Twenty truths I would tell my new-mama self now
All parents know this truth: before our kids arrived, we had no idea quite what we were in for. I suppose that is part of the beauty of such a rite of passage. Years before I had my child, I had worked in child-care centers and as a nanny in the homes of families. Because of those experiences, I really thought I knew what I was getting into. Here are 20 things I had no clue about—both the beautiful and the more challenging parts.
1. You can hear 1,000 stories, but you still won’t know what birth and new parenthood are going to be like for you until you experience them yourself. Take in as much practical information as you can, and try not to romanticize what you think it will be like or what you think it will look like for others. Remember that each person’s experience with birth and parenting is unique.
2. You may not have “extra time” at the end of your pregnancy to get ready. Don’t wait until the last minute to get the essential items for your baby and your postpartum self. Stock that freezer and pantry to the top if you can—and do so no later than 10 weeks before your baby’s arrival.
3. The world of parents can be a lot less unified than you might hope. It’s a tough crowd at times. Be patient—you will find your people.
4. The ability to ask for help is one badass mama skill. Practice makes perfect, so ask for what you need, and you will model community for your child. And if you need help all the time, ask for help all the time.
5. Parenting through trauma and serious health issues is a real thing. Check out our tips on parenting through traumatic events, and have a will and a plan in place should the unexpected occur. Doing so will give you some serious peace of mind.
6. It’s overwhelming and busy, but at times solo motherhood comes with some solid pockets of quiet, lonely, productive, emotional, luxurious time. You can choose your own adventure: read, write, cultivate friendships, sleep, do the dishes, master some yoga poses, meditate, make art, start a business.
7. Hearing the word family applied to you can come as a shock. My tiny family of two is not how I pictured a family in the past. But our family is just as whole and just as sweet as any other.
8. It doesn’t get easier—it becomes different. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
9. You can lose your sense of you very quickly and very completely. For example, remember yourself at the grocery store (as in, what do you want to eat?), or you will come home with a bunch of food your kid prefers.
10. Know the symptoms of and how to prevent postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. A Solo Mom postpartum period can mean you feel alone much of the time. Recognize the signs, and take care of yourself by asking your doctor, therapist, and postpartum doula for help.
11. You don’t have to be tough or stoic. Part of the new-parent rite of passage is feeling it all. Don’t be shy about it. The world needs more of this vulnerable, raw honesty.
12. The love between you and your baby may be instant, or it may slip over you more slowly. Both are OK.
13. Mother’s intuition is real. It feels so good to own it.
14. Babies can be great travelers. They often take multiple naps, they are tiny and portable, and you can almost always find someone willing to coo at them and lend a hand.
15. Decision fatigue can be real for a Solo Mom. I have found partnering closely with my child’s teachers has brought some relief to all the parenting troubleshooting in the early years.
16. There is an element of feeling left behind by some of your friends who do not have kids. But it comes at the same time that you are meeting and forming new friendships with other new parents. This is one of the few times in our lives when an abundance of new friendships is on offer.
17. All new parents struggle with some element of parenting. It may not seem like that when reading through social media, but as a postpartum doula who has peeked behind those happy curtains—I can tell you that all families struggle, and in no family is it always pretty.
18. Your intentions and desires in life may shift and change. It can feel like an identity crisis in a way. It has taken me years to let go of long-held visions, but I now know new dreams can be just as beautiful and just as valid—and that things can shift once again someday.
19. You have a lot of power as a parent. You can have more power over your child than you will ever have over any other human being. It is interesting to learn how to best wield this power and be a guide to your family instead of a blind ruler.
20. Making friends with moms whose kids are older than your own is priceless. I wish I figured this one out earlier. There is something wonderful about having a lot of parent friends with kids who are the same age and at the same stage as yours. But I have found talking with a parent you admire who is at a stage or two ahead of you can provide rich conversations about getting through the stage you are in. I think of it as a mentoring relationship and appreciate these friends so much. An added bonus is that it is nice to witness and embrace what will soon be ahead for you and your child.
Though your list of 20 may be completely different from the one above, we love to hear your stories, so please connect with us in Sister Chat or in the comments section below!
Beck List is an environmental scientist and writer living with her five-year-old future comedian in California. She has lived through plenty of her own trials and tribulations—and you can read more tips on her blog, BeckList.
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