Thursday, November 6, 2014

4 things I wish I knew as a first-time mom

Ah, hindsight. Many a time do I wish I'd done something differently as a new mom. Mentally, that is. To be honest, even though we don't have it all figured out (and never will), I've been pretty pleased with our methods so far. Not that we don't have struggles and challenges--we do, sometimes by the bucket full it seems--but what I'm talking about here are attitudes and perspectives.

Changing my outlook on a few key things would have made my transition to motherhood easier. These are things I'm still pondering and growing in daily. Maybe you can relate.

Losing the baby weight should not be a new mom's #1 priority.
I believe there is a time for putting in the work (well it's work for me anyway) of losing the baby weight. And there is a lot to be said about this topic that I won't go into here. But I think it's harmful to focus on this in the beginning. It robs your joy. Don't compare yourself to friends or sisters postpartum--how fast they lost the weight and could fit into their regular jeans. Don't weigh yourself obsessively. Don't fall into a pattern, as I did, of trying to schedule workout time during baby's nap, and depending on that time to the point you may become bitter if baby wakes up early--or doesn't sleep at all--and you miss out. Don't hold your lack of "me time" for exercise over your husband's head on the weekend, punctuated by long sighs or streams of complaints about how much work you do for the family but you don't get any time to take care of yourself. Trust me, I have done this, and it is not pretty. Having such a self-focused attitude is unlovely and can suck the fun out of the early days of parenting. Again, I'm not saying there isn't a time for attention to these matters-- but let the early days be about bonding with baby, adjusting to your new family dynamics and rhythms, figuring out breastfeeding if that's your goal (and you are going to need plenty of calories for this by the way-- I always feel ravenous in the beginning!), taking pictures and reflecting on this wonderful time in your life. Show your husband you still like him, too. And maybe get a little sleep or a shower now and then.

Allow for gray areas. 
You do not have to sit in this camp or that camp on almost anything. Signing up for a philosophy is not inherent to parenting (excepting, I believe, to parent within the parameters of Scripture, which is not a philosophy--it is our way of life in response to absolute truth). As I expressed in a previous post, do what works for you when it comes to the thousands of little decisions you'll have to make during the day. This is where social media can be really destructive, because it is almost second nature for moms to compare. Is it normal for my baby to eat this often? Wake this often? POOP this often? I need a schedule/don't want to schedule/like getting out of the house/aim to stay put with no visitors for 40 days Etc etc etc. We can see what other moms are doing and think we should be doing it too. We read something in a SLEEP BOOK by a SLEEP EXPERT and spend the rest of the day gnawing our fingernails because of all the "shoulds" that may not sit right with us. Five years in, I am a lot more comfortable with my parenting style and it's much easier to dismiss nagging thoughts about what I "should" or "should not" subscribe to that friends, strangers, churches, bloggers, authors, and even occasionally our pediatrician might suggest.

Accept doing the same things differently (or not at all).
I take issue with the idea that having a baby "isn't going to slow me down." Rachel Jankovic put it well in her recent webinar when she emphasized that the little people in our home have as much personal value and worth as the big people. We all live here, so let's make room. The house will look different (I always wonder about homes with kids that look like no kids live there). The schedule will be different. The food will be different, along with the social activities, holiday traditions, etc. We adapt. One "same" thing I now do differently is how I read the bible. Instead of a morning solo time with a bible and journal, I now read scripture almost exclusively on my phone. I do this while nursing Susie or rocking her to sleep. I have at times set reminders to pray for different things or people each day of the week during her nap time. Another change is exercise. This area of my life has gone through many, many changes over the years. When Linnea was born the gym became impossible, and I tried to exercise during her naps, but she often woke up and I was grumpy (see above). I started taking her on a 30 minute walk during which she slept in the stroller. When she was 1 and we were cosleeping I would get up early (Tim staying in bed with her) to workout in the basement. We have a bike trailer and i would pull her on rides. That was fun! When Peter I was born I worked out during his nap. Susie has thrown a wrench into things because she doesn't like to nap alone (and Peter hasn't napped since before his second birthday). So we do active things outside like running around the driveway or making up an obstacle course. In the springtime Susie went to bed easily and slept long, so Tim and I biked or erged together at night. This summer I did circuits in the grass while Susie laid on a blanket and the older two played or did the workout with me. Most recently, with the rain and Susie's crawling, I put Susie in the pack n play and do a short video or circuit in the living room with Peter and Linnea jumping around nearby. So it looks very different. It's no longer "me time", and it's only 2-3x/week. But it's still something, and I'm determined not to be grumpy.
(Please accept these examples for what they are: examples and not imperatives!)

Expect change.
For better or for worse, whatever baby's doing will change. I have to keep reminding myself of this, because it can sneak up on me. Easy sleeping can turn to fitful sleeping. Learning a new skill like rolling, sitting, or crawling throws things out of whack. A food that was previously enjoyed can be rejected. And cute baby girls who slept happily in their stroller can decide after just 3 days that enough is enough (I'm still declaring a minor victory on that one!). Things will not always be as they are, but we can learn and adapt. Advice from other moms, grandmas, and the internet CAN be helpful, just remember that one size doesn't necessarily fit all (see above). I know it's easy to get discouraged because it happens to me, too. God will sustain us on the peaks and in the valleys if we draw near to him.

New moms, or even old moms, I hope you feel encouraged and can embrace your days with your little ones in joy! Often I find, when something in life isn't working, a change in perspective can be as helpful as a change in method or circumstance! Let's remember to ask for wisdom from the One who promises to give it freely without finding fault, as long as we ask in faith

(Pssst. I wrote this while rocking Susie for her nap. Something else I do differently. And now I have a sore thumb.)

1 comment:

Dana Cooper said...

Well said, Cam. Paul wrote about finding contentment regardless our circumstance, along with the awesome reminder that Jesus' grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness. Amen!