We’ve all done it…flicked through someone else’s instagram feed and thought “wow, they have the perfect life” or “they are really taking to motherhood thing so well”. It’s all too easy to assume these things but consider this; do you think those people post pictures of their baby when they’re red-faced and screaming? Do you think they’d take a selfie when they’re in the bathroom crying because they feel like motherhood is a lot harder than they thought it’d be? Would they share their zombie like appearance when their little munchkin is keeping them up all hours of the night? The answer is a unequivocal no. I know because I have experienced all of those scenarios and I’ve never shared them on my social media accounts. Why? Because everyone wants to show the best bits of their life. Today’s social media has evolved into a platform to show the highlights of our lives, leaving out those negative bits we’d all rather forget about. No one wants to expose their imperfections, their bad days or even just the days when it becomes blatantly obvious that your life isn’t quite as glamorous as that blogger you follow on instagram. Well guess what?…they have those feelings, those days, those expectations they place on themselves too. I wanted to share with you the reality of being a new mother together with some of the things I’ve learnt in the short time I’ve been in this job! (there’s quite a few!)
Lesson 1: You’re gonna need patience (and lots of it!)
You’re going to be tested beyond your limits so you’re going to have to develop an infinite reserve of patience. There will be points at which you feel you’re breaching the realms of your own sanity but hold steadfast. Take a deep breath, have a cuppa and give yourself a pat on the back for having the patience of a saint (even if you do break and have a little cry, you’re still there nurturing them and being their mother and that’s something to be proud of).
Lesson 2: Don’t worry what other people think of you
The worst thing you can do is compare yourself to other mums whether it’s regarding your post-pregnancy weight, your burgeoning parenting skills or even your ability to keep your house clean and tidy whilst juggling all your other tasks as a mother. This is important – don’t compare your inside to everyone else’s outside. Everyone projects what they want other people to see with regards to their homelife and relationships. No one can know what it’s like to live someone else’s life. Do what you think is right, trust your instincts and live your life in a way that makes you happy. Life is way too short to do it any other way.
Lesson 3: Always accept help
Whether it’s a friend offering to make you a cuppa when they visit or your mum offering to babysit while you have a well deserved rest, learn to accept a helping hand. Put your pride and fierce independence aside, forget about your burning desire to hold everything together at all times and be super-mum. People want to help you. It doesn’t make you incapable or a failure, it makes you human. You’re a mother and you deserve a break.
Lesson 4: Your greatest support could come from an unexpected place
The wonderful, thoughtful, helpful ladies I’ve met through blogging and Twitter have provided a strong support network of mothers who are always there, day or night, to answer my questions, console me when you’re feeling defeated or down and have shared in my delight when my baby boy hit a milestone. I have old friends who are there for me but it’s been a really special experience to have this bond with other women that I’ve never met as we embark on our journey of motherhood together.
Lesson 5: There is no right answer
We’re not talking the common sense stuff like not leaving your baby out in the midday sun, I’m talking about those grey areas which are open to interpretation. It’s completely normal to be terrified and question every decision you make – it’s what any half decent parent does on a daily basis. The hard decisions are the ones that provide the basis for thousands of (often conflicting and contradictory) books written by ‘experts’. There is no “one size fits all” solution to anything baby related, whether it is their feeding or sleeping habits or anything in between. Just like us adults, no two babies are the same and they will undoubtedly have different wants and needs. Everyone wants to advise you on how to raise your baby from the lady at the local shop to those experts whose work is based on years of research. However, no one can know your baby better than you do. You spend every single day caring for them so trust your instincts, they’re stronger than you know. Mother nature’s got your back.
Lesson 6: Never judge other mums
“You can tell who the strong women are; they’re the ones you see building one another up instead of tearing each other down”. Never was a truer word spoken. Be kind to other mums because you know better than anyone how hard the journey is and how many times you’ve tripped up yourself. You may not agree on their sleep strategies or their opinions on homemade baby food but celebrate eachother’s differences instead of condemning them. God knows we need to support each other as mothers because it’s a hard enough job without the judgement on top.
Lesson 7: Sleep is pretty damn great (and pretty much necessary)
I’ve developed a whole new respect and appreciation of sleep…of any kind…at any time of the day! The heady whirlwind of life with a newborn leaves little space for those long, languid sleep sessions which seem like a distant memory now. A lie in…what’s that when it’s at home? An early night…I can’t even remember what that feels like. You soon learn that your body will have to adapt to only getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night but you know something? That’s ok. Don’t stress about it. You can always get your own back when they’re a teenager!
Lesson 8: Forgive your body and forgive yourself
One of the hardest aspects of new motherhood to deal with is the huge change your body goes through, leaving you with unfamiliar lumps and bumps in all the wrong places. It’s all too easy to compare yourself against other new mums and how swiftly they trimmed up again (or if you’re feeling really cruel, women who haven’t even had a baby!). You have to forgive your body for it’s stretch marks, saggy skin and whatever else birth gifted you with because all of those war wounds helped produce a beautiful human life and that surpasses anything aesthetic. You also have to forgive yourself for all the negative things that have passed through your mind when you look in the mirror. We’re all our biggest critic but it’s so important to put that inner troll on mute. You’ve done something incredible and it’s time to start giving your body the credit it deserves! Strangely enough, I’m much more confident in myself now than I was when I was younger. Becoming a mother makes you feel powerful…I mean if you can give birth to a child, you pretty much feel like you could get through anything the world throws at you!
Lesson 9: Having a baby will test your relationship like nothing else
We often have romantic notions before our little bambinos are born that having a baby will bring us closer to our partners and bond us for life. This is true, however, what some people don’t realise is that it will also test your relationship to it’s limits. Sleep deprivation, a lack of communication and a lack of understanding of each other’s roles can cause arguments. God knows me and Chris have fallen out over the last few weeks (generally over ridiculous, insignificant things). No one likes to admit that the first few weeks with your baby is anything but blissful. But you know something? It’s ok if it’s not, in fact, it’s completely normal to fall out with your spouse/partner. THE most important thing though is to talk to each other and be kind and sensitive to eachother’s needs. Never let the sun set on an argument. You’re a team and you’re in it for the long haul so you need to support each other no matter what. Make time for date nights away from baby too (don’t let any guilt set in). This gives you time to reconnect and appreciate each other as lovers and not just parents.
Lesson 10: Motherhood is the hardest job but the most rewarding
Being a mother is a full time job, demanding your full attention 24/7 and causing constant anxiety about whether you’re doing the very best you can. Am I giving him enough attention? Am I playing with him enough to ensure he progresses as he should and am I being present in every precious moment I spend with him? And then I remember to breathe and relax and just enjoy this beautiful child I’ve been blessed with. He’ll smile at me and it’s like all my birthdays and christmasses at once – it’s a feeling of unparalleled joy and happiness in my heart. It bursts with love for him. And then I realise that he’s giving me the greatest gift of all – the purest love that exists.