With Mothers’ Day upon us, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on a few things I’ve learned as a new mama. Being a mother has opened my eyes to all of the things my own mom must have experienced in raising me (and probably still experiences)… the wakeful nights regardless of whether or not the baby is waking, the insane capacity for love with no bounds, the ever-present (and surely, often unnecessary) anxiety over not being able to keep her in a protective bubble, not to mention the constant pushing-down of fear that I’ve already screwed up my kid in less than a year of this mom gig. The list of things I need to thank my mom for grows daily. (Thanks, Mom! I love you!) Side note: Is anyone else dreading their little girl’s teenage years…?
This list is by no means all-encompassing, but it is a bit more personal, it’s kind of funny, and it is ABSOLUTELY ALL TRUE. New moms and seasoned moms alike, there’s bound to be something in here that you can identify with. Here’s what I think:
1. How did I ever think I could live without coffee? Coffee and I broke up years ago when tea stole my heart. We had a brief fling when I was pregnant and summer mornings in SC involved strolling the beach on Isle of Palms with an iced coffee in hand, tanning my gloriously round belly and relishing in the fact that I didn’t have to “suck it in” while sporting a teeny bikini. Post-bump, I’ve tried them all: black tea, yerba mate, matcha… they’re all lovely in their own earthy way, but nothing quite gets my heart pumping in the morning like a good ol’ cuppa joe. These days, my emotional cup runneth over in so many unbelievable ways, but motherhood has carved a little (sometimes big) hole in my sanity that only a strong cup of coffee can fill. And what is this hole, you ask? Hm, that brings me to my next point…
2. Sleep really is underrated. No, really. Everything everyone says about sleep when you are pregnant is true. “Sleep now while you still can!” “Sleep when the baby sleeps!” “You’ll never have a good night’s sleep again for the next 18 years!” There were times when I wanted to punch those people when they uttered these seemingly stupid words, simply because I was sick of hearing them. Now, I just look back at my pre-baby self, tight-lipped, and I close my eyes, shake my head, and try not to cry. HA! BUT SERIOUSLY. On those glorious weekend mornings when Tim pops cheerfully out of bed to scoop Lennon off on an early morning stroll with the dogs, I gladly pretend to be dead for as long as humanly possible before one of many motherly duties require my being conscious. I truly look forward to the day when the first few hours of my morning do not consist of painfully blinking puffy eyes and attempting to entertain my child (or basically just making sure she doesn’t injure herself) until that first nap, at which point I most often choose sleep for myself, too, instead of getting a shower, doing laundry, dishes, paying bills, etc. Come on, moms, I know I’m not the only one in this groggy, wobbly, caffeinated boat. This morning, I was in the shower while Tim brushed his teeth and suddenly, I panicked out loud, “SHIT! WHAT DAY IS IT? MONDAY?!” Cue the well-deserved side-eye from my husband, because IT’S FRIDAY, PEOPLE. Not like it’s Tuesday and I thought it was Wednesday or Thursday and I thought it was Friday. I was a whole four days and a weekend off. Sigh. My brain hurts. More coffee, please.
3. Little victories deserve celebration. Little victories like remembering what day it is. Just kidding (or am I?). I am a girl who likes to get things done. My home screen is my to-do list. I garner immense satisfaction from crossing things off said to-do list. And let me tell you, pre-baby Erin? She got. Shit. Done. Pre-baby Erin laughed in the face of errands. Pre-baby Erin basically set up post-baby Erin for miserable failure with her insane expectation of what was actually realistic to accomplish in a single day, infant in tow. Enter the “ta-da” list. I have searched high and low for the original source of this idea, or at least, where I saw it first, which was on Instagram, but alas, I can’t seem to find it to be able to direct you there or to give proper credit. The idea is this: that instead of piling a million items onto my to-do list in hopes of accomplishing a mere few, and in effect, setting myself up for bitter failure, I take a few moments at the end of the day to acknowledge and celebrate everything I DID accomplish. Like that I washed, dried, folded, and put away a single load of laundry. Or that I remembered to take the chicken out of the freezer yesterday so that I could actually cook dinner and we didn’t have to order takeout for the third time this week. Or that I remembered to pick up the mail for the first time this month! Or that I finished bath time and bed time before 6:30pm and made it onto the balcony with a chilled glass of vino just in time to watch the sunset with Tim – YEAAH! HUGE victory! It may sound silly (and I realize now that, ha, I may sound like a huge loser who needs to GET IT TOGETHER), but I know I’m not alone here. As cliche as it sounds, we’ve got to give ourselves a break and enjoy the present moment, with our kids, our spouses, and our SELVES… And for God’s sake, treat ourselves to a cleaning lady every now and then, am I right? ;)
[For the record, this blog post is in and of itself, a major victory. It would be anyway, but the fact that I had written about 75% of it before casually hitting the “delete” button on my keyboard while my cursor was not clicked inside the text box, resulting in a complete annihilation of the entire post (because no, of course I didn’t save it as a draft, silly, why would I do that?)… that makes this finished post a huge victory. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I did cry actual tears when I realized the first post was beyond recovery, because I’m a mom, and that sacred 35 minutes of nap time spent sipping coffee on the balcony whilst typing up this piece of hilarity for you, and which could have been spent doing laundry or dishes or sleeping or paying bills or whatever… was all for naught. I have coffee to thank for my sob-fest only lasting one minute instead of the rest of the day. ;) Questions? Refer to number one.]
