My beautiful baby Tessa turned 10 weeks old on Tuesday! I really, truly, have no idea how time has passed so quickly. How did time creep by so slowly when she was in my tummy and I was anxiously awaiting her… and now 10 weeks have passed in the blink of an eye? You need proof that time is relative? Get a baby in your arms and watch seconds melt into weeks.
Being a mommy is everything I’d dreamt it would be, and more. The only thing lacking from my visions of mommyhood?
I don’t feel like crap. I feel great.
Hearing the horror stories and warnings in pregnancy and mothering books had got me all prepped for sleepless nights and a dirty house and stress and loss of freedom and no more home cooked meals and no more showers and so on and so on.
Yes, I’ve been tired. Yes, I did get a few weeks of the baby blues (which I mostly took out on my husband… sorry honey!) And yes, I’ve gotten a little overwhelmed with mounting chores and housework, I’d be lying if I said we didn’t cave and order a pizza now and then and I do now shower like I’m in some kind of speed bathing competition in case the baby wakes. But it’s not “bad” or “hard”. At least not hard in the conventional sense.
As I reread the warnings and cautions found in basic “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” type books, I think I’m starting to see a couple of areas where some new mommies sometimes go “wrong”, in my opinion. As my husband likes to say, “Opinions are like a$$holes, everyone’s got one and they all stink.” So if you think I’m way off track, you might be right, who knows? I’m just speaking from my own experience. I know I’m a new mother, and I’m very new to all of this, but my 10 weeks with Tessa have made me realize what works best for me as a mom.
Maybe I have an amazing, easygoing, textbook perfect baby. Or maybe I’m on to something. Maybe it’s a little bit of both? (Probably.) But regardless, I’d like to share with any other mommies out there the ten things I’ve learned that has helped me in my first ten weeks as a mommy:
This article needed an imagery break. So I present to you: The many faces of baby Tessa!
1. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers.
This is probably going to piss some people off when I say this, but I firmly believe that the widespread insistence that having children means you automatically inherit a messy house and a lack of home cooked meals is just an excuse for laziness. Now I understand that once a child (or two, or three, or four) are walking and getting into everything and being tiny little maniacs, order and cleanliness get hard. And I think “clean” clutter and mayhem in an environment can be HEALTHY and in some cases NECESSARY for a child. I plan on having my home being a delightful jumble of homeschool projects splattered all over the place.
But I think too many people propagate the myth that having children means there must therefore be a departure from domestic duties. In other words, too many women nowadays are using their children as an excuse for their slovenliness, in my opinion. And to excuse their messy house and chronic fast food meals, they ferociously stand by the ideal that children are to blame and “it will happen to you too”.
Maybe I’m just blessed to know a lot of awesome moms who can raise happy healthy kids AND cook and clean too (and teach their children to join in the housework!) or maybe I’m just stubborn, but I refused to believe this from the start. Entering motherhood with the attitude that I can be a mommy and maintain a house as part of my daily duties has helped enable me to do so. So when the going gets tough, I don’t just cop out. And I’ve spent every day since Tessa’s birth sticking by my duties as a stay at home housewife with an “I can do this” attitude.
Yeah, it’s somewhat harder to accomplish housework and social obligations and recreational time with a baby, and I’m sure it’ll be much harder when she’s toddling around and eventually running all over the place. To get chores done or run errands or even meet with friends I have to plan my day now, and work around her naps or carry her in the ring sling while I work and play. But maintaining the house and living my life while still giving Tessa my all as a mother is do-able. And if it’s ever not, this brings me to the second thing I’ve learned…
2. Take all the help you can get.
When I came home from the hospital, my in-laws were visiting from Washington State. When the dog needed walking, or a prescription for that sweet, sweet miracle of Tylenol-3 needed picking up or if mommy needed a nap, the in-laws would walk the dog, pick up the prescription or watch Tessa. My husband made a point (and still does) of taking care of as many dirty diapers and bottle feedings as he can when he’s home, to give me a break.
After the in-laws left, my parents came to visit, and the baby watching and chore helping happened all over again. As a result, I was one of the most well-rested, bright-eyed new mommies you’ve probably ever seen. I’d have had a spring in my step right out of the hospital if it weren’t for that damn perineal tear. Whenever people were amazed I was “so awake” or “out and about so early”, I thought I was just one tough cookie. A champ if you will.
