2015 has by far been one of the most challenging and rewarding, growth-filling, love-filled, change-filled years of my life. As I look back at all the things I have learned the lessons I have learned as a mother are the most important and meaningful ones. They’re also the lessons that are the domino effect to the over all happiness that exists in our home. Happy mom= happy child. Happy wife=happy life. I seriously believe these things because I have experienced them to be true.
So here are my top 10 lessons on mom life of 2015:
- Laugh at Yourself: This is me totally defeated by my toddler who did not nap that day, had been going strong from 6:45am on, was hard core teething and fussy and was recovering from being sick to boot. I think at this point I was thinking “I have to jump up again and run into the other room…what is she doing in there? Why won’t my body move?” This was just seconds of thought and then I of course did run into the other room only to catch her running back into this room. At this point I wondered if it was 10pm but then realized it was only 4:30 and I better go get her dinner ready (which will probably all end up on the floor I feel like I just cleaned up from lunch). At this moment I realized I just needed to LAUGH. Laugh at the day, laugh at what felt a little “crazy” and laugh at myself for trying so hard all day and nothing was going right. Laugh at the fact that everything was actually out of my control that day mostly because of a little thing called “teething.” Laugh and except defeat!
- Trust Your Gut: People always talk about a mother’s intuition and until I became a mother I always considered it made sense but now I know it’s 100% real. I can FEEL when my daughter wakes up before she even lets out a whimper. I can FEEL when she is hungry and understand that cry as totally different to another type of cry. I can FEEL when she’s over tired and needs to just go to sleep (despite her best efforts not to). I can feel all these things but what I have learned is in the really tough moments like when she’s sick or not sleeping or crying like crazy and won’t eat and we’re both over-tired zombie parents: this is the moment I have to trust my gut. In the beginning of my motherhood journey I was so nervous to do the right thing all the time that I often second guessed my gut feeling. Sometimes I even listened to other people over what my gut feeling was telling me to do. In the end almost always, my gut was right. So now, in those crazy tough moments, I try really hard to let go, breathe, listen to my gut and just try that solution. My husband at this point even says “what’s your gut tell you?” and then urges me to choose that. Part of trusting your gut is like all things with parenthood- you may be wrong but you also may be right. You just have to try it out.
- Redefine Your Expectations of Yourself: I have struggled with having extremely high expectations for myself all my life but when I became a mother they went on overload, super-charge, ridiculous speed. As a stay at home mother and wife of a surgeon who for the first year of our daughter’s life was finishing his training, my days consisted of trying to pretty much do it all and take the best care of my two people as possible. Now, there is nothing wrong with that but if you add unreal expectations to it then it’s a hot mess. Not so much on the outside, I don’t think anyone would have said “oh wow that Sarah, she’s a mess.” Nope it’s all on the inside. It’s the place inside all of us where we take ourselves, hang ourselves up, put our boxing gloves on and start beating the shit out of ourselves. It’s that place in our mind that goes over and over all the things we did and checks off mental to-do-lists all day long only to realize it didn’t all get done and what does that mean? Yep- failure. Okay so after realizing that I was never feeling good about all the things I DID accomplish everyday I had to work at trying to redefine my expectations. For example: Today I expect to feed my daughter, change her, dress her, play with her, teach her, help her take a nap (repeat feeding, changing, teaching, playing). I also expect to get through the day’s laundry, dishes, light house cleaning and make dinner for me and my husband. I do NOT expect that I will be able to wash my hair today and I do NOT expect to get longer than a 90 second shower while watching our daughter. I do NOT expect to get through all my emails or calls. I do NOT expect to have time to pick up the dry cleaning or go to store to buy flowers (I would really love to have some flowers for the weekend). I do NOT expect to be able to stay awake through a movie I attempt to watch with my husband tonight. If any of the things I don’t expect to get done happen- I will be THRILLED but if they don’t well- I didn’t expect them to anyway. I now feel pretty good about what I can get done in a day and also okay when I just can’t. Important note: teething or an illness can potentially throw off the entire list of things I can try to get done and that has to be okay too. Throw the punching bag away you are doing GREAT mamas!
