Now that we’ve emerged from the baby and toddler years and are entering this next stage with “middles,” here are eight things I would go back and tell myself as a new mom, if I could.
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When my youngest turned four last month, it suddenly dawned on me that we are officially out of the baby and the toddler stage. After eight or so years (depending on how you define the stages) of babies and toddlers, this realization was a bit surreal. And while we still have a couple of “littles” left, we have now entered the “middle” years with our oldest.
Related Post: “Halftime” Report: 9 Reflections From 9 Years of Parenting
While that certainly does not make me a parenting expert by any means (we haven’t even touched the teenage years yet!), it does mean I have more than a few years under my belt. And that near decade of parenting experience has given me the benefit of some valuable hindsight. In the hopes that it might help someone just entering the trenches of motherhood, I thought I would share some of the things I would love to go back and tell myself as a new mom.
8 Things I Would Tell Myself as a New Mom
While we have a while yet before our kids are grown and gone, the last nine years of parenting have provided valuable experience and insight. Now that we’ve emerged from the baby and toddler years and are entering this next stage with “middles,” here are eight things I would go back and tell myself as a new mom, if I could.
1. It really does “go by so fast.”
I see you rolling your eyes right now, and I get it. BOY, do I get it. This is the one thing every new parent hears ad nauseam, and the one thing every new parent tires of hearing. Nothing about those first few months of parenthood feels fast in the moment, and it can be the last thing you want to be told when your baby is crying all.the.time and you feel like you’re going to lose your ever-loving mind. In fact, it’s on almost every list I’ve seen of “things never to say to a new parent.”
So, why am I not only including this one but starting with it? Because it’s just so true. And it’s one of the top things I would tell myself as a new mom. That mom had a rough go for a bit, and it made her question whether she was even cut out to be a mother at all. So, while I would tell her she doesn’t have to “enjoy every moment,” I’d also reassure her that this difficult season of infancy won’t last forever, it won’t always be this hard, and it will be over before she knows it.
This was a lesson I didn’t really learn until my third baby, and it truly made ALL the difference in those first few months.
2. Be patient with yourself
I often hear people describe certain women as being “a natural” at motherhood. “She was born to be a mom,” they say. Well, that… was not me. Starting with a struggle to bond with my baby, the first few months of motherhood felt anything but natural to me. It all felt weird and uncomfortable, I was stiff and uncertain, and for weeks I felt like I was babysitting, waiting for his real mom to come pick him up.
So to that “brand-new-mom” Lisa who constantly questioned herself, cried over her ineptitude, and panicked when people asked how motherhood was going, I want to say, “Be patient with yourself.” Don’t worry that it’s not coming “naturally” to you, you’ll get there. Don’t worry that you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll learn. Don’t worry that it seems easier for other women, easier isn’t always better.”
“Oh, and P.S.” I’d add, “Not only will you get the hang of it, you’ll eventually spend nearly every waking moment with kids, and you’ll love it! More proof that motherhood isn’t a race. It doesn’t matter how you start, but how you grow from there.”
3. This IS important work (even when it feels too mundane to matter)
“New Mom Lisa” was rather taken aback by how much of those early days, weeks, and months were consumed with basic caretaking. Breastfeeding alone felt like a full-time job some days! Then there was the changing, the bathing, the “please stop crying and go to sleep!” rocking at all hours of the day and night…
It was so tempting to compare my daily life to what other women were accomplishing or to what I thought I’d be doing at that point in my life. And those comparisons led to discouragement and resentment.
So, the third thing I would tell myself as a new mom would be, “Stop thinking about the work you’re doing in terms of what you aren’t doing or what you could be doing, instead. Recognize that what you’re doing right now is so incredibly important.”
We may see the importance of the “big” things in motherhood – teaching skills, building character, and cultivating lives of purpose and faith. But none of those things are possible without first laying a foundation of connection and security. Which comes through years of doing the “little” things.
You may be feeling like what you’re doing isn’t special or important or meaningful. But it could not be more special, more important, or more meaningful to the ones you’re doing it all for.
I talk about this more in-depth in my book The Merry Momma Manual: 6 Secrets to Cultivating Joy in Every Season of Motherhood. Learn more about it here!
4. You can do more than you think you can!
In the early days of motherhood, everything felt so hard and overwhelming. New situations arose each day that tested my limits, I couldn’t imagine doing some of the things I saw other moms do, and oh my goodness, how in the world was I going to do it with more than one kid?? There were so many times I was convinced I could not do this mothering thing one more minute.
But one of the biggest takeaways from motherhood so far has been learning that I can do so much more than I think I can. I’m stronger than I think I am, I’m more capable than I think I am, and I have a larger capacity than I think I have. And each new challenge has further proven it.
