We’ve just celebrated surviving a year of caring for a little accident prone, non-verbal, demanding human, and that warrants some self-reflection. Here’s the top ten lessons I learned in the last 365 days as a first time mom!
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I had to get more efficient
During maternity leave, it took me a bit of time to work up to getting out of the house. Mostly, I just couldn’t get it all together. Diaper bag, nursing cover, pacifiers, my phone, keys, put some clothes on, when did I shower last…you get the picture. It took me awhile to get in the groove of being a first time mom and it’s definitely still a work in progress. But I’ve learned that a weekly reset (aka planning session) really sets my mind at ease and reduces decision fatigue. It wasn’t too bad while I was home, but once I went back to work, I basically collapsed in the bed every night, oblivious to anything but my baby’s needs.
Self-care really is a thing
Self-care looks different for everyone because we all have different interests and hobbies. For me, it’s not self-care to get trapped in a mindless Facebook scroll or binge-watch Netflix (although I do still indulge in those things). To feel like I’ve made time for myself, I need to be relaxed and rejuvenated afterward, I need to feel like I had my own independent quiet time, or I need to be productive/crafty. So, I do things like write this blog, journal, drink a cup of tea while reading my Bible, hand-lettering, random DIY projects, or reading a book. Carving out those moments, even if just 15 minutes, is a stabilizing force for my mental well-being. You can’t pour out of an empty cup! Take care of yourself.
You can never have enough burp cloths, bibs, and back-up outfits
I can’t count the number of blow-outs, spit-up moments, and messy food adventures that we’ve had. I didn’t use cloth diapers, but I kept a basket of them in the nursery for these types of occasions, and one in my diaper bag at all times for the first six months at least. Fun fact: my mom calls them rump rags.
Date nights are possible
I remember at about 4 weeks post-partum, we tried to have a movie night one evening at home. Little M was terrible for a few months during the ‘witching hour’, so our action flick was not going too well. We powered through: pause, crying, play, crying, pause, feeding, bed, play, crying, pause….and on it went. I still am not sure if we made it to the credits, and I was nearly in tears with all of the back and forth. I just wanted a date with my husband! Fast forward a couple of months, and we had a peaceful outing to the movie theater WITH Little M. So just know that the clinginess has its ups and downs, and you will eventually have semi-normal feeling dates (if you make time for it). Shoot, you might even have (gasp) kid-free dates again with the help of a sitter (thanks Grammy).
Other people can take care of my baby
While I was pregnant, I heard someone say that they just finally had their first solo date night in the 8 months since their baby was born. I laughed and thought that was so crazy at the time. But, I found myself unwilling to give away my coveted weekend time so someone else could watch my baby, or I distrusted that others could watch my baby as well as I did (even my poor husband). That was just not the case, and it was an unnecessary burden that I placed on myself. I started handing off Little M to my husband for errands, then half-days, then full days when daycare was closed. He probably didn’t do everything exactly like me, but they found their own rhythm and had great bonding time.
I’m still the mom
The biggest heartbreak for me has been the feeling of not being “mom enough”. At the end of a long day, I’d cry while nursing my baby with the realization that I only would see her for two hours that day – compared to the 9 hours she spent at daycare (with a provider we love). Those moments of self-doubt and guilt still nag at me, and it can be really hard to let those feelings go. BUT, at the end of the day, I’m still the mom. I’m still the one who grew her inside of me, birthed her, nursed her and snuggled with her on the couch while she was sick. I’m the one she runs to and says Mama, not any one else. Trust me, your baby will never be unclear about who mom is. Don’t forget it!
It’s not all Pinterest and games
Ahh. Comparison is truly the thief of joy. There were times where I just felt so lacking in the mom department when I read blog posts about home-making, or organized perfection, or Fixer Upper-esque home styles. But you know what? Those moms are sharing the very best stuff with you, not the real life moments. Just remember that it’s not all about a Pinterest-perfect lifestyle. Sure, if you want to go gluten-free, work out 25 times in a week, bake homemade bread every day, and organize your entire house with a label-maker, then more power to you. The point is – do it for YOU, not because of the pressure you feel from social media to be a certain image.
We all need other mamas
I’ll admit it – I was pretty naive in my pre-mom days that I didn’t need anyone else’s ideas or input on my parenting style or baby care 101. As an first time mom, you get endless lists of advice (mostly unsolicited) from every.single.person. you encounter. At some point, you just block it all out, and try not to hulk out on someone. Nonetheless, you really do need other mamas. Does that mean you have to be exactly like them? No. Does that mean they expect to be your coach for life? No. You just need exposure to other funny mom moments, real life stories and mom hacks that others are doing. If you don’t have mom co-workers, look for moms at your church or a community event, or try joining an interactive Facebook group. However you do it, stay exposed to all kinds of parenting. It helps to shape you into the mom you want to be.
There’s a lot of crying
I had the sweetest baby in the whole world (of course), but there were still days where the crying was endless. And by crying, I mean my own, not the baby. Seriously – I didn’t realize what a hormonal basket case I would be like post-partum. I didn’t have post-partum depression, but the baby blues weighed me down after that first euphoric week. It’s a huge adjustment to motherhood as a first time mom, and that’s to be expected. As my doctor put it, “it doesn’t mean you don’t love Jesus”.
And also – there was a lot of baby crying. Just prep yourself with strategically placed tissues throughout your house, in your purse, your desk, your car…you name it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but don’t wish the days away
I tried to stay focused to enjoy each moment, not wish it away, but I still got hung up on the constant demands of a young infant as a first time mom. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed for months that you can’t do anything, naps won’t happen, and you’re sleep deprived. Nonetheless, you’ll look back at that little squishy babies and wish for those moments again, so be present, and enjoy the little things. Keep reminding yourself that soon your baby will crawl, walk, run – and every moment will be wonderful.
It’s been an incredible 365 days of this project called motherhood, and I’m feeling less like the deer-in-headlights first time mom. I hope you’ll follow along as I navigate the next 365.