4. So-called “baby experts” write books because people will buy them, but the best resource is a mama’s own intuition… and the best support comes from other moms. Because I’m a little type A, I spent plenty of money on books, spent tons of time Googling articles that told me what to expect when I was expecting, how to get my baby to sleep/nap/get on a schedule, the pros and cons of co-sleeping or baby-wearing or crying-it-out. I even read a book in the final weeks of my pregnancy (I won’t even bother to share the title) which promised a predictable schedule and minimal night-waking for my exclusively breast-fed baby by the age of… wait for it… SIX WEEKS. Now, I am right there with the rest of you reading this when I throw my head back and laugh at the thought of that even being suggested to a naive, first-time mom, and part of me is even a little annoyed, dare I say, pissed, that books such as this one are even written, and then treated like the bible when it comes to figuring out those first early stages of motherhood. There are still times I resort to Google when I come up against a head-scratcher, but when I catch myself feeling upset or frustrated more often than I’m feeling joy and enjoyment in caring for my child, that’s when I know I need to step back and see my situation for what it is. Hello. I have a baby. She’s a tiny human who is just figuring out her world and I get to figure it out right alongside her. It’s not easy all the time but, holy crap is it amazing! It makes me sad to think of the time I spent berating myself for “doing something wrong” because a stupid book told me I should be doing it another way. Just tonight, Lennon fell asleep nursing (the horror!), and I rocked her for a while as she slept, just watching her tiny nose and mouth and feeling her little sighs against my skin. Bless her sweet little heart – I was in heaven. Weeks ago, a sleep trainer (along with countless resources that say the same) told me to never let the baby fall asleep nursing! Never rock her to sleep! You’ll create a sleep crutch!! You know what I say to that? Screw you. My baby is beautiful, she’s only going to be a baby for a short while, and who knows, she may be my only baby. I’m going to hold her and nurse her and rock her and stare at her as long as I damn well please, thank you very much.
As for support, understanding, empathy… no book will give you that the way another mom going through the same thing will. My saving grace on many a rough day has become an online community of mommy bloggers and instagrammers and my weekly (or more) fix of meeting up with other real-life mom-friends for coffee and yoga and general commiserating. Some of you are probably reading this and feeling that sense of camaraderie now as you scroll through my list… that “me too!” feeling, or that “thank God I’m not the only one!” feeling. Community is an absolute necessity as a mom and I will be the first to admit, I would be insane and miserable and completely lost without my fellow moms.
5. My life goals have suddenly taken on much bigger meaning. All right, time to get a little deeper. Who is with me, here? You know what I mean. Everything I do is now preceded by a thought, however fleeting, of how this will affect my child. My thoughts of my own future, my goals, dreams, and aspirations, are now fueled by the desire to provide an amazing and adventure-filled life experience for my child and the desire to be something that she will someday not only be really proud of, but also inspired by. I walk a little taller, talk to more people, put myself out there, practice a little self-love… because I want to inspire her to do the same. I’m hyper-aware of my health, now more than ever, the food I choose to put into my body and my physical fitness… because I know what it’s like to lose a parent to illness at way too young an age, and I do NOT want her to have to experience that… plus, I want her to learn from me that taking charge of your health is not only empowering, but that it opens the door to a full and happy life. Plans to travel, to start a business, to spend the rest of my life DOING THINGS and not just talking about doing things… all of that seems infinitely more exciting knowing she will be a huge part of it.
6. Taking care of my SELF is now more necessary than ever. It’s why I commit to that early morning yoga class every Saturday. It’s why nap time doesn’t always mean it’s time for me to do the dishes… but that maybe I’ll take a nap myself or spend that time sipping coffee and reading on the balcony. As women and mothers, it seems we are so hard-wired to spend our time taking care of everyone else that we often forget to take care of our selves. I, however, am acutely aware of how detrimental that whole “putting everyone else first” thing can be to a person… physically, mentally, and emotionally. There was a time when Lennon was a brand new baby, we were living in South Carolina, the closest family members several states away, and Tim was traveling a lot for work. I should’ve reached out for help, but I didn’t. There were days – weeks, sometimes – where I was the only parent caring for a new baby 24/7 with no breaks and no clue what I was doing and it almost broke me. I now know that I NEED time for myself to reboot. Time spent alone, allowing my mind to rest. Time spent moving my body and taking care of my health so that I can feel good. Time spent exploring and pursuing my passions. Time spent connecting with girlfriends, and connecting with my husband. Because if I don’t take care of myself first, what kind of broken, incomplete, resentful, and unhappy wife and mother would I be? And what sort of message would that send to my girl?
I knew being a mom would change me, but what I didn’t know is that it would change me in ways I never expected – that being a mom would make me want to be a better person simply because I’m no longer just stumbling through life trying to figure things out for myself… I have a gorgeous, tiny person who depends on me to survive, and who hopefully will look up to me and model her behavior after mine, which makes every single thing I DO meaningful. I mean… life just got REAL. There’s no way my pre-baby self could have even imagined how full and crazy and mind-blowing my life would feel now that she’s here. Life as her mom is amazing, dirty hair, coffee breath, and all.
Happy Mothers’ Day, moms.