As we all know, motherhood is not one-size-fits all. There’s no formula for perfect parenting. And while there are many books and resources available to us, none of them can really act like the instruction manuals we wish they were. “It’s called life,” as my mom would say, and we’ve just got to get on with it.
As a mother who has battled depression, anxiety and an overall undying fear of failure, I often think of the things I wish I knew before I became a mother. I’ll share with you some of my thoughts as well as the thoughts and opinions of other local mamas who were happy to answer the question, “What do you wish you knew before becoming a mother?”
It’s ok if you don’t like it sometimes.
I don’t want to go back and change anything about my start in motherhood, but if I only knew that I wasn’t alone in much of my queries, that would have been a huge help to me. For instance, when someone would say, “Isn’t motherhood wonderful,” I wanted to scream from the top of my lungs, “NO this is far from wonderful!” But I would just smile and say, “Yes! I love it.” I thought I was a horrible person for not being in love with every moment of each day. I denied my own feelings, forcing myself to pretend that I was a happy little mommy when I wasn’t. In fact, the pressure I put on myself to be perfect only worsened my postpartum depression that I was sinking deeper and deeper into.
One mom from Murfreesboro explained, “No one told me about the mental warfare that was going on inside of my body: from mom-guilt to forgetting who I was and my purpose.” Everyone has their own kind of hard when starting their journey into motherhood. Sometimes it’s a hard that people can’t see. The truth is, I wasn’t alone at all! I needed more time, I needed therapy, and I needed to be kinder to myself.
What I wish I knew: it’s normal to have to LEARN to love being a mom.
Have a plan but know it might change.
For good reason, a new mom-to-be might want to have a plan whether it’s how she envisions the birth of her new baby, or how the nursery should look, or if she plans to breastfeed or bottle feed or both. These are all great things to consider and to plan for, but for many, it simply won’t go as planned. And that’s ok! I wanted to birth my baby with as few interventions as possible, but that’s not how the day unfolded. For so long, I actually felt bad about my birthing experience, like I didn’t succeed. Looking back, I am so proud of the strength I exuded that day. There are lots of areas in motherhood where life just happens, and plans change.
Another Murfreesboro mom shares with us, “I wish I knew breastfeeding was going to be a challenge. Everyone’s story is unique and that was a challenge I wasn’t prepared for. It was quite possibly one of the hardest things I have ever done!” Some things are out of our control and how we respond in those moments can help or hurt our perspective.
What I wish I knew: You haven’t failed if your plans have to change. You are strong enough to keep going.
Take the help!
Supermom, Strong Mama, Resilient, Independent, Tough: these are all words that are often used to describe mamas. And they’re not wrong! But sometimes moms are all of these things because they have to be not necessarily because they feel like it. I think new moms try to step up to the plate and do all the things only to find themselves in a dizzy cloud of exhaustion and frustration. (Which can strain even the strongest of relationships). If you have a partner who is able to help, take the help. If you have a family member who offers to hold the baby while you sleep, take the help. If you have a friend who has a second to drop off some food, take the help.
A fellow mama in Rockwood, Tennessee recalls, “I couldn’t go to the bathroom alone. I took showers for granted. I had to eat very quickly before my baby woke up.” Scenarios like these can be shocking to a fatigued first-time mom. There will be days when she might have to choose between eating or showering because doing both seems impossible. Take the help.
What I wish I knew: Asking for help and taking help doesn’t mean you’re not a supermom.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but everyone’s village looks different. Maybe your village doesn’t come at all. It’s vital that every mother arm themselves with advice that goes beyond “sleep now while you can!” And as experienced mothers, I think we owe it to new moms to be a little vulnerable where we can. Try opening up to our fellow mothers and talk about the hard things, the things that almost did you in. Because we are living breathing examples that no matter what, we get through it. And to our moms-to-be, you are already better than you think.
As one of our Mount Juliet moms put it, “You think you don’t know what to do, but you do know!” You might not always like your new role, your plans might change, and yes, you’ll probably need help. But you’ve got this! I suppose that’s what I really wish I knew before becoming a mom.