On November 15th, our little guy turned one…
As many of you know, I was quite nervous about being a mom. In many ways, I didn’t feel equipped to be in charge of a little life, and I felt pretty unprepared. (You can read all about it here.) I was scared I wasn’t going to be nurturing enough, that I wasn’t going to know what to do, and that I would somehow break the valuable gift of life that had been given to the Mister and me.
Well, I’m over a year in, and I’m happy to report that we made it through just fine! There were definitely some months and some things that felt harder than others, but I can’t express enough how big of a blessing this last year has been. I am truly grateful for the gift of being a mom.
Now that our little guy’s festivities and Thanksgiving are over, I’ve been reflecting a lot upon what it means to be a mom and what I have learned since being one.
So, here you go! Here are five of the top things I have learned since being a mom. And, just so you know, some of them are sentimental and some of them are not.
[ONE: It’s actually hard to not post pictures of your kids every two seconds.]
Major confession here: I used to judge others regarding the amount of pictures they posted of their kids. I mean, I thought their kids were cute, but did I really need to see eighty pictures of them a day?
Please forgive me because I now know that it is HARD (like really hard) not to.
I mean staring at the cutest thing you have ever seen in your life and watching that thing do incredible things like sleep and slobber for twenty minutes straight is unbearably precious at times – and the things that seem like nothing to other people are special and significant things to you, so you just have to share them with the world.
It’s just the way it is.
And the upside is you’ll have a pretty good account of what your kid’s future spouse or our future president was like at every month of his or her life. So, soak it in. Appreciate the luxury.
[TWO: The “Mom’s Club” is a vocal and complex club, but it can be beautiful.]
This one has probably been one of the most comical, most frustrating, and most mind-boggling lessons I have had to learn as a new mom. And it, too, has been a major area in which the Lord has worked on my judgmental heart.
In case you didn’t know it, there are a lot of personalities and passions in the Mom’s Club.
I mean, you have the anti-vaxers, the pro-vaxers, the oily moms, the chemical-free moms (they might smell like vinegar), the chemical-happy moms (they might smell like clorox), the rigid schedule followers, those who don’t even know what a schedule is, the moms who think other moms shouldn’t work, the moms who think the moms that don’t work should, the a-dirty-home-is-a-fun-home moms, the clean-home-is-next-to-Godliness-home mom, the cry-it-outs, the never-let-them-cry-it-outs, the smockers (which typically also appreciate monogramming), the moms who let their kids wear pjs all day, the all-organic moms, and the all-processed moms. You also have the never-leave-my-kid-overnight moms, the happily-leave-my-kid-overnight moms, the it’s-a-sin-to-not-breastfeed moms, the moms who use formula, the pro-media moms, and the anti-media moms.
And everything in-between.
At first, I was startled by all of the options…all of the “you shoulds or shouldn’ts.” I mean, some of these things obviously don’t matter, right? But in this club, they do – even if the obvious importance to the person is only found in a small eye roll or a passive aggressive comment when you do, or mention someone who does, something differently. Every mom has landed where they have landed for a reason – because that’s how they believe it should be done – and therefore emotions and opinions run high.
So, enter Kacey Musgraves.
In her song “Biscuits” she sings a little diddy (edited because I can’t personally promote everything she’s going for here), and it’s helped me a great bit in this area:
“So hoe your own row, yeah, and raise your own babies
[Soak your own oak] and grow your own daisies
Mend your own fences and own your own crazy
Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.”
Obviously, as a Christian, I believe in community, so I’m not saying I learned to isolate myself from others for the sake of doing what I want to do. Not at all! What I’m saying is I learned that some things – some opinions – just really don’t matter and that there’s room under the cross to do things differently. In application, this means that it is my job to parent my kid to the best of my ability and to pray for the Lord’s help in that, and to stay focused on those things (as hard as this is sometimes). I fall into and in-between many of the categories listed above and that’s okay, but if my opinions get in the way of me loving someone else, or if they lead me to roll my eyes and judge others, then I’m missing the point of the mom’s club – and I’m helping to turn it into something ugly. I’m turning it into something it was never intended to be. The mom’s club has the potential to be a beautiful and mutually uplifting community…and I have an important role to play in that.
[THREE: Friends don’t let friends parent alone.]
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s true.
“What if my kid always has his days and nights confused?…We are going crazy. How am I supposed to do this sleep schedule thing? I’m still feeling so anxious about things…Did you ever feel this way? Will you pray for me? The woman at BSF is telling me that I need to put shoes on my son, but he takes them off when I put them on and now I feel bad about myself..Help?”
