No one can prepare you for it. The baby showers, the pregnancy apps, the books – there is nothing to prepare you for motherhood until it hits. It is a baptism by fire. There will be times you will wonder if the person that existed before your precious babe, will ever resurface. You will wonder why people keep having babies after doing it once. You will wonder how that mom with the 3 small children can get out of bed in the morning and still be friendly to the cashier.
You won’t ever be the same. While that might sting a little bit, don’t freak out. There is nothing in life that is worth doing if it doesn’t make some sort of fundamental shift in your being. Could you imagine being the same person you were when you were 18? What a nightmare. I don’t think I would have any friends left.
Change is good. Change is hard. Babies are hard. Motherhood is hard. But the few tips I have listed out here are for you to help you navigate this change.
Oh, I know. You’re already rolling your eyes because you don’t get any. And feel like you never will. But, sister, when you can get it – make it a priority. There is nothing else that will derail you quicker than sleep deprivation. If a friend wants to know how she can help, tell her you need a shower and a 15 minute nap. If your husband works, make sure he takes the weekend shifts. You will wrestle with the feeling of wanting your old self back but being so exhausted by the thought of that person. You’re not missing anything extraordinary. People will have more birthdays. Movies can be rented. Raves aren’t a thing anymore. SLEEP.
Take all the Shortcuts
We live in a world where there are a plethora of items and resources available to us. Seven years ago, my grocery cart looked like an ad for Whole Foods. I cooked for at least an hour every day, lots of veggies, organic dairy and nothing prepackaged. When my daughter was born, I started making all her own food. I remember standing in my mother-in-law’s kitchen and waving my wooden spoon around, naively wondering aloud why anyone would ever buy pre-made baby food.
Cut to current day, three kids later. Those squeeze pouches with sweet potato, apple and blueberry? GOLD. Baby granola bars? I throw those things in the back seat as soon as I hear crying. Frozen pizza is on the menu once a week.
Have I completely lost my love for pure food? Absolutely not. Is it way faster and sanity-saving to throw fish sticks and fries in the oven? Yes, ma’am. Do baby carrots save me the time of peeling and cutting up raw carrots from the market? Uh, yeah.
I am not promoting a processed-food diet. My point is that it’s ok to take a few shortcuts while things are crazy. Serving a beautiful gourmet meal will happen at 8:30 because you had to change diapers, help with homework and cleanup the liquid soap that your toddler poured on the floor. But sitting on the couch to read to your sticky-fingered babes while a pre-made lasagna cooks away in the oven? I think you get my point.
Carve out time for you
Again with the eye-rolling. Just hold on. You may think this is nearly impossible but hear me out. Often, we moms are very good at ranting about how much time we don’t have for us and everyone should feel our pain and respect the childbirth. We did that. Truthfully, though, if we stop playing the martyr for just a second, we could get 15 minutes here and there just to get our heads above water.
Today, my husband made plans to go to his favourite game store before we head out to a dinner party. He then has plans AFTER the party to go out with his friends. I was starting the pity party about how I have to do everything and I have no time for me and blah blah blah. So I said, matter-of-factly, I need to get out for 30 minutes. He hesitated, and replied, ok if that’s what you need. Now here’s what went on in my brain – I got all defensive and almost stayed in the house JUST TO HAVE AMMUNITION FOR LATER. Horrible, but true.
Then, I left the house in disarray, went and got a coffee and walked around a store for 30 minutes. In just a short amount of time, my annoyance at who-knows-what dissipated. I was able to collect myself and when I returned, my perspective had changed.
Take time for yourself. Sometimes that’s only 5 minutes, locked in a bathroom. Or a shower after everyone is asleep. Try to peel yourself off of social media (life-sucking) and devote a small amount of time in the day for things you love (life-giving) like crafts, reading, crosswords, baking, playing music – whatever reminds you that you are still in there, under the yoga pants and slouchy sweater.
We all still need you
You know it’s better to give than to receive? You’ve heard that a bajillion times, but let me tell you that one of the best things you can do is to remember others. Plan random acts of kindness. Make (or order) your spouse’s favourite meal once a month. Send a friend a text, just to tell her you’re thinking about her. Call your mother. Small things like this will help you remember that your world doesn’t just revolve around this tiny person. You are more than your role as a mother. While it is the MOST important job you will do, it does not define you. You are still needed as a wife, a friend, a daughter and a human. Don’t let that overwhelm you – you cannot be all that you were before. Your plate has become increasingly more full. But do let it motivate you. They all still love and cherish the roles you played in their lives before and they will understand that you have changed. Do not push others away – they will be the ones who extend their arms down to you when you need a helping hand.
Take care of yourself
Eat. Drink water. Crawl into the shower if you have to. Make time to get a haircut or have a fun bonding experience with your husband as he dyes your hair in the kitchen while you’re pumping. Buy a new set of sheets. You might feel like a zombie, but taking a few minutes every day to get yourself together will help you feel more awake and prepared. I cannot do anything before I brush my teeth. If I can’t accomplish that task, it takes away all motivation for me to complete anything else in the day. Find a few things that will help get you out of bed, like a fancy syrup for your coffee or new lip gloss. Shallow? Maybe. Helpful? Absolutely. It’s amazing how motherhood lowers the bar for daily expectations. And when they are exceeded, someone may as well put a medal around your neck.
You will get through this. Love yourself. Love others. And for goodness sakes, stop reading and go to bed.