But what inspired me to write this post was the absurd number of friends I know who are about to pop with their first little ones, and because I basically gave birth two minutes ago, I feel like I have a super fresh perspective on that immediate change of lifestyle. So humour me, parents of decades, because I am yet to know your journey. In the meantime, I’m here to dispel the myths of those first few months!
So here are 5 things I have learned since becoming a mother…
1. YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW EVERYTHING
My biggest fear about becoming a mother was that I knew nothing about actually becoming a mother. And when I say nothing, I literally mean nothing. On my first night in the hospital, a nurse had to show me how to change a nappy. I was never deeply maternal and I didn’t read any books or research in any way. My pregnancy was just me laying in bed, watching House. Truthfully though, I didn’t know where to begin. What do you even start by reading? “Parenting for Dummies”?
But now I can safely say that I knew nothing going into this crazy journey…and it was the best decision I’d ever made (for me; you may be wired differently). Parents, friends, midwives, nurses, reference books and, if you know how to navigate it carefully, the internet. These have been my invaluable resources. I ask only what I need to know, or brainstorm with family to see what we can think of, and we eventually always find an answer. I enjoy problem-solving, which we all have to do regardless of how much knowledge we have. It doesn’t mean it’s not hard – but it does mean my brain isn’t full of information I’ll never use. I always make sure to have good and healthy resources at the tips of my fingers. Don’t be afraid of parenting; it’s hard for everyone! Just make sure you’re well-connected with a good range of resources of your choice.
2. YOU DON’T NEED TO HAVE EVERYTHING
It will forever astound me how many things are out there for new parents to buy. Even moreso, it is misleading how many “essential lists” have been created, full of items that are anything but. Having a baby and becoming a mother for the first time is already an intimidating process, so don’t buy into the idea that you need to throw all of your money away in one go on items that you may or may not use. I feel the same about weddings – you can go all out if you want, but you don’t have to and you’ll still have a great life!
Don’t be afraid to use your instinct. Is it a necessity? Has your child got somewhere to sleep? And a place to have their nappy changed? And where will you store their clothes and personal items? Great. Now you have the main life essentials. Well done! Now use the logical part of your brain – the part that also existed pre-baby – and remember that it’s not a race; the shops are open almost every day if you need anything urgently, you were probably gifted some things throughout your pregnancy, and picked up a few things here and there. Start there and go slow!
3. YOU DON’T NEED TO EAT EVERYTHING
But you’re welcome to. I know I did. Guys, take this as a lighthearted piece of advice. I didn’t feel like eating much during my whole pregnancy, and when I did, it was cheeseburgers. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun season! But when I gave birth to my son, I suddenly had all of this room in my body to eat again and, to add to the situation, I was breastfeeding, so if you placed food within a one kilometre radius of my mouth, it found its way in there.
Then I stopped breastfeeding and just like that, I continued to put everything in my mouth. The most interesting part of keeping weight off during breastfeeding is that it only works when, surprisingly, you are actually breastfeeding. Anyone feel me? Please don’t feel condemned, because this stuff may not worry you in the slightest, in which case this section isn’t for you. But be aware, y’all, because eating is fun – I am a comfort eater, and I did not adapt well. Having said that, do what you need to do to survive the tough seasons ahead, and don’t be too rough on yourself. Just make sure you’re also getting plenty of veggies (for energy and to keep healthy for the long days ahead) and drinking an obnoxious amount of water! Hydration!
4. YOU DON’T NEED TO BE EVERYWHERE
After becoming a mother, you will be surrounded by friends and family that are excited to see you and meet your little one. Then, after the initial excitement is worn off, for some it is about getting back into a deliberate (and sometimes irregular) routine of making time to value important people in your life, while valuing yourself enough to spend adult time with encouraging, loving people. You will be invited to parties, movies, intimate gatherings and large events, with some people fully understanding to the best of their ability your new life situation, and others not quite grasping but loving you the best way they know how to. It’s a massive life change, especially if pre-baby you were a dedicated social butterfly or night owl.
Here it is: you have the power to attend, and the authority to decline. It is not hurtful, offensive, ruining your reputation nor reputations of parents everywhere to turn down an invitation. For a while, my husband and I used the damaging apologetic statement, “We didn’t want to be those kind of parents.” Hmmm. What kind of parents? The ones that put their needs and their son’s needs first so they could fully function as humans? The fact of the matter is that now, you have a child and your life has changed. Period. You’ll be happily surprised at what you choose to partake in, and you will totally grow to accept the things that differ. Embrace it all and enjoy the things that you choose to do!
5. YOU DON’T NEED TO DO EVERYTHING
The most common statement I’ve come across since becoming a mother is this: “Put down the vacuum cleaner, and forget about the washing; just be present and don’t stress about getting things done.” I hear that. That first year flies so quickly, don’t spend all 365 days of it worrying about the dusting. Having said that – and hear this with the grace that every household is different – my husband works a solid six days a week, while helping with our son and some of the mundane stuff when he is home, so I’m okay to try and find time to pick up the vacuum cleaner. It’s something I value in our home. The pressure only comes when I don’t find the right balance of play (baby)/rest (you)/work (every day mundane).
But my advice to those who feel similar is this: don’t try and get it all done at once! Recognise that your whole life has changed and so having one “cleaning day” may not be possible anymore. It may mean you do a spot of vacuuming one day, maybe do the washing the next, and then maybe there’s going to be days where you do nothing productive other than keep your child alive – and that’s fantastic! If you do want to get things done, it is possible, it will just look different to when it was only you to think about. Start small, work out a weekly schedule, include some realistic goals and then just grow to be super flexible in all of those things. Mums are amazing!
And breathe. Always breathe.
The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.
You are a mother now, and your first priority is to stay alive and healthy while keeping another human alive and healthy. Everything after that just needs an order of priority. Mums: you’re doing an immensely incredible job and remember, twenty seconds at a time. Mums-to-be: you are going to love your new life, and all of the unexpected madness and glory that comes with it. It’s the best job in the world.