your nephew was born. A few months ago when he started pre-school you called to check on me, to see if I was ok. A few weeks after that you brought crackers and Sprite when we were down with the stomach bug. You called to see what the kiddos needed for Christmas because you wanted to get what would be most useful. You see, the hardest part about being a mother is being selfish, and I already know the kind of selfless love you will show to your girl because you have shown it to me. You are going to be awesome at this. You already are.
I love you. I am proud of you. I am cheering for you.