Of course, I would also remind my new mom self that I can’t do any of it without the Holy Spirit. At least not well and with the kind of joy I want to have. So, I would also tell her, “Don’t try to do it on your own! Lean on the Lord. Seek His strength and wisdom every single day. And trust that He will give you everything you need.”
Related Post: How to Have a Daily Quiet Time as a Mom With Small Kids
Recommended Resource: Never Alone: Parenting in the Power of the Holy Spirit, by Jeannie Cunnion
5. Stay humble and open to guidance
Now it’s time for a little tough love, but know that I say it with all the love in my heart: “Don’t get cocky.” There’s something funny that happens to new parents. We have a baby, and a few months later we suddenly think we know everything. But oh, there is SO much we have yet to learn. (Which is why, nine years later, I still acknowledge I’m no expert!)
So, my fifth piece of advice I would tell myself as a new mom is to stay humble and open to counsel. Remember that seasoned parents have experience you do not yet have, recognize the value of learning from them, and appreciate their willingness to share their wisdom with you. Don’t get defensive; see it for the opportunity it is – to grow in this important role.
That being said, being open to advice doesn’t mean you always have to follow it. Take it all as descriptive, not prescriptive. While veteran parents may have more years on you, that doesn’t ALWAYS mean they have more wisdom. Some advice may be bad, outdated, or simply not the right fit for you and your family. So always use discernment when listening to advice, and test everything by the Holy Spirit.
Recommended Resource: Mothering From Scratch: Finding The Best Parenting Style For You And Your Family, by Melinda Means & Kathy Helgemo
6. You can change your mind!
In the early days of my parenting, I thought if I said something once, I had to stick with it forever. If I espoused a certain strategy or supported a certain recommendation, I needed to hold to that conviction. Otherwise (I thought), I would look wishy-washy, inconsistent, or hypocritical.
I have since learned, however, that just because I was set on something at one point in time, doesn’t mean I have to stay there. After learning new information or gaining new experience, it is absolutely ok to change direction. That isn’t a sign of contradiction, it’s a sign of learning and growth!
I would reassure my “new mom self” that she doesn’t have to take the same approaches from year to year, and she doesn’t even have to do the same thing from kid to kid! Again, we learn so much as we go, it’s only natural that we will re-evaluate what works, what doesn’t, and what could be even better. As we gain experience, we will make different (hopefully better!) decisions.
For example, with my first baby, I was 100% set on making my own baby food, and that was great! But by baby #3, I had fully embraced baby led weaning (still feeding all real food, but without purees), and that was even better.
7. Do NOT base your value as a mom on your kids’ behavior
My penultimate piece of advice doesn’t really come into play for the first couple of years, but once you need it, you really need it. So, I’ll say it now. Do not, I repeat, do NOT base your value as a mom on your kids’ behavior. You will drive yourself – and your kids! – crazy.
Rocking that new precious baby in my arms, I was convinced he would always be wonderful. He would never do this or that, because I would make sure of it. Imagine my surprise then, when that sweet baby turned into a toddler who did, in fact, do those things. And then, oh boy, two years later when I suddenly found myself with a truly strong-willed child, I was completely thrown for a loop.
So, I’d love to go back to myself as a new mom and tell her, “Start working now to root your identity and value as a mom in your own actions and what God says about you. Do not seek validation from your kids’ behavior or achievements. It will lead you to pursue short-sighted tactics to change outward behavior, it will produce discouragement and feelings of failure, and it will put WAY TOO MUCH PRESSURE on your kids.
So always remember to evaluate your motherhood by what you are doing, not what your kids are doing. And above all, remember that your identity is rooted in what God did for you and in you.
Recommended Resource: Mom Set Free: Find Relief from the Pressure to Get It All Right, by Jeannie Cunnion
8. You will NEVER regret time spent with your kids
The final thing I would love to go back and tell my “new mom” self is that nothing is more important than investing in this season of childhood. As I said in my last post, connecting with my kids and developing our relationship is worth the opportunity cost of just about every other thing I could be doing or accomplishing. And I know that at the end of my hands-on years of parenting, I will not look back and regret any of the time I spent with my kids.
Certainly, there are other important responsibilities, tasks, and God-given opportunities that are worth my time and attention. But I only get this one chance to raise my kids. While I’m in these most intensive years of raising kids, that is my priority.
I spent so much of my boys’ first few months stressing about what I thought I should have been doing or goals I wanted to accomplish. And I regret wasting so much time on things that ultimately did not matter nearly as much as my kids do. Realizing that, I changed my approach with my daughter’s infancy, and I have zero regrets.
SHARE WITH US: If you’re a new mom, what part of this post resonated with you the most? And if you’re a more seasoned parent, what would YOU go back and tell your “new mom” self? Tell me in the comments below!
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Share your thoughts!