I made lots of dumb mistakes with my first child. Well, maybe I shouldn’t call them mistakes. Let’s say I made some decisions that seem silly now that I’m a more experienced mom. Here is my list of the Top 5 Things I will totally do differently when my next baby comes.
#5: I will nap when my baby naps.
As your due date approaches with your first baby, every woman wants to give you the age old advice of napping when the baby naps. As I first time mom, that sounded ridiculous. Oh yeah? Should I also shower when he showers and cook when he cooks? I just knew I wouldn’t be able to get anything done unless I went into hyper-drive productivity while my baby rested. Napping was out of the question. What I quickly realized after a few short weeks was that I was falling apart. I was exhausted, dirty, and always having only one nerve left and everyone (including my baby) was working it. I was a short fused, impatient mom. My house was clean and the laundry was done, but I was a train wreck. Next time, I am going to be okay with the dishes piling up. I’ll even be okay with ordering take-out more often. I’m going to make my health, my sleep, and my sanity a priority, because my baby and I both deserve for me to be my best version of myself.
#4: I will accept help from people who want to give it.
I was so stubbornly determined to do everything on my own with my first. I felt that if I accepted help, I was admitting defeat. Or that I couldn’t do it all on my own. But the truth is, I CAN’T do it all on my own! There is nothing wrong with letting my mom come watch the baby while I get some things done. It’s okay to let my church friends bring dinners to me. I am not super mom and that’s okay. What I know now is that no one expects me to be super mom, not even my husband or my baby. People want to help out because they know how exhausting a new baby can be. In fact, telling them no actually robs them of an opportunity for joy. They want to help. I need the help. So why refuse it?
#3: I will communicate more clearly with my spouse.
I feel the most loved when my husband knows my needs before I speak them. I like it when he thinks to bring me water while I’m nursing without me asking him. I like for him to say things like, “you look exhausted. Why don’t I put the baby to bed tonight.” Overall, he is really good about that sort of thing. However, with a new baby in the house, I just need more things from him than usual and he cannot always know what I need. When our first baby was born, I spent so much time resenting him for not doing more to help me out. Along our journey, I have realized that my husband will do anything I ask him to do, and gladly. I just have to communicate with him. I cannot expect my husband to be a mind reader. “Honey, I am exhausted. Why don’t you put the baby to bed tonight?” is all I have to say.
#2: I will listen to moms who are more experienced than me
Looking back, I was so quick to write off advice from other moms. If they suggested something that I didn’t agree with, I chalked it up to different parenting styles and I moved on. My son is a bit older now and I have ended up doing most of the things my friends suggested that I do; I just went through a lot of unnecessary mom fails first. I will not discount my own mom-intuition. I believe that God gives us an innate knowledge of our children’s needs and that should not be ignored. However, I will not be as arrogant as I was last time. I could have saved myself a lot of frustration (and wasted energy) if I had been more willing to listen.
#1: I will stop comparing myself to other moms
I am naturally an over-achiever. When my son arrived, I was determined to be the best mom ever. So, it was really important to me that I was doing “all the right things” (like that even exists). I intended to breastfeed for a year, to put my son exclusively in cloth diapers, and to make all of his food when it was time to introduce solids. I also intended to wear make up every day, to take my son to all the events I could, and to continue with all the social obligations I had before the baby came. In reality, it’s just not possible for me to do ALL of those things. Some women can, but not me. The fact is, even though I prefer to cloth diaper, my son is going to survive if I don’t get the laundry done and he wears sposies for a day (or a week, for that matter). Even though I would love to make my son’s food for him now that we are trying solids, I just don’t have time. And that is okay! I have to do what works best for me and my baby. As for the folks who disagree with my decisions, that’s just fine. We are all just ordinary moms, trying to be extraordinary. We have different ideas of what makes a mom extraordinary. There is beauty in that. Starting today, and especially when my next baby comes, I will stop peering into other moms’ strollers to see if their kids are cleaner than mine or better dressed. I will not feel like a bad mom if my friend’s kid is happy and mine is having a very public meltdown. I will just be happy that I am doing my very best. Because my very best is awesome.