After a full year of calling myself a mama, there are some things I would like to share with new mums or mums to be. I don’t consider myself to be an expert in this motherhood journey, but I think I am in a position where I can offer a tip or two to those of you who are just starting this amazing adventure.
Life is about to change in a way you won’t really understand until you are actually there, doing that all important mama job. So, let’s dive in and find out what this mama has got to say after a year full of joy, love but also struggles, tears and countless sleepless nights.
You ARE a good mum
The most important thing to remember is that you are doing a great job, no matter what comes your way. You are a good enough parent to your baby. You are not perfect, in fact, no one is (shocking, I know). But as long as your baby is happy and healthy and all his basic needs are met (fed, rested, changed), then you are doing the best job for your baby.
Don’t strive for perfection; there is no such thing as a perfect mum, only a good mum.
In your motherhood journey, you will meet other mums who just seem to have it all together. Their hair and make-up done to a perfection, their baby playing nicely, while yours screams her head off. You may be the only mum in your circle of mums who gives her baby a dummy, and you’ll feel like you are failing big time. You’ll find yourself comparing to other mums and wonder how come they look so on top of everything, while you struggle to get out of your pyjamas on some days.
But here’s the thing. No one has it all together every second of every single day. I know a mum who seems so confident on the outside, and when she told me she has struggled with mental health issues for years, I could hardly believe it.
The point is, don’t look at other mums and compare yourself and your baby to others. Now, this is easier said than done, but trust me, this will only make you feel worse about yourself. You really don’t know what’s underneath the seemingly perfect surface.
I still struggle with this comparison game at times, but I have also learned to have confidence in my own abilities. Motherhood is a learning process. I’m learning and getting slightly better at it every day (or at least, that’s what I like to think). And that’s the key thing to remember; to have faith and confidence in yourself that you can be the best parent your baby needs.
Lower your expectations
Lower your expectations as a mum and that of your baby. Don’t beat yourself up for letting your baby sleep in your bed (as long as you follow the safe sleep guidelines), for bribing her with a snack when she’s having one of those moments in public, or God forbid, for giving her a dummy. Do whatever feels right for you in any particular situation.
Don’t expect your baby to behave in a certain way. Be prepared that there will be times when things go smoothly, but more often than not, things won’t go according to a plan. Your baby doesn’t understand that your sister’s wedding is an important day for you and she should be on her best behaviour. In reality, for her, it’s an unknown and stressful situation with all the people and noise around. Therefore, if you expect the best behaviour, you should quickly forget about that.
So, there are good days, and there are bad days. When they sleep for most of the night, it doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. My baby was a relatively good sleeper in the first few months, but then it all went downhill. She suddenly started waking up more often. Some nights I even wondered how many more sleepless nights I could handle.
When they eat the carrot puree you give them for the very first time, don’t get too excited. It will all change, most definitely, for the worse.
I don’t want to sound too negative here, but you need to be realistic. As much as motherhood is a learning curve for you, so is your baby learning everything about the world around her. The first year will be full of unpredictable highs and lows. There will be setbacks, when you think things are finally improving, only for everything to get even worse. That’s just the way it goes.
Try to stay present
This one is really hard. At that moment when you have to cope with your baby’s colic or when she wakes up at least fifteen times a night, it’s difficult not to feel overwhelmed. You’ll be praying for this phase to be over. You’ll want nothing more than to get your sanity and sleep back. But trust me, when you realise your baby is becoming a toddler and those precious baby moments are gone forever, you will have fond memories even of those challenging times.
I’m not going to kid you; it will undoubtedly be very hard at times. Even though, as difficult as it is in situations like these, try to savour these moments with your little one as much as you can. They will be toddlers before you know it.
Get out every day
Even if it’s just a walk around your neighbourhood for half an hour. You’ll get crazy if you stay in all day with your baby. I’ve had few such days, mainly due to weather conditions outside, and it was torture. The day is never ending, and with a small baby it can be, let’s face it, a bit boring and repetitive. You feed, change the nappy, play, hold, comfort the baby and repeat all day long.
Nowadays, even if it rains, I get on a bus and go to a shopping centre or some other indoor place. Go for a coffee with a friend or arrange a play date, anything, just get out. Change of scenery will only benefit you, and your baby at the same time. Win win situation.
Be selective about the advice you receive
When you become a mum, you will receive advice from all different corners; your parents, friends, extended family members, even from people you’ve never met before. Everyone will be eager to throw some words of wisdom at you.
Remember, there is the good advice, and then there is the not so good advice, mildly said.
As new mums, we are desperate for advice (the good one). When you find yourself in a whole new territory, and motherhood is a new territory in every possible way, you’ll need someone to talk to and ask all those silly questions you will have. Someone who’s been there and understands what you are going through. That’s when my good friend comes in. She’s had a baby a year earlier than me, so I know her advice will be relevant and current.
However, you’ll also receive unsolicited advice, A LOT. That’s the advice you don’t ask for but receive nevertheless. You know, when people tell you not to pick up your baby every time she starts crying because you will spoil her or when they say don’t let her sleep with you in your bed because you won’t get her out later. This is the type of advice you don’t really need. I always listen politely what others have to say, but most of the time I just disregard it straightaway. If I’m in need of advice, I know where to seek it.
So, you want advice from someone who’s had children recently, and everything is still fresh in their memory. From anyone else, you need encouragement more than anything else.
When you embark on this beautiful journey called motherhood, be confident that your baby has exactly the parent she needs. Expect the unexpected, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Know that you are doing a great job when those challenging and difficult situations come your way.
Want to add some more tips? I’d love to hear your experience.