Dear new mom:

I am so excited for you. You are about to embark on one crazy ride, so put on your big girl panties.

I have been thinking long and hard about what you should know about motherhood. First, I wanted to provide you with some practical tips that would help you transition smoothly into parenthood, but you’ve read the books and taken the classes, so that didn’t make much sense.

Then, I wanted to offer you some mind-blowing insights into what it feels like to be a mom, but honestly, I know you’ll get it as soon as you see your baby’s face for the first time.

And you don’t need me to tell you that sleep will never be the same again, or that a hot shower will feel like a vacation, or how you never knew how much you could love someone you’ve only known a few moments—someone you would die for just to spare them one second of pain—now that you are a mom. You’ll understand these things soon enough.

After mulling it over and over, I concluded that there is only one piece of advice that I can give a new mom.

It takes courage to parent your child, so always dig deep and be courageous.

Be courageous that first time you are alone with your baby and can’t get him to stop crying and fussing. Don’t give in to that feeling you are a failure. Remember, the two of you just met and you have to figure out how you work best together.

Be courageous and leave him with someone you trust. Know that no one else can meet his needs and fill his heart the same way as his mother, but you will be a better parent by having some time to yourself.

Be courageous when you come face to face withmMom judgment. There is not a single thing you will do as a parent that someone does not have an opinion on—and probably will share without being asked. You can let it feed your insecurities or let it fly right out of your head with a smile and a nod. Everyone believes the way they raise their child is best, and you need to be brave enough to believe in yourself.

Be courageous in the Mommy Olympics. So many of us use our kids as a benchmark for our self-worth. It’s unfair to our kids when we gauge their success against their peers, and we should never feel shame because a child is not measuring up to an imaginary bar set by their play group. Keep the focus on your son or daughter and celebrate their victories, whenever they may occur.

Be courageous when telling your child no. Don’t let fear or embarrassment dictate your parenting. It’s OK if your child has a tantrum in the candy aisle at the grocery store because you won’t buy him a Kit Kat or if you have to drag him out of a restaurant for throwing food. Know that most parents are nodding their heads in solidarity and recognize the importance of what you are teaching your kid. 

Be courageous when advocating for your child. Never accept limits on your kid imposed by someone else. Believe in your son or daughter and he or she will always exceed your expectations.

Be courageous in comprehending that you will never really know what you are doing when it comes to parenting, and that’s OK. Every time you think you are getting the hang of it, you enter a new phase and start all over again. There is no perfect way to parent, and as hard as I have looked, no handbook either.

Be courageous, because there is no getting your heart back.

And always know that I believe in you.

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.