Last week I posted a question on Instagram: “if you could give once piece of advice to new moms, what would it be?”
I got a few great responses – some practical, others more emotionally-based. Interestingly, most of the people who responded to me were nurses (which of course, I loved). I decided to share some of those responses and give you a few additional tidbits from own personal and professional experience:
“If you admit it’s hard or feel like you are going crazy, it doesn’t mean you are ungrateful for being a mama or love your baby any less. It can be really hard.” Truer words were never spoken. Think about everything you love or have loved in this world – your parents, your job, your spouse, your crazy dog, your CrossFit class. I guarantee you that no matter how much you love those things, there are days when you would like to have some space or perhaps bow out. It doesn’t mean you don’t love that person or thing – it just means you’re human and you might need a minute to yourself. Don’t feel terrible or guilty about that. And when you see other mothers who claim to have it together and talk about how much they LOVE motherhood, remember that they aren’t divulging every tiny detail of their own messy lives.
“Accept the help.” Oh my god, YES. This is a hard one for some of us. It is a very hard one for me. I remember struggling with it even days after my son was born. I still wanted to do my own cleaning and my own laundry and not inconvenience my parents or in-laws who so graciously came to stay and help. I felt guilty napping when the baby napped (or especially when the baby WASN’T napping). I wanted to be fun and entertain like I normally do. But I am trying to force myself to accept help and ASK for help when I need it. I encourage you to do the same!
“Pack a nail file or nail clippers in your hospital bag.” This one may seem silly, but it speaks to a greater truth which is that some of the advice you really need as a new mom or dad is simply WHAT TO CARRY IN THE DIAPER BAG. I have definitely been out in public and realized I had everything BUT the diaper. Or the pants. Or the wipes. And things like a nail file or clippers for your tiny human’s ragged, jagged baby nails are incredibly helpful. There are a lot of things you CAN get on a hospital floor and also a lot that you CAN’T. Bottom line? Don’t yell at your Labor & Delivery nurse when she has no nail clippers for you.
“Trust your instincts and don’t overthink everything.” I feel incredibly hypocritical writing this because, please. I overthink everything. But as a pediatric triage nurse, I have received more calls than I can count from new moms and dads who are already doing the right thing but are second guessing themselves out of fear. There is no perfect solution for getting your baby to sleep at night. Or to potty train her. Or to get him to eat vegetables. Or take medicine. And I guarantee that if you call and talk to a nurse at your pediatrician’s office about those things, she is rarely pulling information from her vault of medical expertise. It is from her own experience as a mom. Or, if he/she is not a mom/dad, it is from hearing ideas from others through the years. We are all just learning as we go. Throw something out there, see what sticks! You can do it.
“Find time, at least once a month, to do something for YOU or for you and your spouse.” It is so easy to get swept up in the day to day minutiae of parenthood. There have been times when I have looked at Chris and thought, Huh. I wonder when we actually held hands last? Life can quickly become a ships-in-the-night, peck-on-the-cheek-while-racing-out-the-door-to-work rat race if you let it. Slow down for a second. Find a sitter and go to dinner. Take yourself to a coffee shop and read for an hour. Or wait until the baby’s asleep and sit on the porch and talk to each other. Refill your proverbial cup when it’s getting empty.
“If you work or stay home, stop feeling guilty. Just STOP.” Working moms? I know you have days when you are kissing your screaming toddler on the head while he begs you not to go and are forcing down a lump in your throat. I know, because I’ve done it and continue to do it from time to time. You are not a BAD mom for leaving them at home to help provide for your family. They won’t remember this. What’s more important is that when you are with your child, you enjoy quality time together. I always had a working mother and I never felt neglected, EVER. I looked up to her for what she did and enjoyed the time we did spend together even more. Stay-at-home moms? Stop feeling guilty that you are not bringing home a physical paycheck. The work you are doing will never stop being important and is PRICELESS. If you are in a situation where you can make that work in your world or where have chosen to make that work because it is what makes you happiest, then embrace it and remember that your child is learning everything from you day to day – what could be greater than that?
“Remember, this is a phase that will eventually end.” It’s hard to imagine, but one day this time will be a blip on the map of your life. So if your job isn’t ideal but it’s what works best for your family currently, don’t despair – you still have time to make changes in the future. If you are desperate to travel but can’t afford it right now or don’t have the time or energy, that doesn’t mean you’ll never hop on a plane again. If you aren’t working out or are pummeling your body with more caffeine than water to get through the day, thank your beautiful scars and cellulite for helping you grow a human (I mean, WOW) and remember that there will be time to get back on track. It might just not be right this very second. And in my humble opinion, coffee contains water, so who cares anyway. Am I right?
“Say thank you.” If you have a parent or family member that watches your baby or helps you out regularly, don’t take that for granted. Help is so very wonderful and not everyone has it. Thank those people. They don’t have to be doing what they are doing – they are lifting some of the burden from your shoulders because they love you – remember that. Thank your spouse (whoops, I need this reminder sometimes) – take note of the things they do that make your heart sing or make your baby giggle or smile. It’s very easy to nag or criticize, but not as easy to give praise sometimes. (I’ll work on this, I promise).
Remember, there is no manual, no one-size-fits-all for this thing called parenthood. Just do your best.