Entering into the journey of motherhood is one of the most life-changing events in a woman’s life. It’s difficult to know what to really expect as every woman, pregnancy and child is different. My initial perception of motherhood was this glowing and blissful time where I would be enamored with this tiny human I grew, and my life would feel perfect and complete. Most of that was my reality except for the perfect part. I’m going to talk about some of the hard stuff. It’s not to scare you away or bum you out. It’s to set up the expectations to be as close to reality as possible. Similar to getting a new job, you want to know what is expected of you, so you can perform well.
Being a mother IS a beautiful and amazing thing. No matter what your journey is – birth, adoption, surrogacy – it’s all very beautiful. What I didn’t realize before becoming a mother was that my abilities and patience would be tested more than ever before. Think back to a time where you started a new job. You were nervous and didn’t exactly know what you were doing but you wanted to prove to everyone that you could do it. That’s how I felt in the beginning (times 1000). Before having my first child, I had observed my own mother and sister in this role and they made it look easy. They seemed like they had everything completely together. SUPER MOM! After sharing some of my initial struggles, they sympathized with me and it turns out they didn’t always have it together and things were hard for them too. Their personalities are more stoic, and they just do what they need to do to take care of their families and households.
LOSING PRECIOUS ZZZ’S
The hardest thing for me was losing so much sleep. I didn’t really think this would be a problem for me but it was so hard. Having a baby redefines the word “tired”. Some days, I am beyond exhausted and it’s hard for me to even form sentences. I used to be sharp and focused at work and now I’m forgetful and I get discouraged by that. I want to be on my A-game but the brain needs proper rest in order to function and sometimes I just don’t get that and have to deal with it. Losing that much sleep affects your mood and it is difficult to stay patient. Some days I feel like I’m actually losing my mind! The best advice I’ve received so far (naturally, comes from my own mother):
“take advice from someone who was tired for 30 years. I wish someone would have told me it was okay to take time for myself.”
YOUR BODY CHANGES
This is something I didn’t put much thought into while I was pregnant, but your body will go through changes after baby and it may never be the same. It is what it is. For the first few months after baby, I went through at least 4 different sizes of pants! Nothing seemed to fit right, and I wasn’t used to that. I also experienced my breasts being very uneven from nursing baby. Nine months in and they are still noticeably uneven. If you have a C-section you will have scars and you may have stretch marks that never go away. I felt discouraged in the beginning with all the changes happening but now I look at it as my marks of motherhood. When I look at my uneven chest I think about all the ounces of milk I gave my son to help him grow. You have to change your mindset and learn to feel beautiful in your own skin again. Your body did something amazing and you should be proud of that!
RELATIONSHIP DYNAMICS CHANGE
I was blind-sided by the fact that I struggled in my marriage in the beginning of our parenting journey. We had such a strong relationship and things were going smoothly. I thought we would be great at introducing a baby into our lives. It was HARD! We had to reset expectations and really work on our communication. We were so exhausted with trying to keep up that we had very little energy and time leftover for each other. My best advice to you is remember that you are on the same team, it is not a competition of who is more tired than who, and remember that you love each other. In the beginning, I didn’t communicate that I needed more help and my husband had no idea I was getting frustrated. Don’t wait until your fed up to start asking for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, communicate that right away! Now, we have a really good rhythm going and we share all the baby duties. At times, it feels like I do more when it comes to the baby but I try not to think of it that way. While I am picking up baby from daycare or giving him his evening bath, my husband might be vacuuming the house or changing my oil in my vehicle and I may not always see those things. When I remember, I try to tell him how much I appreciate his help!
You may also notice that your friendships aren’t like they used to be. Especially your friends that do not yet have children. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad friend! You are pouring all of your energy into figuring out what this little baby needs from you while simultaneously trying to keep your marriage strong. It’s a lot going on, Mama! Hopefully, you have understanding friends. The best types of friendships are the ones where you can pick up at anytime and it’s like you picked up right where you left off.
I had all kinds of goals pre-baby. I had dreams of pursuing a Master’s degree in Computer Science and working towards getting a promotion at my job in IT. I had financial goals and was on track to being debt-free by age 40 and having a certain amount in my savings and retirement. I even had travel goals and wanted to plan fun trips with my husband to explore things we’ve never seen. All of my goals felt like they were put on hold when baby arrived. Eventually, my goals changed and became focused around my son. This wasn’t a bad thing, just unexpected. I love setting goals so I enjoyed setting up a savings plan for my son’s future. Once you become a mother, you naturally start to make every decision around baby.
Motherhood is incredible. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. But it is hard. I struggle. I sometimes feel inadequate and need reassurance. I get exhausted and make mistakes. I lose my cool and don’t feel like myself at times. These tiny humans look to us for all their needs and we are their whole world. That’s a lot of pressure at times! Here are some things I highly recommend to maintain your sanity:
- Find a support system: Whether it’s your spouse, girlfriends, mother – find people who can relate and help build you up and encourage you. It’s always easier to get through something tough when you have people cheering you on.
- TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF: All caps because I want to emphasize this one! In the beginning, I felt so guilty even taking a quick break. I have realized that I NEED to take time for myself in order to maintain my patience and sanity. Even going to Target alone to grocery shop feels so nice. I let my husband know when I just need a break so he can let me do my thing. I, of course, let him take breaks too!
- Relax: This could be yoga, massage or taking a bath. I know it’s not easy to find the time, trust me – I know. I work full time, have side hustles and still figuring out this whole mom thing so I am short for time as well. When baby goes to sleep I just want to start cleaning the house or answering a few emails but sometimes I just need to relax and that’s okay. The dishes can wait.
- Change Your Attitude: Do you really want to look back and think about all the time you wasted being miserable? You need to enjoy these little moments and milestones! They grow up so fast. Just remember, there are people that so badly desire to be parents. In the middle of the night when baby is fussy and I’m exhausted and all I can think about is all of the meetings and deadlines I have the next day, I try to take a moment to breathe and delight in the moments of being able to rock my son back to sleep and bring him comfort. It took me a while to realize that, but I’m there now.
Where are you at, Mama? Are you in the midst of exhaustion? Wondering why the heck it seems to be so easy for everyone else? Maybe you are three kiddos in and have this whole mom thing figured out. No matter where you are at, you are not alone! Don’t compare yourself to others. Focus on what you need to do to take care of your family – that includes yourself! Take care of yourself so you can be the best mom you can be! Rest those weary eyes as you rock your baby in the night and be thankful for the gift of a child.
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