Wow, almost a whole year has gone by. Hard to believe, huh? You’re A MOM. Crazy. You’re a mom to an almost-toddler. How did that happen?
So this is my gift to you, me - with all the wisdom we now posses and the hours and days and months we’ve spent being me, here are things I wish you (me) had known a year ago. Maybe a year and a half ago. Pay attention.
1) All those super cute newborn-sized baby clothes are super cute. Yay! You bought them all. PROBLEM: Your newborn did not come out newborn sized. She wore those clothes for exactly 20 minutes before moving on to 3-month size. Next time, don’t bother with those newborn clothes! You married a giant! Your kids will be giants! It’s simple genetics!
2) Nice job collecting all that hand-me-down baby gear! It was sometimes hard to think about putting that perfect, precious, delicate little baby into something that another baby had already goo-ed on, but you know what? She doesn’t know any better, she’s about to goo on it too, and you saved thousands of dollars.
3) Seriously, you should have started babyproofing when you had the chance. You should have anchored the bookshelves BEFORE she learned how to climb. You should have bough power-strip covers back when you had a job and money was flowing. You should have spent a day crawling around on the floor and finding all the little things that the baby would find.
4) You didn’t need half of the stuff you thought you needed. You bought a crib, because babies need cribs… all while knowing full well you were going to co-sleep. You bought a swing because the baby was fussy, and she hated it. But worse was the agonizing about the things you didn’t buy. You felt like your frugality (cheapskated-ness?) was going to win out and deprive your child. She’s fine. All she needs is clothes, food, diapers, love and a car seat.
5) Be prepared to have no way to be prepared. There is no “ready”, only willing. You’re not ready to have a baby, you’re not ready to be a mom. You’re not ready to be a family. But you’re willing, and that’s enough.
6) Appreciate what you have now, before baby. Stop being anxious and relax more. Stop planning. Snuggle with the Mountain Man on the couch in quiet. Read in bed. Choose to be lazy. Choose to be spontaneous. Appreciate being able to run into the store for one thing. Appreciate being able to wait in line without bouncing, singing, dancing and apologizing.
7) Save money. (You’re doing this already, but seriously, do it some more.)
8) Begin letting go of your commitments. You said you were doing this, but then you weren’t. And now you’re racked with guilt & feeling ineffective while you constantly drop balls. You should have allowed yourself to let go.
9) Tell yourself every morning that your life is going to be different. You will feel like you’ve lost yourself. But you’ll be there, in there somewhere, and you’ll someday have the opportunity to come back out. But you’ll be different. So go with it. Remind yourself that this will happen, but don’t encapsulate and preserve your previous life, because your future life won’t fit in that shrine. You’re just going to have to dis-assemble and pack up the shrine during baby-proofing, anyway.
10) Believe in yourself. You were smart enough to be scared shitless, and you believed that pregnant moms who weren’t scared out of their minds weren’t “ready”. You still believe that now. But you also know that you should have believed in yourself more. Believe in the love that you don’t yet understand. Believe in your ability to push through the “shoulds” and be an authentic parent. Believe in the strength of the relationship you’ve built with the Mountain Man, and believe that it can take the hit of early parenthood and come out OK. Believe that the Mountain Man will mysteriously & magically morph from the guy-who-doesn’t-like-babies into the amazingly devoted father he is. Believe that you can do it. Start believing it now. You’re the mom, you’re doing it.
11) Sleep. I’m not sure if you can build up sleep credit, but it’s worth a shot.
12) Understand that not everyone is going to be able to fit into your life the same way they did before. Friends will come & go. It’s OK.
13) Learn how to “accept” advice. Smile and say thank you. Walk away. Don’t internalize beliefs that are counter to your own, but it might be worth filing the information away. Sometimes, in some scenarios, parenting advice that runs counter to your beliefs might actually prove helpful. Just don’t get upset, because people LOVE to give advice. It’s one part telling themselves what they wish they’d known, one part validating their own practices, one part hearing themselves be “smart”, one part welcoming you to “the club” and one part trying to convince themselves that they didn’t completely screw up their own kids. Shake and dispense. Smile and nod. Walk away.
14) Sometimes your baby will need to be held. Hold her. Sometimes you need to eat or take a shit or take a shower. Do it. Don’t forget to brush your teeth. Take the time to take care of yourself. It only takes a few minutes. Put the baby in her (dreaded) swing and shut the bathroom door. She’s going to be OK.
15) Learn to enjoy laundry. (Or accept it) Learn to do chores with one hand. Learn the astonishing art of distraction. Strengthen your wrists now. Plant spit-up rags and wipies all over the house, the car, other people’s houses… everywhere. Put hand sanitizer in your diaper bag. People will want to touch your baby, and you can’t always stop them. You can usually either get them to use some hand sanitizer, or even deter them by putting a small roadblock up. Give up on things being clean. Give up on being in control. Don’t be unreasonably afraid of germs. However you’re feeding your baby is the best way. However you’re diapering your baby is the best way. However your baby sleeps is the best way. And learn to enjoy doing laundry.
16) It’s amazing. It’s more wonderful, more painful, more wrenching and conflicting that you can imagine. Appreciate it. Enjoy the moments. Recognize and sit in even the unhappy moments. They are all what builds this motherhood thing. Don’t wish it away. Don’t dwell on how hard it is now. Even if you’re there 24-hours a day you’re going to come out on the other end feeling like you missed something, like you didn’t appreciate it while you had it, like you let things slip past. Be aware of everything. Soak it up. It’s over so fast, even when each minute is agonizingly long.
You’re going to be an awesome mom. KNOW THAT. Own it. Be it. (And don’t buy newborn clothes!!)