We all go into motherhood differently. Some of us have read every book, have years of childcare experience under our belts and are ready for the moment when it’s our own baby we’re holding. Others (me, included) don’t have a clue what we’re doing and every day is a marvel (or sometimes sheer terror). Sure, we read the books and listened to the advice, but it’s not at all what we expected.
Regardless of what our first steps into motherhood look like, we are all walking a new path, one that you can only be so prepared for.
“If I’d known then what I know now … well … ”
How many of us have said that? I know I did. And if I could go back and talk to myself, cradling that newborn and exhausted beyond measure, I’d tell myself, “Let someone else hold him. Go take a nap. Now.”
I asked some other moms what advice they’d give their younger selves, whether it was before they had kids, while they were pregnant or when they were new moms. This is what they told me.
Remember who you are because you are going to have to shake hands with that person when this little being is all grown up.
“Don't try to be perfect. You'll make yourself miserable and you'll fail, because no one is perfect. Remember why you wanted to be perfect. It's because you love this child. Do everything from love, not ‘should.’ What works for some people and some children may not work for you or the little person you've made. Don't forget to love yourself, to take care of yourself, to fill up the well. And I promise you'll have so much more to give that sweet little face that looks at you like you're the whole world.” – Saranna
“Remember who you are because you are going to have to shake hands with that person when this little being is all grown up.” – Sonja
“Do not care one iota what anyone thinks of you. It’s wasted angst.” – Erica
“Stop pretending you're not depressed. Go on the meds now. Find a therapist now. It'll make the early months so much easier. You're not a failure for being depressed and anxious. In a few years, you're going to find out that you're autistic, and you'll understand yourself better, but right now—right now, my love, just make the journey easier on yourself.” – Kristine
Pre-Kid: “Be a little selfish and enjoy all the hours in the day.”
Pregnant: “Eat and drink the best you can. It will nourish your little one so if there are complications, you know that you did the best you could to prepare them for their fight.”
New Mom: “Don't feel pressured to do all of the pictures, crafts, meals, etc. Create your own traditions.” – Casandra
“You are going to screw it up sometimes, but don’t waste time worrying because we have all been there. Move on. They will remember the love, not the mistakes.” – Genevieve
“Try not to have too many expectations, don't get too attached to any phases, figure out pain management and patience.” – Tina
“Get a copy of Dr. Spock. It won't solve your problems, but it's nice to be able to look it up and know what your kid is doing/going through is normal and will pass. It's not you, it's them.” – Joni
“Don't compare yourself to other moms. Don't compare your kid to other kids. You do you.” – Lisa
“Take care of yourself.” – Renee
“Your friends will change and that is OK.” – Samantha
“Always laugh. Laugh at yourself, laugh at your kids, laugh at the absurdity of parenthood and of life. Oh, and there are no perfect parents. You can only do the best you can do with the tools you've been given. At the end of the day, all that matters is that you love your babies.” – Eileen
Put a lock on the bathroom door!
“Enjoy your life when you're young. Travel more with your spouse before you have kids. Cherish that time of freedom and youth because you never get it back.” – Shannon
“Keep an open mind and never stop learning!” – Kara
“Cherish naps. And silence. And being able to finish a meal/movie/page/thought.” – Karen
“Put a lock on the bathroom door!” – Rosemary
“You can make a lot of mistakes raising babies, but the one thing that's never a mistake is to give your kid too much attention. Own their problems. Listen. Be vulnerable and make mistakes in front of them. Ask their advice. Show them that you need them in your life and accept their help as often as you can.” – Ericka
“Don't stop to wonder if you can do something. Just go ahead and do it. You'll have years later to realize that no one should have been able to survive on that little sleep (or income or food or housing security or juggling that many classes with a part-time job and a crumbling relationship). Just love your little one, hold him close, put one foot in front of the other, and do it. You can and you will.” – Kathy
“You do not need to crowdsource your every decision about the baby. Your instincts are good. Trust yourself.” – Peggy
“Be yourself and listen with and to your heart!” – Robbie
And one last piece of very, very good advice from someone who isn’t a mom:
“I don't have any kids, but the bookstore feels like a kid sometimes: a big-ass, very expensive, often ailing kid. And I'm a single mom. For the first six months of owning the shop (2008: Yes! I bought a bookstore in the middle of the recession because I'm smart that way.), I cried every single damned day. Then, one day, I picked up the phone and humbled myself to another bookseller and said, ‘I have no idea what I'm doing with (whatever it was)’ and she said, ‘Yeah. I don't know either. Who should we call?’ Pride is a weakness. Ditch it. Pick up the phone and call somebody. Facebook 'em. Tweet. Ask for help. There's a whole lot more mamas out there than indie bookstore owners, so the resources are vast. Life doesn't come with a manual. We only have each other.” – Kelly