Being a new mom can be overwhelming, can’t it? This is especially true the first time around, but each time we bring a new baby home it’s almost like starting fresh.
If I could have given new-mom me a little heads-up back then, it would have lightened my load for sure. Here are some of the most important insights I would have shared:
Do not obsess over every minute detail about your baby’s nursing, pee and poop, and sleep schedules.
I filled notebooks with these details. I worried about forgetting to write something down. I stressed about my baby eating too frequently or not enough. And don’t even get me started on the issue of sleep! Seeing all the things written down on paper was A LOT and disrupted the little sleep I was managing to get.
I would encourage new-mom me to let her baby be her guide. Notice any patterns and tune into them. But all that frantic note-taking and record-keeping . . . it really wasn’t worth all the stress.
Oh, new-mom me, you cannot spoil your baby, or toddler, with love.
Hold her as much as your heart and mama instincts tell you to and this includes when she’s sleeping. Go to him whenever he cries out because you are all he knows and you are his comfort, his home. Even when our toddlers or preschoolers act out, especially when they do, they need our love and patience to help them feel safe in their big emotions.
And when our little ones are feeling extra attached to us, not wanting us to leave them at preschool or leave their side at a birthday party, it is absolutely OK to listen to that little voice inside of you that speaks more strongly than the voices of well-meaning relatives or friends. Stay by their side. Build that trust. Attachment theory has proven that needs met in early childhood go away, but those that are denied, surface as issues or problems again and again.
Baby or child-led is (almost) always a good idea.
Whether it’s weaning from nursing or bottle-feeding, giving up naps, potty-training, drop-off playdates or birthday parties, etc.—let your child be your guide. This doesn’t mean we as moms don’t try things. It means we are so in tune with our children that we gauge their readiness. We don’t force. This is something I got mostly right as a new mom, and it would just have been such an encouragement to hear this support back then. Instead of all the disapproval expressed both in looks and well-meaning comments.
Take every opportunity to play with your preschoolers (and your children no matter their age).
Laundry, dishes, cleaning the floors, and just about anything else can wait. The connection, love, and pure joy that come from playing with your children is a blessing you don’t want to make wait. Immerse in their world of imagination, feed the ducks, play at the park, color, and finger-paint. Have a picnic in your backyard or on the floor of your family room while watching a favorite show. Build blanket forts and LEGO castles. Run through the sprinkler on a summer day and build snowmen on the snowy days. Bake batches of cookies and don’t worry about the messes.
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Long after all the messes have been tidied and we are left with a clean house, all these memories are what will fill our hearts and fuel our souls.
Yes, you will miss so much about these precious days, but there is so much more preciousness awaiting you in the seasons yet to come.
The treasures of motherhood don’t end with any particular early season. When I was a mama of babies that is something I worried about—that at some point along the journey the magical, thoroughly in-love feelings I had for motherhood would dim or fade. Surely by the time they are off to college and no longer really “kids,” right?
Nothing could be further from the truth. Here I am in this snapshot in time with a college sophomore and a college senior. A teen who is soon to leave the teen years behind and a real young adult. My passion for motherhood and love for mothering them has only grown brighter and stronger.
So cherish each and every part of being a mama— from Mama to Mommy to Mom (and maybe your first name or another nickname). The good stuff is not limited to any age or stage.