- Except The Mom Body That is Now Your Body: So whether you had vaginal birth or a C-section (like me) there’s all sorts of “left over” weird body stuff that goes on far after you have your baby. I still can’t really feel the area across my C-Section scar. It’s kind of creepy. Sometimes I have the strangest little twinges of pain or a feeling of my lower stomach muscles not being fused together (it’s hard to explain). I’ll be doing something totally normal like picking up my baby and there’s the weird feeling out of no where. It’s weird but it’s also my body reminding me that I gave birth to this amazing little person and I just kind of smile about it. Other things that go on are more on the outside like for example the change in your boobs. Everyone is different but almost all the moms I know have something to say about their post breast feeding/pumping boobs. They’re just a little different. Mine are smaller (which I’m okay with) and other friends of mine feel like theirs are saggier. Well duh! Think about what those boobs went through? Jeez sometimes when I was pumping and crying through the pain of it I actually felt so sad for my boobs- what will become of them after this torture?! Oh and will I put them through it again one day? (Yeah probably it’s worth it. Sorry boobs). Then there’s just the over all slightly different body that you have now that you’re a mom. Some people say their hips are wider or their chest is thicker or their tummy skin is saggy. Some people are heavier or thinner than before. Either way it’s hard when your pre-pregnancy clothes fit weird (or not at all) and when you look in the mirror kind of confused like “who are you?” Well we all have it to some degree post baby and I think it’s important for your daily happiness to just except that this “mom bod” is pretty and it’s special and it’s a warrior princess and to just CHOOSE to like it. Also if you like it, the other people in your world will too. Also try to not listen to the outside comments because a lot of people don’t think before they speak. For me, I’m about 8 lbs thinner than when I got pregnant. I’m just thinner. Everything is smaller (boobs included) and also slightly different. My hips are a little different than before and some other things too. It’s okay it’s just what it is but then someone will say something and I can only hear a negative comment and I kind of just want to say “who gave you permission to comment on my post-baby body? Perhaps I should comment on your post-November body?” But instead…I just let it go and try to like my new mom body. This body did an amazing thing for goodness sake! It made a human!
- Ask For What You Need: Okay this one is huge it’s also one of the hardest things for me (and many other women I know). The partner in your home does not know how to read your mind. I know it sucks but it’s the truth. So, mama’s out there guess what? When you’re sleep deprived for like 14 months and tapped out emotionally because you’ve been thinking of someone else’s needs 24/7 above all else and trying with all your might to meet said needs, trying to keep an infant/baby/toddler alive all day and still manage a household well… your partner does NOT know that you want them to say “honey, I want to take you out on a date. You need a night off! Let’s get a baby sitter and go have a romantic and fun night together!” Nope. They don’t know. So, even though it may be annoying to HAVE to tell your partner this is what you need/want (because why don’t they just realize it on their own?! Ugh so frustrating!) TELL THEM! Tell them what you need! Tell them what you want. Trust me they want to make you happy but sometimes there’s so much going on that even they don’t know you need something. This is not just about going on a date once in a while. It’s also about the daily grind. If you need you partner to help out more around the house you need to TELL THEM! Note: sometimes it helps to be very specific with what you want them to do. Not just “help more” but specifically what: “I would really appreciate it if you could empty the dishwasher if you see it’s done and if you could put the laundry in the dryer if you hear it buzz.” You will be happier and so will you partner if you ask for what you need and in turn, get it. Everyone feels good in this scenario. Don’t be scared to ask for help…it doesn’t mean you can’t do it all it just means you are human.
- Accept The In Betweens: There are so many phases we go through as mothers. There’s the first four months of life when you’re basically in a bubble in your house just trying to get your feeding/sleeping schedule on point. Just fighting daily to survive through zero sleep and a healing body, breast feeding issues, feeding, sleeping issues, etc. You’re in a cave for about four months. After that you emerge into the world and then try to learn how to manage normal life “on the outside” with a little person who can’t even hold their own body upright yet and often poops through their diaper and clothing while you are out. Then there’s the awesome zone of being able to go out to lunch while your baby sleeps next to you in the stroller (because you are a master of knowing when to time lunch with nap and deserve a metal). There’s the fun “hey look she’s walking” stage when you can show off your babe’s new skills while still managing to keep them in strollers, high chairs or on your lap. And then there’s the in between…when you are working so hard at a new sleep schedule that it runs your life because in order to train your child’s body you have to be regimented and committed and it WILL trump anything else socially you may want to do. The in between time where your baby isn’t old enough to go to pre-school yet and you have them all day to entertain/teach/take care of. (This of course applies to SAHM’s like me more so). The in between stages are weird because as as SAHM you need socialization too and it’s hard when you’re working on that nap/sleep schedule and end up home doing meals and playtime more than out because it just often works out this way. I have found it to be hard so I have reached out to try to connect with other SAHM’s. I am still working on finding my “people” but I feel good about trying. It’s easy for people to say “go to this play group or music class it’s awesome” and then I realize said class is 25 minutes away and I KNOW my daughter will fall asleep in the car and then the nap schedule I have been working so hard to implement is now thrown out the window. So no, I don’t sign up for that class. It’s just this weird in between time and it’s okay. I urge moms in this space to embrace that it’s not going to be like this very long, and try to savor this time with our babies as we’ll never have it again. There’s beauty in between.