Then the in-laws and parents went home and Jonathan’s paternity leave went away and he went back to work, and I realized, HOLY CRAP caring for an infant solo is no walk in the park! While I CAN take care of Tessa alone, it is far better for myself and by extension far better for her if I take all the help I can get.
So I’ve made a point of swallowing my pride (like a little kid trying to assert her independence, I still have a tendency to shout, “I can do all by self!” and try to take the reins on… well… everything) and now I ask for help when I need it. While I am lucky to have family and a husband that can and want to be involved in carrying the blessed and beautiful burden of raising a baby girl, I am convinced that if ever I can’t turn to them for help, I will – for my sake and for my daughters – find a network of people who can.
Most churches have mommy’s night out daycare nights. There are tons of friendly mom groups out and about in the community – from Crunchy Moms to Military Moms to Christian Moms – that are an amazing resource for babysitting co-ops, housework swapping or simply available as a shoulder to cry on. Not to mention lots of babysitters aren’t opposed to an extra few bucks for doing housework.
Just don’t be afraid to ask for a hand. I would not think being a mommy was such a walk in the park if I’d had to go through the baby blues alone.
3. Know what kind of a mother you want to be.
Know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Any business, corporation, heck even student clubs in elementary school campuses have a mission statement. It you know what kind of a mother you want to be, and what you expect to accomplish by your children, it will steer you in the right direction when the waters get choppy. I am convinced that clarity of vision and focus will get you through the darkest of hours.
I wrote a Mission Statement on Motherhood last Mothers Day, when Tessa was still just a wiggle in my belly. Jonathan and I were in Washington State visiting his parents before he left for Navy Boot Camp, and we were staying at a cabin in the gorgeous Olympic Peninsula. Surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of God’s creation (and the location of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, haha) I spent a weekend just pondering what being a mother meant to me. And then I put it down in writing.
By charting out my course beforehand, I don’t feel so overwhelmed now. I don’t suffer the nagging doubt that I’ve heard so many fellow moms confess to: Doubt in their ability to be a good mom. Fears that their children won’t love them. Fears that they’ll “mess up” their upbringing or won’t be good enough.
When I look at my “Motherhood Mission Statement” I know that as long as I stay true to those principals, as long as I give my all in those areas and commit to staying true to my ideals, I will be the best mother that I can be. Even when I’ve fumbled in areas, I have no regrets over the past 10 weeks because I have kept my eye on my goals as a mother and have given Tessa my 110%.
I am convinced that more moms wouldn’t feel so lost or confused or doubtful if they simply determined beforehand what kind of mother they will daily strive to be.
4. Know that you are an imperfect person.
While we strive for perfection as mothers, the simple fact is, there are no perfect people on this planet. (Well, there was this one guy, once…)
Having a Motherhood Mission Statement is vital, but we must also realize that there is no such thing as a Supermom. We can’t do it all. And sometimes, even when we have the help of friends and family, it’s still not enough to feel “on top of it all”. And that’s okay. You are not perfect.
That doesn’t mean that you are valueless. You are loved by God. You are unique and you are indispensable to your child. But knowing that you aren’t perfect and that you can never be perfect gives you the freedom to try your best and accept grace when your best doesn’t seem to be enough.
The thing is, you WILL fall down as a parent. You WILL drop the ball and make some mistakes. But you just need to get back up and keep trying. Because your baby is worth it and your all is all that she needs.
Resting firmly in the knowledge of that fact makes my “failures” seem like learning curves and not an assault on my qualifications for motherhood. God gave me this child for a reason, and as long as I keep trying and keep moving forward (to quote that amazing Disney motto in Meet the Robinsons) I will do right by her when I give her back to God. So when I am too busy to water the plants or take the trash out, or so tired I change the litter box but put the lid on wrong so that the cats end up pooping all over the floor (sigh), it’s not a huge issue. I’ll plan better next time and I’ll do this next little thing I’ve learned…
5. Laugh at everything.
Laughter really is good medicine. When you’ve got a tiny little human on your hands, nothing is in your control anymore. Things are gonna get pooped on, peed on, spit up on.
