Becoming a mother is something you can never completely prepare for. After making the leap myself, I couldn't help wanting to pass on advice to my friends who became pregnant shortly thereafter. The transition can be such a struggle and I just wanted to shout words of warning in an attempt to save them from mistakes I made. The problem is everyone's journey is different, so take the pieces of advice that work for you and forget the rest. Hope this helps!
Before becoming a parent I wouldn’t have considered myself an overly judgmental person, but I will fully admit that I was that person who thought I’d be the perfect parent. I mean, I knew I couldn’t really be perfect, but I would read and do all the “right” things. Of course, I would be really good at this. Little did I know that parenting books contradict each other and the "right" thing is different for every child. If you are not a parent, you don’t know, you can’t know, and you won’t know until you are one. Ah, ignorance is bliss.
What To Do:
Please accept that you cannot possibly understand how hard parenting is on the daily and give other parents the benefit of the doubt. I know in certain situations this can be very hard, especially if the issue is safety related. In that case, do your best to bring the topic up as means of informing, not attacking. You cannot possibly know what a family is dealing with or what special challenges their child might face. If you are fortunate enough to have a child that listens to you the majority of the time and doesn’t routinely have epic meltdowns just BE GRATEFUL!
You Are Not Busy As Busy As You Think
Your schedule might be packed every day, but chances are you are choosing at least some of this. Before baby, I was working 45+ hours/week, commuting 12+ hours, maintained a home, was a landlord for another property, and juggled time with family, friends, and my spouse. I thought I was very busy and by most standards that term certainly applied, however “Mom” busy is different. At that time, I was still able to sleep late most weekends, complete projects, maintain relationships and most importantly take care of myself. Bottom line, I could slow down and even stop when I needed to.
Obviously, I knew my life would change drastically and I would have less free time after having a baby. What I did not anticipate is my life falling completely out of balance in just two years. It has taken another year to make a healthy work/life balance a priority, initially through adjusted work hours/remote work and now to a new position much closer to home. I also just had to stop doing SO much. Not everything gets done and we are all much happier living a less than picture perfect life.
What To Do:
Discuss fair delineation of household responsibilities with your partner sooner than later. Agree to take turns sleeping in. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. You most likely will not be able to keep up with everything you did before and that is okay, it really is. The sooner you learn to give yourself a break, the happier you’ll be!
Don’t Press Pause On Your Relationship
I knew time with your spouse was important, yet with my pride and joy quickly becoming the center of my universe I almost instinctually put “us” on the back burner. We did have the occasional date night, so I thought I was covering my bases. I think I looked at infancy as a phase we had to get through and we’d have more time down the road. The phase of my child demanding my time and attention never waned as 6 months past, then a year, then two. I still haven’t gotten to the point where she needs me less, so I’m guessing I have a long way to go and my marriage can’t wait for that.
What To Do:
Make date night a regular occurrence. Schedule them out, for like a year if you can, with sitters and everything. Then don’t cancel! If money is tight and free childcare is not available, date night can be playing darts at home and enjoying a drink after baby is asleep. Time is time and making that count is what matters most!
Figure Out How To Make Time For You
I thought I was doing this by scheduling a concert with girlfriends two months after my daughter was born. The show was great, but 3 plus years later and I haven’t been to a concert since. My husband and I never had this conversation beforehand and ended up playing the tit for tat game way too long, i.e. well you got to do X, so I’m doing Y and then being resentful about what or how long the other person got to go out for.
What To Do:
Figure out what is most important to you that keeps you sane or makes you, you! Then determine how you can achieve a reasonable frequency of making this time for yourself. Make a habit out of it before your child arrives. Make sure your partner agrees and you have an understanding of each person's needs. Establish key ground rules like it is not “me time” if I have the child with me. If you’re thinking that’s a given, don't make assumptions. Some people do not understand that you can’t really bond with your friend as well between tantrums and diaper changes (insert eye roll).
Your Mom Friends Will Matter
It is incredibly helpful to have friends that are already moms. They totally get why you have trouble making/keeping plans, why you forget what’s going on in their lives despite your best efforts, and why you are too exhausted to have a long phone conversation.
What To Do:
Talk to your Mom friends. I’ve learned to limit my advice unless asked because I know how overwhelming and polarizing this information can be. However, when one of my friends is truly receptive to my suggestions I literally send them a saved reference guide (which is what this blog was born from btw). If you are the first of your friends having a child, try to make Mom friends while pregnant. You can do this through parenting classes, mom support groups, or even mom groups online that are localized and can lead to meeting in-person. I actually created my original guide for a friend of a friend, because they simply had the courage to reach out and ask. I truly think most Moms genuinely want to help each other.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
I was only taking some of the people extending help up on their offers. For some reason it took me two years, despite her offering repeatedly, to finally let one of my very good friends babysit overnight so my husband and I could get away. This was literally the first night I spent away from my daughter since she was born and it wasn't because I couldn't bear to be away. I simply didn't feel comfortable accepting the help.
What To Do:
If someone is offering help, chances are they actually want to. Most Moms remember how tough the transition to motherhood is and if they care about you, they’ll want to make this time easier for you. Even if someone doesn’t offer, they may be more than willing to help and just didn’t think to say anything. If they can’t help, they’ll let you know and if you don’t ask, then the answer is always No.
Don’t Hide Your Emotions
Feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to do will undoubtedly happen. It is not uncommon to feel defeated as a new mom, or even an experienced one. So many women experience sadness over not being able to breastfeed, have postpartum depression, or even regret having the child initially. This is a life-changing event, you are not expected to make this transition seamlessly. Struggling is almost a right of passage.
What To Do:
Know that it will get better. DON’T be afraid to talk about your feelings with friends and doctors. You’ll be surprised how many women have these mixed emotions (maybe even some of your mom friends that never talked about it to you before). You may just develop stronger relationships because you shared the truth. You are not alone!
Hope this provided some proactive solutions and food for thought. Did you find this advice helpful? What did you wish you knew before having a baby? Please let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!
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Hi! I'm Nicki, a full time working Mama in a fast-paced male dominated industry. I blog for a creative outlet and to help moms like you make this parenting journey a little easier!
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