The reality of pregnancy and parenting is not like what they sell you in brochure. It’s 20% baby giggles and splashing in the bath tub and first steps and 80% getting pooped on, peeling clementine’s, and asking “why is this wet?” It’s hard and it’s messy and it can be really lonely. You realize that are are an unbelievable number of things you didn’t know (like that pregnancy actually lasts for 10 months, for instance) and there are even more things that everyone knows about but doesn’t talk about (like hemorrhoids, cracked nipples and post-partum depression).
During my pregnancy and after the birth of my boys I was lucky enough to be part of a secret Facebook group where mothers can honestly and openly ask questions, voice fears and ask for advice. Our rule is that there is no “sanctimommy” allowed (“Sanctimommy is a portmanteau of two words, sanctimonious and mommy. The word is a colloquialism used to refer to a person who has very opinionated views on child rearing and presents them upfront without any sense of humility”). I realised as I was reading through the posts the other day that we have a huge amount of accumulated experience (I won’t go so far as to say wisdom) so I asked these honest and upfront women what their advice would be to new moms. Here is their list.
- It is 100% okay to not love every minute of pregnancy and parenthood and to sometimes hate it and resent it. Even if you struggled to become a parent. Even if people you love are struggling to become parents. Even if everyone is telling you “it goes by so fast; enjoy it while you can!” You don’t have to feel #blessed all the time.
- Trust your instincts.
- Do what works for YOU. Not what everyone says you should be doing. No one baby is like another.
- Motherhood can be really lonely, especially in the first 3 months, and you may not have that mythical, deep connection everybody goes on and on about right away. (Or, hell, at all. I love my daughter very much, but I don’t have a mythical earth goddess kind of love, particularly when she has morning breath.)
- Someone told me “Your baby needs a mother, not a martyr.” That was a game changer for me.
- “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is bullshit
- Learn to smile and say “thanks I will keep that in mind” when people give you advice that you plan on ignoring and then carry on with your bad self.
- Post partum depression is really real, and it can really be helped and that is ok.
- Your mental health and happiness is more important than breastfeeding. Your baby will be healthier and happier if you are healthy and happy regardless of whether they are formula feed or breastfeed.
- Having a baby is f**** boring sometimes. A lot of the time. It’s not hard, but it’s -always-.
- No points for martyrdom in motherhood.
- You may not love your baby right away. That’s ok, you don’t even know them yet! The love will come.
- No one’s life is as easy or perfect as it appears on social media.
- Don’t forget about yourself.
Don’t. Forget. Yourself.
Your children are everything, yes, but so are you, to them. Take care of yourself. Let them spend the day watching TV while you hide in your room for the day if you need it. They will be fine, I promise. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.
- You actually have to wash behind your kids ears.
- It’s normal to keep waiting for the “it’s worth it” part. And it’s ok to hate it sometimes – the “it’s worth it” feeling eventually comes.
- Surround yourself with people that support you and are honest and real. Not with crazy people who want to compete with you in the Mommy Wars.
- Don’t be above accepting help when it’s offered.
- Listen to advice, but it doesn’t mean you have to accept it. But listen, some people give good advice and you might need it later.
- Anything said by or to your partner at 3 am when you are up with the kids does not count and is not to be held against the other person.
- The days are long but the years are short.
- You know your kids and if your doctor won’t listen, find a new one.
- When I told a friend, who had had twins the year before, that I was pregnant, she looked me right in the eye and said: “There will be a point where you want to literally kill your kid. This does not make you a bad person. This makes you human. Learn when you need to walk away.” She said it so intensely that I knew she was serious and she was 100% right. We all have that moment.
- No one mom is right. What works for you might not be good for someone else. Also, no two kids are alike.
- It’s ok to hate/dislike/not want to always be around your kids- moms need small breaks too. (Just in the beginning if you notice it more than not check into post partum services to make sure you aren’t experiencing that.)
- If you get PPD, don’t get down on yourself- millions of ladies get it so be honest and get the help you need to feel better.
- Trust yourself and trust your kids.
- Try to avoid getting caught up in comparing yourself or your kids to others around you. Every kid is different and develops differently, because she doesn’t walk until 14 months or he doesn’t read until second grade or want to hold a pencil until kindergarten is an indication of absolutely nothing. Let them be and do and become what they are meant to be and do and become at their own pace as much as you can. It is not a race and it is how they were designed to be, just trust them.
- Your friends without kids might become distant…this is normal and there is nothing wrong w you
- Aquaphor can cure almost anything.
- The thing that saved me post birth was FIBER!!!! Stool softeners were for wusses!!!
- Don’t feel guilty if you use formula.
- Keep a stash of chocolate in your closet for when you need a break. Sometimes you just need a little something for yourself that you don’t have to share!
- When it comes to social media, etc., ask yourself if your kid in 10 years would be ok with that picture or that detail being shared.
- When planning an activity for your kid (or trying to force them to do something), ask yourself if you are doing it bc they would enjoy it or if you’re doing it for the [facebook, instagram, whatever] picture. If solely (or even mostly) the latter, stop.
- Teach body autonomy early on. Kid doesn’t have to hug or kiss anyone they don’t want to–yes, even grandparents. Their body, their choice. (Studies show this might prevent sexual molestation bc kids are less apt to feel pressured to give in to unwanted touching).
- Buy all the meds you might need right away (they don’t expire for a while). It beats having to do a 3 a.m. Tylenol run.
- Put down the mom books and hide the sanctimommy blogs.
- Be prepared to eat every word you ever uttered about anyone else’s parenting (when you were the perfect parent before having kids).
- Never say never. I swore I would NEVER EVER cosleep or breastfeed past a year. But with my 2nd she slept with me for almost a year and I BF her for 2. It’s what worked for us.
Post-partum depression (PPD) is real and it’s much more prevalent than reported. If you think you may have PPD please call your doctor. It’s not your fault, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom, and it’s treatable.