The moment you announce a pregnancy it seems EVERYONE has a long list of advice. I would nod and smile when friends, neighbors, grandmothers, even a well-meaning UPS driver noticing all the baby paraphernalia offered words of wisdom.
But there are some things in life you can only learn by living, am I right?
Here are a few things I wish I could tell myself as a new mom:
For the love of all things Holy, ask for help.
I suck at asking for help. If I was bitten by a shark, I would hesitate to ask a lifeguard for a bandage. I’m still learning, but after a baby I wish I realized how many people genuinely want to help.
We lived in New York when Lola was born. My mom came to help for a week, but, otherwise, we were far from family. But even if my mom had lived next door, I would have been hesitant to ask for help. I felt like I, alone, could cater to the needs of my infant. I’m laughing as I type this because I was CLUELESS. Even when Penn Charles was born and neighbors offered to fold my laundry and help with Lola, I said, “No, I got it.” I most certainly did not have it. There are a few times in motherhood I wish I could hit the rewind button and that’s a big one. I drove myself, and my family, over the edge insisting I could do it all.
Breastfeeding is great, but so is formula.
I read all the books and knew I wanted to breastfeed my babies to the best of my ability. I was determined to make it work. Correction: I made myself miserable trying to make it work. I never produced enough. On top of that, both my kids had terrible acid reflux and couldn’t keep anything down. Our lives revolved around my regimented pumping/feeding schedule to make sure they were gaining enough weight and I kept “my supply” up. I should have known there was a problem when the lactation consultant handed me a can of formula and said, “Here, use this.”
In hindsight, a fed baby and a calm mama is the best. I created a lot of stress for all of us by resisting formula as long as I did. I regret that.
Taking time for yourself models self-care for your children.
I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety after my babies. Penn saw me struggling and drove me to get the help I needed in those dark moments. He made me meals, he cleaned the house, he even booked me a massage appointment when Lola was a few months old at this fancy schmancy spa in New York City. Get ready to gasp: I never went. I felt guilty leaving her.
Thanks to some medicine and therapy, the clouds of those early days parted and I have never missed a spa appointment since. I want my children to prioritize their mental health as an adult. How can they know it’s important if I don’t show them? I find time to socialize with friends, take trips, or just time to sit in a coffee shop alone. I wish I had known then how impossible it is to take care of someone else if I can’t take care of myself.
Prioritize time with your partner, even when you’re tired.
Cut and paste the above but add in this: Your kids will never know how to prioritize a partnership unless you show them. Penn is my favorite and the kids know it. It took a while to get back to regular date nights after the kids were born but it was vital.
Apologize to your kids when you make mistakes.
I assumed I’d know all the answers the moment I became a mother. It turns out, I somehow became even more clueless. I am sure I’ve made enough mistakes to fuel therapy sessions for a lifetime. I always joke, “Please tell your therapist that I was just trying my best.”
One thing, I think, I wish I had done sooner is to apologize when I made a mistake. I’ve lost my temper or said things that unknowingly caused harm. It doesn’t take away the hurt, but now I apologize and ask for forgiveness.
Get in the pictures.
That’s it. That’s the message. Just get in the flipping pictures. You may think you look “puffy” or some other excuse. But you look great. Get in the picture.
“Everything in life is only for now.”
“Everything in life is only for now” is a line from one of our favorite songs “For Now” from the Broadway hit Avenue Q. In the song, the characters sing about how the good times, the bad moments, the annoying inconveniences … are all only temporary.
“For now we’re healthy.
For now we’re employed.
For now we’re happy…
If not overjoyed.
And we’ll accept the things we cannot avoid, for now…”
Everything in motherhood is a phase that moves at exactly the right pace. Yes, it seems like it goes so quickly, but could you imagine having a two year old for even a minute longer? I loved those squishy cheeks but now I have a really cool teenager who will go shopping with me. It’s all a phase. Potty training, sleepless nights, it’s all just “for now.”
What advice would you give yourself as a new mom? Leave it in the comments.
By the way, my kids are tween/teen and I’m still learning about this motherhood thing. Advice is welcome!