In January, we celebrated my oldest daughter’s 10-year-old birthday and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve learned in the last 10 years. I’ve also been contemplating what I wished I could go back and tell my then 23-year-old self.
There’s so much I could say. So much I’ve learned. So much I wish I’d done differently.
Before my first daughter was born, I went into motherhood thinking I knew a lot about parenting and caring for babies. In truth, I did have a lot more experience than many people: I’m the second of 7 children, I spent many hours and days while a teen babysitting for a number of large families of little children, and after my husband and I got married, I worked as a mother’s helper/nanny for three different families — all who had young children.
I had changed countless dirty diapers and soothed many a crying baby and child. I had helped potty-train. I had cared for sick kids. I had cleaned up throw up. I been spilled on, wet on, and spit-up on.
So I thought I was pretty well prepared and realistic. I didn’t expect motherhood be a walk in the park and fully expected that many days would be tiring and hard.
But the day Kathrynne was born and we brought her home from the birth center, all that former confidence grew legs and walked right out of my life.
I felt so scared. What if I don’t feed her enough? What if I don’t lay her down in bed right? How do I know if something’s wrong?
I felt alone — especially since I didn’t know any other young moms in our area. Am I the only one who feels this way? Do all the other moms know instinctively what to do?
And I felt overwhelmed. Am I ever going to get in a shower again before noon? Will I always feel this tired and worn done? HOW ON EARTH DO PEOPLE HAVE TWO KIDS??
If you’re a young mom right now, I want to tell you what I wished I could go back and tell myself when I was a brand-new mom:
1. You are not alone.
No matter how incompetent or unskilled you feel for this motherhood thing, I can promise, promise you that you are not alone. There are an army of other moms in the trenches with you. And none of us have it together.
Some of us may hide our struggles out of fear. Some of us may be more skilled in certain areas. Some of us may naturally have more energy or capacity.
But none of us have all our ducks in a neat and alphabetized row. We all have areas we fall short in. We all have times when we feel like we’re not doing a good enough job. We all have times when we struggle with “mom guilt”.
So, instead of trying to hide your struggles, be honest with those closest to you. Vulnerability breeds strong friendships like just about nothing else will.
2. You’ve got what it takes.
I know it doesn’t feel like you’ve got what it takes. You feel scared and unqualified. You’re overwhelmed.
Your heart is walking outside your body. You worry that you’re not doing enough. You wonder if you’re seriously messing up your child.
But I’m here to tell you: you’ve got what it takes. You can do this.
You were uniquely gifted and equipped by God to be your child’s mother. God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies those whom He calls.
Cry out to Him for the strength, the grace, the patience, and the energy to carry out this calling He’s given you. He will never, never, never leave you or forsake you. And His grace is always sufficient.
3. You won’t be this tired forever.
You’re tired of your child crying. You’re tired of waking over and over again in the night. You’re tired of doing the same things again and again.
You feel flabby and lethargic. You look in the mirror and barely recognize the woman staring back at you. You wonder if you’re ever going to be able to fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans. You wonder where all your energy went.
Trust me on this: you won’t be this tired for ever. Even though it feels like you’ll be waking up every two hours for the rest of your life and propping open your eyeballs with toothpicks to make it through the day, it won’t always be like this.
So don’t stress over tomorrow or two years from now. Get as much sleep as you, accept any offers of help, do whatever it takes to get some shut-eye. And just power through, knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel — and it’s called kids who sleep through the night!
Also, please know that just because your 12-month-old doesn’t sleep through the night yet even though you’ve read all the books and tried all the tactics, you’re not a bad mom. You just have a child who struggles to sleep.
Don’t beat yourself up over it. Do the best you can, keep experimenting, and know that someday soon, your child is going to figure it out.
For now, just do what you need to do to make it through — even if not everyone thinks it’s the “right” thing. You are your child’s mother. Trust your gut.
4. You don’t have to do it perfectly.
Really, you don’t. Just stop trying already.
I know you feel like you don’t measure up to Sallie Sue who arrives early to church every Sunday morning looking like a model with her three kids under 4 all in hand-smocked outfits and intricate braids in their hair. I get it.
Maybe that’s what gives Sallie Sue great joy and fulfillment, but take a deep breath and know that it’s completely okay to walk to the beat of a different drum. You’re not Sallie Sue. You’re YOU. Be you — and embrace what’s best for you and your family.
You don’t need to apologize for it or explain it. Just be you, bravely.
5. You are going to work yourself out of a job.
Right now, it’s completely impossible for you to imagine not changing diapers, wiping bottoms, taking little people potty, not constantly hearing “Moooommmmy!”, not having to cut everyone’s food up, not having to buckle everyone in when you get into the car, not having to give baths, get everyone dressed, and help little people brush their teeth.
But there will come a day — and it will be sooner than you believe it will be — when you start working yourself out of a job. When those little people get a little bit bigger and they start learning how to do things for themselves.
It’s a S-L-O-W process, but looking back, it seems to happen in the blink of an eye. And all of a sudden you wake up one day and your oldest is 10 years old and she’s taking over the family’s laundry, helping with the cooking, cleaning bathrooms, and asking what else she can do to help you.
That day is coming. When it does, all these years of doing what seems like the same thing over and over again will pay off… and you’ll realize that those little people are turning into capable adults who are contributing to the family in significant ways.
In ten years from now, you’re going to look back a deeply fulfilling and happy feeling knowing that all that hard work, sleepless nights, and exhaustion was worth it.
So, as much as you might want to some days, don’t give up! The best is yet to come!
This post was inspired by my friend Beth’s post: Dear Mom in the Tunnel