As our oldest child’s birthday nears closer I find myself looking back at pictures from her birth. I see the young, new mom in the pictures who is madly in love with the little baby in her arms. That mom has no idea what is in store for her in motherhood.

I have only been a mom for about six years. In many, many regards I am still a rookie at this. There are many parts of mothering I have yet to experience. But even rookies can gain wisdom through experience, especially with three kids.

Looking back over the past six years, I wish I could relive many of the memories. And there are a few things I wish I could tell myself back then. Things about lessons I have learned, or things I wished I had done differently.

If I could write a letter to myself as a new mom, this is what I would say:

Let her sleep on you more. There is so much about getting kids to sleep in their own cribs and sleeping through the night. And one day they will. One day they won’t be little babies who sleep on your chest. So let the babies sleep on you as long as possible.

Hold them as much as possible. Our daughter has finally reached the age where I cannot hold her and pack her around like when she was a toddler. Part of me mourns this time, while the other part loves that she walks with me hand-in-hand.

Relax. I can remember Googling just about everything as a new parent. I worried and worried and worried about everything. I am still prone to worrying. But if I could go back, I would tell myself not to worry about every little thing. Someone else is in command and He is far greater than I am.

Do it how you want, not how you think it should be done. There seem to be many “right” ways to parent. But I have come to believe when it comes to many parts of parenting, the only right way is what is right for you. If I could tell myself back then not to worry about doing everything “right” I would. I would tell myself to find what works for us and go with it, regardless of whether our friends or family did it that way, or that’s what the book said to do. Don’t allow anyone make you feel like a bad mom or that you are doing something wrong.

It will get better. I didn’t think anything could top the adorable words, the toddling around, or the baby giggles. And those things are beyond special. But the love and fun will only magnify as they grow. New stages and new seasons will bring new joys and memories.

Take it all in. Write things down. Take lots of pictures. One day they will be treasured reminders of the special and seemingly mundane times.

Your to-do list will never get done. Just be OK with that. There will always be dishes and laundry and vacuuming and organizing to do. But the kids won’t be little for long. Put them at the top of your to-do list.

Learn to love your kid’s cry. Let’s be honest here, you’re going to hear them cry A LOT. Find a way to love it.

It’s OK not to enjoy every moment. I try so hard to enjoy every minute of the time our kids are young, but in all honestly, there are just times when it is plain hard, overwhelming, boring, exhausting, and not fun. Some days are pretty much just survival mode. And that’s OK. There are plenty of days that are full of laughter and joy. Enjoy the fun times, and power through the hard times.

It’s OK not to be a super mom or a perfectionist. You can’t do it all. And you’re not supposed to do it all.

You are doing a great job. There will be many, many moments where you feel like a failure. The days where you are tired and grumpy, the weeks when you serve Mac ‘n Cheese a few too many times, and when your kids develop a collection of Happy Meal toys that is too big. But your love and care for these kids day after day, week after week, and year after year is what matters. Don’t allow the days of feeling like a failure overrule the days of joy.

Love and prayers,
Future you

Emily Scott

Emily Scott, PhD, is a stay at home mom of three, and part time parenting consultant and blogger who has written and spoken on various parenting topics including child development, ACEs, and tips on raising responsible kids.