A close friend and I were chatting the other day about what happens when you become a parent. Specifically, how much your life changes and how easy it is to lose yourself amidst such an overwhelming, stressful, yet oh-so-amazing time. She mentioned that I seem to be great at managing my schedule and taking time for myself. Hearing this made me pause. Despite feeling like I’m constantly treading water and have no less than one hundred things to do every day, I do carve out time for myself. I make it a priority on most days to workout, blog, and squeeze in the little things here and there that give me joy or help me feel a bit more centered.
Looking back, it wasn’t easy to find time for myself. In fact, it was darn right impossible. I hated leaving my babies, even for a little while. I also felt guilty about taking time away. But slowly I got back into a routine, rearranged some things in my life, and found ways to make it work. Now that my kids are older, my perspective on a lot of things has changed. But that’s the benefit of hindsight, right?
Today’s post is inspired by the conversation with my girlfriend. Out talk got me thinking about how it felt being a first time parent to twins. How uncertain everything felt. I want to share some of these uncertainties with you in case you are expecting a baby, a new mom, or a seasoned parent who can relate.
My experience will not be the same as anyone else’s experience.
Despite all the books you read, babysitting you do, and classes you take, nothing prepares you for having a child. As a new mom to twins, I was overwhelmed, anxious, and very emotional. I wanted my babies to grow and develop in the same, healthy way as others. When it came to their height and weight, the girls were always in the single-digit percentile (typically around 7 % or 5%). They were small, but they were healthy and my doctor was not concerned. Yet, I worried about these numbers. I worried that they weren’t getting enough milk from me or that I wasn’t doing things the “right” way. And I compared myself to others…because, well, it’s so easy to do. I spent too much time worrying about all of this and feeling like I wasn’t doing enough as a mother.
Here’s what I’d say to that today: Connect – don’t compare yourself to others. Our children, our experiences – they are all different, yet we share a similar bond as new parents. We’re all doing the best that we can and that is enough.
Don’t let others influence your decisions as a parent.
As any new mom will testify, there is A LOT of advice given to you when you become a parent. Some useful. Some constructive. And a whole lot is BS. You hear it from everyone. Not only those close to you, but strangers on the street. (It was crazy how many times I had an elderly woman come up to me to say I shouldn’t be doing this or that!) It’s hard to know who to listen, especially when you are an emotional, sleep-deprived crazy person. How do you weed through all the unsolicited nonsense to figure out what’s best?
Here’s my advice: Brush aside the meaningless advice, take some of the helpful suggestions from those you trust and make a decision based on what YOU think is right. Trust your intuition every single time. No, you are not a bad parent for doing CIO method. No, your baby is not going to become spoiled if you carry her around too much. And, no, the world will not fall apart if you use formula.
Get over yourself.
I’d love to go back in time and say those words to myself. As a new mom I was in my head way too much. I worried about random things, including the opinions of others. Nursing in public was a big one for me. I nursed Madison and Ashlyn in public places only if it was absolutely necessary. And I mean like I HAD to do it. Typically I went into the bathroom or my car away from others. I was worried if I did it openly (like in a restaurant or at the playground) that it would appear inappropriate. In hindsight, I feel embarrassed by my behavior. There should be no shame or discomfort about feeding your child in public! Rather, you should feel proud and thankful that you can provide nourishment for your baby.
Other times, I worried I would get somewhere and then one of the girls would have an accident or would start crying. Wouldn’t it bother those around me? I have no idea why this worried me because it’s not something anyone can anticipate or control.
My new outlook: A baby is a baby is a baby. They poop, they pee, they cry, and they eat. Seriously, Get Over It. Know how many times I remember feeling annoyed (or even noticing) another baby crying in public? Zero.
Becoming a mom doesn’t mean a new identity.
I struggled with this one a lot. For awhile I felt lost. After the girls were born I didn’t feel like myself at all. It was as if I had become someone else. I kept asking myself: Where am I in this picture? I felt guilty asking this. I should be focused on my babies, right. Looking back, I can understand why I felt like I lost my identity. And I believe everyone feels like this at some point after having children. You are responsible for meeting every single one of your child’s needs. It’s all-consuming. But these feelings are temporary. You eventually get into a rhythm. Things change and you move through it. It gets easier. Slowly you feel like you have finally come up for air. And you realize that the person who you thought was lost has been there all along. She’s just a little bit more awesome now. 🙂
I would love to know if you connect with any of these words. What did you struggle with as a new parent? How did you move past it?