Be Kind To Yourself and Other Advice I’d Give My New Mom Self
Last week, I put up a post on my Facebook page on a whim. I had just arrived home from our Sunday church service, where I had been surrounded by many families who all had kids a lot younger than mine. I had sat in my pew, alone with my three daughters (my son was stuck in the back with my husband because the church was full). And I had watched the families around me frantically try to quiet small toddlers, shush crying babies, dole out snacks, or sprint to the bathroom for emergency diaper changes.
I watched them, instantly feeling transported back in time to when that frantic parent was totally me. The second I got home, I marveled at how much my life had changed in only a year's time. So I typed out a quick Instagram post with what I hoped would be some encouragement for other moms who may feel like they are that constantly struggling mom of littles, with babies crying and toddlers whining, and dinner burning, and every single thing in their lives a total hot mess.
I talked about how hard I was on my new mom self. How I wished I would have been kinder to myself and realized that I was doing enough, even when I thought I wasn't. My post seemed to resonate with a lot of moms, who thanked me for validating how freaking hard those early years of parenting can be. Seeing the reactions to my post made me wish that it was possible to go back in time to give my new mom self a few other pieces of advice. And if I could go back, here's exactly what I would tell her (me!):
Give yourself permission to not love being a stay-at-home mom. I have a confession to make. Despite being a parenting writer who adamantly believes that all the types of mothers, from full-time working moms to full-time at-home moms, are good moms, I have never been able to accept that for myself. Instead, I have beat myself into the ground with the belief that in order to be a “good” mom I needed to always stay home with my kids. And it's made me downright miserable at times. Why on earth was I so insistent that I needed to love being a SAHM to be a “good” mom?
Talk to a therapist. This is heavy stuff, but it's the truth. Early motherhood was kind of a hot mess for me and trying to do All The Things did not go well for me. I'm just now, at the age of 31 with four kids, coming to grips with the fact that I have some ish to sort out. I started therapy and it's made a tremendous difference in my life and I wish that I would have started investing in my mental health earlier–before it affected my big kids.
Embrace your strengths. I spent so much time in my early mothering years feeling guilty that I wasn't a good cook and feeling awful that I truly dreading cooking every day. It took me a long time to come to grips with the fact that you know what? It's just not my thang and that's OK. We can't all be professional chefs and most of the time, my kids appreciate simple meals, like pancakes for dinner, better anyways. It's more helpful to focus on the things I can do than what I can't do.
Be nice to your new mom self. This is, by far, the biggest piece of advice that I wish I would have told myself and taken to heart. I wouldn't have treated my worst enemy the way I treated my new mom self. My head was constantly filled with negative self-talk. You're too fat. You're not interesting. No one wants to hang out with you. You don't know how to dress. Your stomach still looks pregnant. Those other moms are way more stylish than you. You'll never succeed. You're ruining your kids' lives. I wish I was exaggerating, but it's true. I was awful to myself. And many days, I still am.
If you're anything like me, take it from this seasoned mama and please, please be nice to yourself. You're doing a better job than you think you are. And as someone once told me, if you're questioning whether or not you're doing a good job, it's just further proof that you most definitely are. Bad moms don't wonder if they're doing a good job, you know? Be nice to yourself mama, because it's not like your toddler or baby are going to tell you to take a break today …