I originally wrote this article for Christian Parenting Today magazine for a Your Child Today column. It was later included in the hardcover book, Christian Parenting Answers: Before Birth to Five Years Old (Chariot Family Publishing, 1994), edited by Debra Evans with articles by Dr. William Sears, Grace Ketterman, V. Gilbert Beers, Mary Manz Simon, Kay Kuzma, Patricia Rushford and myself. At that time we were all contributing editors for Christian Parenting Today (300,000 circ.) which is out of print now, although many of the articles were later moved to Christianity Today and Today’s Christian Woman online.
Parenting books often don’t tell you what the first months of mothering are really like.
Here are some aspects of being a mom that you may never have imagined until after your baby was born:
Sudden, constant responsibility for another human being.
Where’s baby? How’s baby? Not a minute passes that a corner of your brain is not focused on your child. Even when she sleeps, you listen for fussing. In your shower, you lather up quickly – fearing you’ll miss her cry. This can drain you mentally and emotionally.
You can cope by occasionally giving someone else full responsibility. Then, let your mind go blank. Perhaps you’re so in love with your child this seems unnecessary. But a break will allow you to come back to her more energetic and at peace.
Some suggestions here will seem like common sense to anyone developing expertise as a mama. But some new moms, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, need simple struggles acknowledged. And if you’re in that position right now, you may appreciate simple reminders that it’s OK to take some pressure off yourself. One of the biggest adjustments for new moms, especially with Type A personalities, is the realization you can’t control as much as you used to. But it’s all worth it!
New dress code.
After spit-up blurps your third freshly ironed shirt in a row, you may feel like crying. Instead, take a realistic look at your closet contents. Put away almost everything that requires dry cleaning, hand washing or ironing. Replace them with new, fun sweatshirts. Keep a few dress clothes for church and occasional date with hubby. (Don’t worry — this won’t be your wardrobe forever! The key is to make life a little easier on yourself right now without worrying about any more laundry than necessary!)
Lack of spontaneity.
Even going to the bank or grocery store becomes a hassle: Pack the diaper bag with its dozen items. Need the stroller? Front pack? Is baby napped, changed, fed and burped?
Instead of feeling exasperated for only accomplishing two errands, congratulate yourself if you finish one. Despite the hassle, don’t avoid weekend trips. They make for a nice change of scene.
Believe it or not, you will indeed develop new routines that work and travel will become easier too.
Time-consuming baby care.
Do you sit in your bathrobe, watching dirty dishes mount? Diapering and feeding take hours of time and volumes of energy. A fussy baby can steal away your whole day. Who has time for housework—there’s barely time to dress and feed yourself.
If you feel like a failure, don’t. You’re shaping a human being—enjoy it. Marvel at those tiny fingers. Beam back at that toothless smile. It won’t last long. If housework trumpets at you and you can’t answer its call, ignore it for a time or ask for help.
When your child wakes you all night, you can be a zombie the next day. You’re more emotional, confused and tired. Parenting books say, “Sleep when baby sleeps.” But there are a million other things you’d like to do in that minuscule hour or two.
Daytime sleep may seem a time-waster, but if you’re exhausted, don’t fight it. Your body must catch up eventually. Poor nutrition and lack of sleep can affect breast milk supply when nursing. If baby won’t nap, let someone else mind her so you can rest. Bits and pieces of sleep never feel quite like a straight eight hours, so adjust expectations for yourself until your child sleeps all night.
Lastly, you were probably least prepared for:
Overpowering love for your child.
You lack time, style, spontaneity, sleep and (apparently) accomplishments. At times there may seem to be more lows than highs. But the joys of mothering can pull you up to the top, too—breathless and ecstatic. Savor those moments. Drink in the view at the top—it makes it all worth it.