- Don’t Compare: One thing that I still can’t believe happens at the level it does is mothers comparing with other mothers. It even happens on the grandma level: “well my grandson is doing xyz already.” “Really? My granddaughter isn’t even close to doing xyz” (insert phone call to daughter “Honey so and so’s grandson is doing xyz do you think it’s normal that your daughter isn’t doing xyz yet? Should we ask the pediatrician?” Note: No mom you have never done this but I know it happens. I do not compare my daughter to your kid. I have chosen to compare my daughter’s development to science and data. I compare her growth to what we know from a medical perspective is “normal.” If your son is walking at 10 months old that’s cool! But it doesn’t mean that my daughter isn’t okay because she’s not walking yet and is 11 months old. Nope. When mom’s try to have that casual “let’s compare notes” conversation I try my best to filter out the judging and the over-all weirdness that is this process. You can’t really get away from it but trust me moms, you’ll be a lot happier (and less worried about stupid things) if you opt out of the comparing. Think about it this way: would you want your baby to compare your mothering to his/her friend’s mothers? Can you even imagine? So not cool right?
- SAHM The Work Out: One of the things I get asked a lot is what I do for my work out. I usually laugh because I haven’t set foot in a gym since early in my pregnancy and have only occasionally taken a pilates (my favorite) class post baby. But I’m in pretty good shape and it’s because I have found an awesome new work out…it’s called MOM LIFE! I choose to do as much on foot with my baby as possible. I take her in the stroller to the grocery store and use her stroller as a cart and then walk with her plus groceries home. The stroller weighs enough but with groceries it’s a lot to push (esp up and down big hills) and if you push from your core it’s a great tummy/butt work out. If you walk fast it’s even better! Then there’s weight lifting. My daughter weighs about 22 lbs and I am always picking her up, dancing with her, cooking while holding her and it adds up (the gun show is looking pretty good over here). Then there’s the constant cleaning. I am always running around quickly cleaning up after our daughter and us. I am doing laundry and vacuuming (which can be a nice little work out in itself), I’m up I’m down I’m holding my baby while doing these things. I am in CONSTANT motion! I truly believe I just work out a little bit all day long! That said the biggest thing is the daily walks sometimes it’s one but I try for 2 walks with the baby a day. If I wear her in the baby carrier and go run errands on foot that really get’s my heart rate up and can be a nice adventure too! My almost 17 month old is in constant motion and I am in constant motion running after her. She’s the best trainer ever and she doesn’t charge a thing!
- Ignore Judgment: I have written about the judgment I have received about being a stay at home mom a few times. The reason is it’s a constant in my life. I think the reality right now is moms can’t win. If you’re a working mom you’re made to feel bad if you can’t “do it all” and if you’re a stay at home mom you’re made to feel bad because you’re not doing enough (because you should be working). I’m pretty over this. I find myself in social situations all the time where I get a look or an eye roll of judgment about being “just” a stay at home mom. Or someone makes a stupid comment like “what do you do all day?” Or “well that’s easy! Nice.” Or my favorite “Did you used to work?” Um, really? Yeah since I was about 14 years old I worked. Thanks for asking. The best one is when someone doesn’t even say a word but just chooses to gloss right over me because I am now considered to have nothing to offer the conversation. I used to be angery or hurt by these moments because they usually happen in social settings when I am just so excited to be OUT (BECAUSE I AM A STAY AT HOME MOM). They really used to put a damper on my over all enjoyment of those times. Now I just remind myself of who I am and WHY I chose to be a SAHM. I remind myself what I have to offer the conversation (which is a lot) and ignore the ignorant judgmental people trying to rain on my parade! Ignoring judgment is probably the hardest thing to do as a mother because we’re always judging ourselves and worrying if we’re good enough moms all the time anyway but, it must be done. If you’re a working mom or a stay at home mom or any combo of the two try to refrain from judging others who’re doing it differently than you are and try to ignore the judgment when it comes your way. We really need to change the conversation to supporting all moms because we’re all doing hard things the best we can.
- More Than Mom: The most recent lesson I have learned and am still very much in the process of learning is that I need to try to feel like more than just a mom. Don’t get me wrong the title of mother, the role of mother is the most important honor, gift, title, job of my entire life. It’s all I ever really wanted to be in life and I take it more seriously than anything else, ever. That said because I am a SAHM and my days and nights consist of mothering or organizing and planning out my mothering. It’s not often I feel like just my husband’s date or just my friend’s friend or my mom’s daughter. I have recently realized I have to plan and make time to do things that make me connect to the former non-mother version of myself. Not because she was better in fact quite the opposite but because it’s important to be reminded of the sum of all your parts. I need to have date nights with my husband. I need to have girls brunches and lunches on occasion. I need to go take a pilates reformer class now and then. I need a mom-daughter day with MY mom just the two of us. I need to spend some time alone once in a while. All of the above are things that occur with out my daughter so in order to experience them I have to plan child care in the form (usually) of my husband or a baby-sitter. More and more I have started to do these things and I think over-all it makes me a happier mom and a more centered and well rounded mom to boot. I want my daughter to get the best version of me possible every day and in order for that to happen, I have to be away from her once in a while. It’s hard not to feel guilty for wanting to be away from her (or needing to be) but I am trying to manage that. 2016 is going to be the year I figure it all out! Ha! Yeah right! Cheers to all you moms out there doing the best you can! Wishing you all a happy New Year filled with LOVE, JOY and LAUGHTER!