“Let me come over and hold him while you get stuff done. Can I just come over and hang out with you while you stare at your baby? Can I clean your kitchen? Would Dillon like to borrow this truck since he doesn’t have one? I know our kids aren’t close in age, which will make a play date hard, but want to come over anyways? Want to get lunch? Can I watch Dillon while you study for your exam?”
I saw my friends be sacrificial in ways that have spurred me on and challenged me to be more sacrificial in the way I love and serve others in the future – especially the worn-out-sleep-deprived-utterly-confused first-time mom.
So, if that’s you. Hit me up.
[FOUR: Balance is important – but hard to achieve.]
Before our son was born, the Mister and I plotted out a grand list of tangible ways we could prioritize our marriage and still maintain a relationship with each other in the midst of being parents. This list included working out together, having a date night every other week, and taking a trip – just us two alone or with friends – every three months. The plan was good, we both felt confident that we could keep it going, and when our son was born I began pumping so that we could make the plan happen.
I soon realized that emotionally and practically it was a different ball game.
My son was cute, I loved him, I felt extremely attached to him, and I wanted him to feel attached to me. Nursing was harder than expected, and it took a lot of pumping to get what was needed for trips away….and then there’s the mental component.
“What if something happened while we were gone? What if we die? How risky does this trip feel? What about our will? Who should we have parent him if something were to happen to us? Okay…we can go on this date, but we have to be home at this exact time because he’s going to get hungry. Every time I leave I feel like he gets sick. He’s still not sleeping through the night, which feels burdensome for others…should we still go to Vegas? A dinner date sounds good, but maybe I’d rather sleep.”
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting to half-way dread trips away (this feeling only lasted until I was actually on the trip, of course). I wasn’t expecting to cry when I left my son. And I definitely wasn’t expecting to bail on one of the trips I was looking forward to the most – which I did.
I think I expected my values – the idea that it was important for me and the Mister to have a life with each other that didn’t revolve solely around our son – to kick in without a hiccup, but I soon realized that prioritizing one very important thing over another very important thing takes sacrifice and, therefore, it isn’t easy.
But it’s so worth it. Marriage is a gift, but it’s a gift that takes time, effort, vulnerability, sacrifice, nourishing, and a lot of other things. And it needs to be nurtured…even in the midst of parenthood…as hard as that feels sometimes.
Balance isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. After this year, I can definitely say that.
[FIVE: You should work hard to cherish every moment, but don’t beat yourself up when you don’t.]
Being a parent is hard. Every baby is different and everyone handles life’s stressors in different ways, but being a parent has its hard seasons regardless. It’s just part of the deal…or so I hear. At the same time, being a parent is also a tremendous blessing that not every single person gets to experience. And, this year, I’ve learned that being a mom means balancing these two realities all of the time.
And I think this is why the most common advice you will receive as a new mom is, “Cherish it. It goes by quickly.”
Honestly, as I reflect upon this past year, I feel as though I have worked hard to cherish it. In fact, I would say, I have cherished it most moments, but there are days when it just feels difficult. Now don’t get me wrong, these days aren’t difficult because I have a bad kid – my kid is actually super easy (praise the Lord). The days are just difficult because they are…and the deep-rooted, specific reasons are probably different for every mom. But I think what makes these days especially hard is the fact that you know that you “should be” cherishing them.
For me, it typically goes like this.
I didn’t sleep well the night before, then the dishwasher breaks and I have a stack of dishes in the sink (which, for whatever reason, always makes me feel irritable), and I have to do the dishes but I can’t because I need to play with my son who can’t play by himself and then one thing leads to another, and I have a bad attitude and wish I was doing something else….
THEN it happens…
I’m scrolling through Instagram, and I see a post from a member of the Mom’s Club telling me to “cherish every moment”. And I think, “Crap.” Then I think, “I know. I know that it goes by quickly, and that it’s a gift, and I HATE that I’m not cherishing this moment right now. Thanks for the reminder…GRRRR.” And I immediately feel bad about myself and my attitude.
So, let me tell you this: It’s real life, and NO ONE in real life cherishes every moment….even the mom on Instagram who tells you to do so.
So, this year I’ve learned to have grace for myself. I should definitely try…like really try…to cherish every moment and I should pray when things get ugly in my heart, when I start to feel discontent and bored, but, because I’m human and because I’m imperfect, I won’t be able to do it all of the time. I just won’t. And, in those moments, God is still there and I can rejoice in the fact that his mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). In fact, He is able to give me mercy to get through the next minute, if I just rely upon Him…if I just let Him.
So, I guess you could say I’ve reached these conclusions: post pictures of your babies, rejoice in differences (regardless of what people smell like or what people eat), find some new mom to love on, fight for balance, and give yourself grace.
Cheers to learning together.