When we become mothers for the first time, we are barraged with all kinds of tips and advice.
From the moment our good-time gal egg and his “just wants one thing” sperm start splitting cells, people in droves will let you know what to do and how you should do it—from pregnancy and child birth, right up to the college search.
I’m another one. An old and seasoned mama. Go ahead—picture me sitting in a rocking chair, with a serene smile, and perhaps a light blanket tossed across my lap. Maybe I’m sipping a cup of tea, who knows? The point is, I’m someone who remembers where you are now.
Hopefully, as you finish meticulously folding that small, sweet-smelling mountain of teeny-tiny, clean clothes, you will take a brief moment to look down at your phone and find this article in your news feed. You will have exactly six minutes to read it. Because your baby will be awake in exactly seven minutes, and you still need to use the bathroom. I know there will be a brilliant moment of connection between us. Because I feel for you, sister. As I sit sipping my tea, wishing I was a young mother again, I feel for you. And I know you can do this.
1. Listen to yourself. If you need a nap, take a nap—or at least schedule one. If you’re overwhelmed, scrounge together 10 dollars and pay a sitter for an hour. Get the hell out of your house. Go for a walk. Do something by yourself. If you hear terrible things coming out of your mouth, then shut it. If you feel so exasperated and unappreciated that you think you’re going to explode, breathe and get yourself out and away from your family. In this moment, listen to what you need.
2. Say no. Yes, you can. You can say no to any and all activities that just don’t sit right with you. Trust that establishing a slower-paced routine now will help you become more spontaneous in the future. You can say no to excess visitors. Your body is trying to heal, and you and your partner are trying to bond as “new parents” together without a lot of interaction, advice, and entertaining.
3. Follow your gut. Let your instincts lead. If something doesn’t seem right, or it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. You know your baby’s cry, for example. If the cry is different, something is definitely up. Follow your gut when it comes to decisions about your baby’s care and health. Be watchful and alert. Trust your intuition when it comes to people in and out of your baby’s life. Your gut is usually right.
4. Set your own schedule. Stop worrying about what your friends are doing with their babies. So what if baby Dexter is taking a “float class” at a baby spa twice a week. So what if Pam, your seriously perfect mom friend, has painted an entire wall of the nursery using the thumbprints of her gurgling eight-month-old M’Keighlah (yes, she spells it that way). You’re not Pam, and your baby isn’t Dexter. It’s all good. Set your own schedule in your own life for your own self. Do what you want—and what your wallet and your time permits—without guilt. Trust me, the little baby on your shoulder who just threw up down your back will not know the difference.
5. Savor the moments. They are fleeting. Wishing away your child’s childhood is the mistake of many a new mother. I know you’re tired. I know you want yourself back. But the sooner you accept that nothing will ever go back to the way it was, the sooner you’ll embrace your new role. Embracing the changes, steps, and phases of family life will lead to your happiest moments. You will find out, as I did, how quickly it all passes.
6. Put yourself and your baby in the sun. Yes, I know. There seems to be a ban on sunshine these days, but the sun can be good! Being outside changes us. We need to take precautions, of course, but we also need to enjoy the great outdoors—a lot. As much as possible. It seems so easy—and yet, we all seem to stay cooped up inside all the time. Contained. It’s either too hot or it’s too cold. It’s raining! There are germs! Who cares? Get outside. Sun and water help things grow. Snow and leaves and wind can be fun. Your mood (and your baby’s mood) will change dramatically when you simply step outside.
7. Stop worrying about perfect outfits and keeping everything spotless. Looking perfect, acting perfect, and being perfect are ridiculous goals. Save it for the family photo. After that sucker is successfully taken and nailed on your wall, get back to living in the moment and being with your baby, even if your house is a little dirty. Designer clothing and a sparkling clean kitchen has never made a person (or a marriage, or a baby) happy. Ever.
8. On that note, as your baby grows, just let her get dirty. Let her be so curious about life that she is actually dirty at the end of the day. Kids grow in the dirt. Stop wiping it off. Sterilization and anti-bacterial washing are creating kids who can’t handle a few germs. Babies and kids must get acclimated to germs, because they will be fighting them off their whole lives. Obviously we need to keep our kids clean, but the only way a body learns to fight germs is to be exposed to them.
9. Nutritious food is the most important thing you will ever give your child. If you fail at everything else, try like hell to get the food thing right. So much junk is pumped into our kids, it’s amazing they even grow at all. Food is killing our kids. Organic and fresh can be expensive, but guess what else is expensive? Obesity and health-related problems. Special treats and candy should be just that—special! Not one household needs soda, cookies, crackers, chips, or cake at their fingertips. Healthy eating habits are the one key to a happy life that you can control right from the start.
I hope this list was helpful. You’re doing a fabulous job, by the way.
What the?! Did someone fire up a chainsaw, or is that your baby waking up two minutes early? Damn it. Best get on that.
Chin up, girlfriend. I’ll be here in my rocking chair, twiddling my thumbs in between tea sipping, if you need me.
Author: Kimberly Valzania
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina