Dear New Mom,
You don’t have to apologize. So, stop right now.
You’re in the mama circle now. That means you get to fall off the face of the earth, complain, cry, ask for help, or not return phone calls and texts, and we’ll still be here. We’re crying and complaining about our kids too, so no judgement.
However, if anyone complains while they are “helping you out” even if that person is another parent, politely ask them to leave. You don’t need that shit.
Speaking of help, people are going to want to help you. Let them. They won’t fold your clothes the right way, they’ll put the groceries in the wrong place, and the dishes they just washed may still have food on them, but who cares? Let them help you. You can’t do everything. And you’ll send yourself to the crazy place if you try. Let them feed you, let them take the baby so you can poop, even if the baby cries the whole time. You need to poop.
Breastfeeding is hard. If you are struggling, it’s because you’re human. It’s okay. And just because you’re human and your body was designed to do this, doesn’t mean it will come naturally. Ask for help. There are a lot of options and it’s okay to try all of them. In the end, you need to feed your baby. So, feed your baby. And whatever your decision (tube feeding, pumping, formula, breast milk sharing, half breast milk/half formula, taking domperidon, using magic pixie dust), it’s okay.
If anyone tells you to just relax, you can absolutely shove a pencil in their eye. Just kidding. Don’t do that. But it’s okay if you want to.
Oh yeah, and it’s okay to walk away. It’s okay to put your baby in a safe space and go in the other room to scream or cry or poop or just breathe. They’ll be fine for a few minutes. And you’ll feel a tiny bit better. Sometimes your baby, toddler, or kid is going to be a complete a-hole. You’ll want to send them back. Sometimes he or she will be dazzling, hilarious, or super sweet. Those moments make it worth it.
You’re going to miss being alone. You’re going to miss long brunches with friends, sleeping until noon, solo adventures, and all the yoga. You’ll wonder what you used to do with all that freaking time. Non-parents will complain about not having enough time for this or that. Just smile and nod. They have no idea.
You’ll squeeze an amazing amount of to-dos into nap time. Or you’ll stare at the TV. Or sleep. Whatever. These moments are golden. They are yours to do with as you please. You can “reflect” on life or write your five-year plan in your head on the way from here to there. Seriously. You’ll be in survival mode for awhile. So, take your vitamins, hydrate, and breathe. You’ll get through this.
It’s okay to love being a working mom. It may mean you can’t have play-dates at 2pm at the children’s museum, which also means you may miss out on a few mom friendships. You can connect with moms online and your kid will make friends at daycare. If being a working mom is good for your wellbeing, THAT’S good for your baby. Win-win.
And it’s okay if working is not for you. If you want to be home all day with your kid and have the means to do it, DO IT.
Either way, do not waste your time feeling guilty. There is plenty of that in your future; don’t waste your energy on this one thing. Choosing to work or not work is not a choice between being a good parent or a bad one, being a present parent or an absent one. It’s a choice you make for your family.
While we’re talking about work, let me add there is no such thing as balance. For us or them. As long as they have a basic structure to their day, lots of love, and boundaries, you’re doing great. Some days you’ll OD on TV. Don’t worry. And some days you’ll spend hours outside exploring. Same thing with us adults. Some days you suck at everything and pay your bills late and cry three times. And some days you are on fire, multi-tasking the shit out of your day.
No one is asking you to do anything more than your best. But the best you can give depends on what’s going on in your life. If you have the flu, are sleep deprived, or going through some major life upheaval, your “best” is not the same as it is when life is calm and flowing like honey. The “best” your child is asking of you is based on a sliding scale according to what you can afford. You do the best you can in any given moment and that is good enough.
I read somewhere that it’s better to give them 100% of you 50% of the time, than 50% of you 100% of the time. I think Magda Gerber said that. In any event, that one little piece of wisdom really helps me keep perspective and stay present when I am with my kiddo.
This may be exactly what you wanted. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe you didn’t want any of this. Maybe you love the crap out of your baby, but you don’t totally love being a mom. We are complex creatures, and as such can hold space for both emotions. Or maybe you wanted to be a mom, but the universe handed you a really complicated, unfair, and all-around shitty situation.
I got a lot of advice when I got pregnant. And then I got more when Judah was born. The one thing that stood out and remained mostly true was this: it gets better. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better, but it will get better. (Even if this isn’t true all the time, I like to pretend it is.)
And I’m standing on the sidelines cheering you on. Some moms may not agree with all of your choices. But who cares? They’re not your baby’s mama. Screw them. If you’re doing the best you can (and you are doing the best you can), you’re doing great. Keep being awesome and you’ll raise an awesome human.
Happy Mother’s Day!
This letter was written for every mother who needs to read it. (So, feel free to share it with the new mom in your life.) But most of all, I wrote it for myself. I will become a mother all over again in October of this year. I’m very excited. But I’m also very nervous. So, I put all the words of encouragement I usually share with other moms in this one letter. In October I’ll read it again. And again. And again, until it sticks and I truly believe, despite all the screw ups, I’m doing great and raising two awesome humans.
*Black and white photo by Tanya Alexis
Other Things to Read