Mothers have regrets daily. I know I certainly do. Every night as I close my eyes, the regret sits in my chest.

I shouldn’t have yelled.

I should have stopped doing the dishes to sit down and read with my daughter.

I should have written during naptime to earn money rather than shutting my brick-heavy eyelids.

These are the kinds of regrets that I need to shoo away like annoying mosquitos that hover in the humid summer. If you don’t, the regrets will suck the life out of you. But some regrets in motherhood actually make you a better parent. When I first became a mother, I had zero idea what I was doing—zero. So, the regrets I had during my first newborn fog made me a better mother the second time around.

I regret letting the fear of judgement get to me.
When my son was born, my mother told me over and over that it would be the happiest time in my life. So, when it wasn’t, I thought I’d never find my way out of the labyrinth of motherhood. The mastitis and bloody nipples were grueling—but the judgment I thought women were viciously throwing at me was worse. If I didn’t nurse successfully, I would not be able to enter The Club—The Motherhood Club. So, instead of doing what was best for me and my baby, I decided crying 24 hours a day would suit my new role better. I regret caring about what anyone else thought. I regret not listening to my new motherly intuition. Because the strength and belief in myself as a mother to actually stop nursing is what allowed me to finally enter The Motherhood Club. I wish I would have exercised that earlier.

I regret not giving my husband more responsibility.
When our dark-haired baby was born, of course, my husband changed the diapers as most 21st century dads do. But, I did most of the night feedings, kept the logs of how many ounces he ate, and made the decisions as to what to do about his raging reflux. I put all of that burden on myself. For what? My husband is an intelligent, caring father who could have not only helped in the decision-making, but also taken some of that weight I was solely carrying in my arms. Instead of only giving my husband the physical tasks like doing something about that blowout, I should have invited him into this parenting effort right away. I regret not joining arms with him and saying, “Please, help me.” I think it would have been easier on me. And our marriage would have driven down a road with fewer forks and potholes.

I regret not using my resources.
Not being around many babies before my own, I was as dumb as it gets with my firstborn. I was clueless and allowed myself to remain that way without looking to others for help. For example, I figured babies would sleep when they needed to sleep. I had never heard the words wake time, sleep training, night-weaning, and more. I waited a few months until a friend told me about the countless sleep resources out there. Instead of sleeping with a grunting baby on my chest all night long, I could have been resting peacefully (well, for three hours at a time at least). I regret not looking for the resources that are out there for parents of newborns. All of these became my map in finding my way out of that newborn labyrinth.

Yes, these regrets I did not swat away like a pesky mosquito. But, they did not suck the life out of me either. When baby number two came around, I was prepared. I made changes. When nursing didn’t work again for the second time, I went to pumping and supplementing formula with no guilt or fear of another mother judging me. My family’s happiness was worth more than that. I also gave my husband more responsibilities right away. I let him in on the decisions: dealing with our jaundiced newborn and deciding to pump. Finally, I admitted that motherhood still didn’t come as naturally to me—even at round two. If I was stumped, I headed to reliable books, sites, or other mothers for their wisdom. Regret doesn’t have to be all bad. Sometimes, instead of shooing it away, it fuels you to be a better mother.

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Angela Anagnost-Repke

Angela-Anagnost Repke is a writer and writing instructor dedicated to raising two empathetic children. She hopes that her graduate degrees in English and counseling help her do just that. Since the pandemic, Angela and her family have been rejuvenated by nature and moved to northern Michigan to allow the waves of Lake Michigan to calm their spirits. She has been published in Good Housekeeping, Good Morning America, ABC News, Parents, Romper, and many more. She is currently at-work on her nonfiction parenting book, Wild Things by Nature: How an Unscientific Parent Can Give Nature to Their Wild Things. Follow Angela on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram  

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