Somewhere along the line, having birthed three children and raising them well enough that we can take them out to eat at casual restaurants without being overly concerned they will burn the place down, has somehow qualified me as an “expert” in parenting among my novice peers. Now, there are mornings when they have been awake for a grand total of three minutes before I am sending them all back to their rooms to start over because we do not say “Good Morning” by kicking our brother in the face because he is playing with the Power Rangers Super Mega Force Morpher. On those days, I just want to eat cake for breakfast and pour Jameson in my coffee, but instead I have to put on my big-girl panties and figure out how to be the grown-up for one more day.
Does that make me an expert? I suppose so.
I guess that’s why a friend of mine send me this text message.
Sage wisdom, she sought. On behalf of her friend who was staring mommyhood in the face for the very first time and was terrified, she asked my advice. I remember how shell-shocked I was when we brought that squalling little human home from the hospital and suddenly I looked around and the nurses were gone, I still couldn’t sit like a normal person without the stupid doughnut balloon and my boobs felt like they were made of solid granite, filled with molten lava. I think I made it about two days before I called my cousin in a panic, sobbing and choking and admitting that I felt inadequate and unprepared. This was wrong, all wrong. I wasn’t supposed to feel like this. All the books, BabyCenter chat rooms, and classes hadn’t prepared me for the feeling that I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I needed her expert advice. After all, she managed to raise four kids into pretty normal human beings, so she clearly had it all together.
Nearly eight years later, it was now my turn to be the expert.
Here is the advice I told my friend to pass along. Word for word.
- You’re not going to kill the baby. There will be moments when you are so panicked and overwhelmed at the situation you find yourself in that you wonder why on earth you ever thought having a baby was a good idea in the first place, but those moments do pass…with chocolate, a little wine, a good cry, and a chat with a good friend. (That being said, if you’re having some really nasty intrusive thoughts, GET HELP.)
- There will be times when you regret having a baby. Just putting it out there, keeping it real. Life changes so drastically that you will miss the days when you could sleep through the night, leave the house whenever you felt like it, and not worry every waking second that you are irrevocably screwing up the life of another human being. The regret is normal and it doesn’t last forever. And it doesn’t make you a bad mom.
- Most advice you will get about having your first child is crap. Ignore about 98% of it. Breastfeed, formula feed, co-sleep, crib sleep, work in an office, stay at home, make your own baby food, buy Gerber, WHATEVER. Do whatever you want because what works for your kid, is what works for you. Tell anyone who tries to make you feel badly about any of your parenting choices to pound sand.
- Laugh at EVERYTHING. The projectile poop on the wall, the sleep deprivation, the eruption of spit-up all over your dress at a wedding, the yoga pants and stained tops that become your uniform, that moment when you accidentally shoot your partner in the face with breast milk the first time things get a little frisky, the fact that you haven’t showered in a week. Just laugh.
- You are not alone in this. We moms crave community because being a mom is the most intense job on the planet and we need to know that we aren’t the only ones dealing with whatever crap our kids are handing out that day. Do not, under any circumstances, isolate yourself and try to power through on your own. Join a moms group, start reading blogs, invite other moms over for “playdates” where the kids play and you two drink and gossip, whatever. Build your tribe. It’s crucial.
And that was as far as I got before my middle son didn’t quite make it to the bathroom in time, at the same moment my 3-year-old decided to use my planner as a coloring book and the dog was barking his head off at the poor neighbor kid just trying to pedal his tricycle in peace.
Of course, it was only when I came back to write more that I realized that my friend didn’t ask for advice at all. She wanted recommendations for books, blogs and articles from REAL experts.
Oh, well. SEND.
And for all of you first-time mamas out there who are still panicking, still terrified you’re screwing it up, take it from this non-expert. You’re doing just fine. You’ve got this.
What expert advice would you give to a first time mom? Any advice YOU were given that turned out to be totally worthless?