Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Belated Mother's Day Post: My Advice for New and Expectant Mommies

I'm not really a holiday person, as I shared in my Valentine's Day post a few months ago, so I wasn't even planning on writing anything about Mother's Day. But then a fellow blogger and expectant mother asked in a comment if I had any advice for mommas-to-be like her. An hour-long car ride to my parent's house later, what was intended to be a quick little comment back turned into a full post. So, please excuse the tardiness - after all, it's the thought that counts, right?

 Note: I'm no parenting expert. I'm just a mom to one 2.5-year-old boy sharing my experiences. Also, while this comes from a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom's perspective, I think just about everything could be relatable for any mom.

Trust your instincts.

Whether trusting your instinct means advocating for your child when something seems wrong or finding your own way to parent, instinct is a powerful thing. Don't be afraid to listen politely to advice, only to ultimately go with your gut. You know your child best because he/she is your child and there is no one-size-fits-all formula. Be confident in that.
I love this post that Andrea Dekker shared recently reflecting on her experiences as a first-time and second-time mom. It's definitely a worthwhile read!
Photo from AndreaDekker.com

Find a support system.

This has been so crucial in my adjustment into motherhood! My husband and family's support is priceless, but I don't think I would have fared nearly as well as a new mom without the support of others who are in the thick of it with me. For me, that support system was (and still is) MOPs {Mothers Of Preschoolers}, but it could be a play group, neighbors, friends, a church group, etc.
Fellow moms provide a sounding board, encouragement, community, sympathy, advice, and ultimately a place to find balance. I can't imagine doing this whole "mom thing" without my MOPs ladies and other mommy friends!
Photo from mops.org

Take breaks.

Find a time to do something for you. Whether it's taking a nap instead of doing the dishes or carving out some time to exercise or drink a cup of coffee. Ladies' Bible Study and MOPs have been great and encouraging kid-free times for me, and I always try to take some "me time" each day while Kiddo is napping, even if it's just surfing the web or Facebook. The same also holds true for date nights. It's important to remember that you are a whole person (or couple) apart from being a parent.
And seriously, when the baby is little, take advantage of the time to nap at least once a day. I didn't and I regret it.

Be flexible and give yourself lots of grace.

Murphy's law guarantees that the minute you're ready to leave the house, your toddler will need to use the potty, or the baby will have a soiled diaper - or worse, a total blowout. You will be late for things, clothes will get ruined, to-do lists will be left unfinished, and life just generally won't go as planned. It can be so frustrating.
I know moms who tried everything possible to breastfeed, but couldn't. Another had a beautifully laid-out natural birth plan only to need an emergency C-section. There is so much as a mom that you can't control. Don't beat yourself up about it. Remind yourself that you're doing the best you can in the circumstances you've been given and be proud of the mama you're becoming.
I've learned that my day goes much more smoothly if I focus on the victories (and with a small child, almost everything is a victory) and not my perceived failures. It can be difficult, but the more flexible I can be, the happier everyone is. 
Give yourself grace. Even when the laundry piles up. :)

Prayer helps.

When you're tired, overwhelmed, or frustrated, pause and pray about it. Even if my situation doesn't change, praying invariably changes my attitude. I've also found that having a Bible verse written down where I can see it (like above the kitchen sink) can help bring perspective. Proverbs about patience are a good choice. ;-)

Savor the special moments.

Every once in a while, stop and take it all in.
I am so guilty of being busy and ignoring opportunities to really see my son. Today, when I was folding laundry, Kiddo was just a few feet away in the playroom with his trains and cars. I loved hearing him talking and pretending, something I often miss when I'm focused on tasks I need to accomplish. Just a year ago, he only said a handful of words in his baby talk, and now he can carry on an entire conversation - even an imaginary one!
Babies grow so fast, and the way he is today is not the way he will be next week or next month. So I try to soak in the sleepy snuggles, the cute kid-talk, the bed-head, and the slowly disappearing dimples in his wrists. And I try more and more to play, even when I'd sometimes rather do something else. It's unrealistic to "enjoy every moment," but I try to savor the moments when I can. :)

Being a mom isn't always easy, but it is so worth it!

A few months ago, we got the chance to see one of Hubby's childhood friends who was expecting her first child. When she asked what it was like to be a mom, I immediately launched into all the old platitudes, including "The days are long, but the years are short" and "It's the hardest job, but also the most rewarding." Of course, I immediately apologized for bombarding her with cliches... It's just that they are so true!
There is nothing like being a mom - I know I'll never be the same. Your priorities change and so does your perspective. You are the one who is responsible for providing all of this little person's needs... and they don't exactly come with a manual. :-)
That's not to say that being a mom is drudgery. There are definitely good moments, but there are also trying times (and sometimes it can switch from one to the other within seconds). There are times when I want to throw my toddler in a box and ship him to Grammy's. The fatigue, the feedings, the frustrations, and the sheer amount of human waste you will need to clean on a regular basis can seem daunting. But when I get a smile, a laugh, a hug, an "I love you," or a "Thanks, Mommy" - those are the moments that make it worthwhile.

From one mama to another: You can do this!

Are you a mom? Do you have any advice for new moms and moms-to-be? What wise counsel has really helped you?  

So, there you go, Iris: my advice for new mommies like you. Blessings to you, your husband, and your little one!

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