Happy New Year! Most people were eager to say goodbye to 2016, and I was probably among them. It was a strange and often traumatic year for various reasons, but as I examined on my first-born blog, 2016 wasn’t all horrible. I became a mom. Without trying, I became what I once referred to as a cliché mom. A cliché mom is a woman who is all-consumed by her child- lives, sleeps (barely), breathes, discusses all things baby, existing on a crowd source of information from social media, her mother, and Google. Hot topics in a cliché mom’s life go from the best new restaurants and bars in town to what bottles work best for breastfed babies. Cliché moms feel a compelling need to talk about their children CONSTANTLY, and most often on the internet. How annoying! In 2016, I became what I wanted to avoid at all costs, and now I understand why.
I thought becoming a cliché mom was something you chose. I was mistaken. I never accounted for the real physical and emotional changes one endures both during pregnancy and after giving birth. I was changed, chemically. My levels of compassion, empathy, understanding, patience, and stamina have increased tenfold, whether I wanted them to or not. Actually, all emotions have intensified for me (which is hilarious and a little scary considering I’ve never had a problem displaying emotions in the past!) Most of all, I have this new, consuming love that is beyond anything I had experienced before. Yes, all the clichés are true and they’re very real. I am a cliché mom, and in 2017, I will do a better job of embracing it.
I’ve learned a lot in 8 short months. I stressed, commiserated, lost confidence, wondered, reveled, blissed-out, took it in and let it pass by. There are plenty of things I would do differently now, knowing what I know. That’s probably why most people say kids 2, 3+ are easier, because you’ve been there before. A few personal truths:
- I had a HARD TIME the first few months, and I was ashamed by it. Everything was difficult- eating, seeking sleep (what sleep?), delegating, nursing… It boggled my mind that some people seemed to have a much easier time than I did (or at least pretended to,) and my constant mental comparison to those people messed with my head. I think I was actually mad at people for acting like it was all happiness and light in the first months. I felt it was false advertising, or else I was doing something seriously wrong. Now, of course I know that’s false. I’m not sure anything could have been improved upon in those first weeks and even months. It’s such a wicked blur. If I could have had anything go differently, it would have been to be more alert and present to enjoy my baby. Again, not sure if that was physically possible.
- I would have done less over-analyzing, and more listening to my budding intuition, being okay if I didn’t “make the right decision” all the time. I was always so afraid to mess something up. Even now, if Lily wakes up in the middle of the night, I’m terrified to do the “wrong” thing, and mess up her whole schedule.
- I would have stopped feeling guilty when I needed to ask for help, and would have stopped feeling guilty for not being “social enough.”
- OH I wouldn’t have worried so much about entertaining Lily or worry about her meeting milestones. She was a newborn. It’s okay for newborns to eat, sleep, repeat- and it’s what they WANT to do! Get out of her way, mom!
- I’d experiment more, especially with food. I already feel like I’m behind where I’d like to be with developing Lily’s young palette. Yes, she has plenty of time, but I think I was so worried about giving her something too early, I resulted to giving her more jarred food that was approved for her age group. I believe in whole, real foods, and I would let her do more of exploration and hands-on sampling.
- I would get out more for walks and things that are good for ME. I stopped taking care of myself, because all I cared about was her. I still feel that way, but know in order to give her the kind of life I dream of, I have to be happy, healthy, physically and mentally present. To this day, I still feel bad about scheduling an appointment for a facial or pedicure and having to ask for help to have someone watch her. My husband works pretty much 24/7, so the burden of finding someone willing to give up a Saturday morning weighs on me heavily. I have this position that Lily is my responsibility, and therefore I don’t deserve or desire to bother anyone to get extra help for “leisure” activities. I have to get over that. If people aren’t available to help, they’ll tell me so. And if they say yes, I get to spend an hour taking care of me. I’ll tell you, sometimes all it takes is a 30 minute drive or stop for coffee, singing loudly in my car to feel refreshed. And I miss her when I return. GET HELP AND DON’T FEEL GUILTY, STUPID, OR WEAK for asking.
As you can see, my common thread here is guilt. The big “G”. It’s ingrained in me, and has only gotten worse with motherhood. Guilt serves no one. Let go.
New moms and dads: I severely misjudged you. I didn’t realize the true super human strength required to raise a child. I saw you in the grocery store, at restaurants, at the movies, all over… and I turned up my nose. Why can’t you keep your kid from crying? Why are they running around like wild animals? Well, I still have an issue with this and think it’s about lack of supervision- but now I know it’s because you’re exhausted and zoning out for 20 minutes. I read articles written by cliche moms who wanted to talk incessantly about their baby’s poop habits. Why on earth? I get it now. I’ve been there now. The biggest lesson I learned in 2016 as a new parent is just how incredible it is to bring a tiny human into the world, and what a privilege it is to be a sleep-deprived, overly emotional, always-questioning cliché mom.