Seventeen years and a bit less than nine months ago, I crouched in the weeds on the side of a country road gripping the running board of my boyfriend’s pick-up to pee on a stick that would soon reveal two pink lines. I was smart enough to be monumentally terrified and teenager-dumb enough to be completely ecstatic. I always knew I wanted to be a mom, plus we were crazy in love and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. (Careful now, don’t laugh at my starry-eyed teen love too hard, we’ve been married for all 17 years since.) Those first few years I had teenage insecurities and new mom insecurities all rolled into one. At the time I was painfully unaware that all moms of every age have issues with peer acceptance, breastfeeding, body image, sleep deprivation, guilt, the fear of ‘messing up’ their children, and judgment from others about their parenting style. I sure could have used some encouragement from my current confident, experienced mom self.
When my best friend told me I ruined her senior year by getting pregnant, I would tell myself that someday I am going to have some awesome mom friends. They’ll be real friends that listen to your troubles without making it all about them.
When I was so frustrated that I could not pump enough milk to leave for the baby when I went to school, I would tell myself that I was rocking that breastfeeding because tons of real, grown-up moms never get the hang of it and quit nursing altogether.
When I went to prom one month postpartum with a thinner waist and bigger boobs than the year before, I would tell myself to take more pictures because that’s the closest you will get to a smoking hot bod in your life. No one but you knows about the sopping wet nursing pads in your dress, and all the women who had babies without a teenager’s metabolism are insanely jealous right now.
When I was sure it was my fault the baby cried and didn’t sleep through the night or take a nap without two preceding hours of screaming, I would tell myself that all babies cry and many of them hate sleep. And then I would tell me again the next day.
When I felt like a lazy, horrible human being for letting my mom take care of the baby sometimes so I could sleep more, I would tell myself to be simply thankful instead. If other moms lived with grandma, they’d be doing it too. Sleep is a precious commodity in this motherhood gig, get it while you still can.
When my baby became a relentlessly naughty toddler, I would tell myself it’s not you, it’s him. Period. Someday, you will have some other entirely different ones that help you fully realize how little effect your discipline techniques have on a child’s long-term behavior and personality.
When I felt like I had to make sure my son always had matching clothes, a clean face, and combed hair due to worrying that people would roll their eyes at the irresponsible teen mom if he did not look perfect, I would tell myself that there are more important things in mom-life than the approval of others. Then I would show my teen self a picture of the purple shoes, pastel striped socks, and fluorescent polka dot tights I now allow my six-year-old daughter to wear, sometimes with a dirty face and uncombed hair. My teen self would probably not believe I allowed her to become one of those moms after all the hard work she put into making perfect appearances to the outside world.
In the end, we would laugh together about how two moms that are so very different from each other can be one and the same.