So just laugh! Here are some benefits of laughter that I totally didn’t just steal from this website:
Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
So laugh! But even better than laughter…
6. Give everything to God.
Pray about every little thing. The good, the bad, the funky. I started praying for Tessa when she still in the womb (and before she was even conceived, truth be told) and I blogged earlier about Praying Through Your Pregnancy. While it’s important to cover your child in prayer, the benefits for you are impossible to exaggerate.
Can you think of any greater honor than to have an audience with the One who rules over ALL creation? We have been invited to talk with the one who put the stars in place. We are invited to seek counsel from the One who is truth and wisdom. We are invited to sit down with the One who knows all things.
And prayer makes a difference! Circumstances change when people pray. Diseases are sometimes healed, strength is imparted, guidance is given, hearts are softened, needs are met. I know that when I pray for others it helps them. But I also know that when I pray, I am changed. Into a better person, a better wife and a better mother to my little Tessa.
7. Don’t stop doing what makes you happy.
This was a BIG point that Jonathan and I heard a lot when we found out we were expecting. “You won’t be able to cosplay anymore once you have children.” “Eat up now while you can, you won’t be cooking anymore gourmet meals with a baby.” “Your poor cats, you won’t have time to play with them once Tessa is born.”
I will admit, I actually feared that these statements would be true. Like some inexplicable and irreversible virus in a zombie apocalypse flick, I feared that the infection of becoming a mother would render me hobby-less and passion-less for my personal pursuits, completely outside of my will. It was the thought of losing myself that scared me the most.
Because while my baby girl is my little baby world, I am not my child. If I find my identity in her and her alone, I am not living my life the way God intended. While my priorities have undoubtedly changed, I still think it is important – if not vital – to pursue you personal interests. From personal observation, the healthiest and most emotionally adjusted mothers I know take time to pursue interests, foster friendships, and make time for the things in their lives that bring them joy – both with and without their kids. So Jonathan and I are both making a point of taking time for the things we liked to do as a couple before we became three.
Again, it’s harder to, say, try out that new recipe in my New Orleans cookbook with a baby in tow, but it’s not impossible. It brings me joy, therefore I will make time for it and plan for it, even if it means hours of prep time between naps and feedings.
Just don’t lose yourself. Keep growing and cultivating who you are.
8. Don’t neglect your marriage.
Your baby needs two loving, devoted, madly and passionately in love parents. So flirt like a sexually frustrated pubescent teenager and indulge in some cheese-ball level romantics with your honey.
Find time for intimacy, in any and every way. After Tessa made her grand debut via vaginal birth, I couldn’t have The Sex for about 6 weeks post-partum, so Jonathan and I made a point of giving each other massages, making our own aromatherapy massage oil concoctions. (I don’t know what was sexier, playing mad scientist with tiny vials of smell pretties with my husband, or massages by the fireplace.)
While we aren’t alone anymore, we’re making a point of becoming closer than ever. We take our baby into the tub with us and have long talks about our hopes and dreams for her future. We watch Muppets Tonight reruns while hugging her between us. Just gazing down at a sleeping Tessa is one of the most romantic things we’ve ever done.
Keep the romance going. Your husband will be the one still by your side when your little baby is off making babies of her own someday.
9. Don’t neglect your friends.
In the same vein of people warning that we “won’t have time to pursue hobbies anymore”, we didn’t want to be the couple that neglected our friends once we had kids. We’re lucky because a combination of Jonathan working constantly and us being a country away from our friends and family has made it easy to neglect our friends out of necessity and not out of baby induced negligence. Haha!
But we have made a point to socialize with our little tot in tow. We attend community events from art walks, to book signings to anime conventions. We meet up with new friend at movie releases and church events.
No man is an island, and no family should be either. Get in the habit of fostering active friendships and maintaining relationships with loved ones. I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s good for you emotionally and what’s good for you, makes you a better mother. (Plus, you’ve got a really frikkin’ cute baby to show off!)
10. Take time for yourself.
Last but not least, take time for yourself. When the baby is sleeping, give yourself a foot soak. Read a book. Watch some anime. Write a blog post. Go on a hike. Take a nap. But don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Your baby needs a healthy mommy. So make sure you meet your own needs. When you are well-rested you can enjoy every minute with your baby that much more!
WELL! Those are the ten things I’ve learned these past ten weeks. I think these points really are the “secret formula” to healthy and happy parenting. I’m sure I’m overlooking some other vital points. So help me out. What have YOU learned as mother? Let me know, I’d love to share trade secrets! ^_^