If I could write a Happy Mother's Day card to myself when I first became a mom, OH MY, there are so many things I'd say. But since time travel isn't possible, I'll address this letter to my friends who are newer moms, to those women who one day wish to be moms, and to my FABULOUS network of amazing moms who've helped me figure out the important stuff about this Mommy-gig.
Dear New Mommy,
Congratulations!! Your little family is such a gift. Life is so magical and good. I know that every little trip to Babies R' Us makes you giddy and that you've fallen in love all over again with your spouse and that you'll never understand what you did will all your time and money before your pre-baby life. But your past is nothing compared to this new, joy-filled, exhausting, terrifying and fulfilling phase of your life and there's no turning back.
So I'd like to share with you some things that I wish I knew before I started down the path of parenting. I really hope these tips will help make Mommyhood a little easier and a lot more enjoyable for you.
1. FOCUS. Don't waste time on your Instagram or FB persona. The way your life appears on the surface is much less important than your real story. Your marriage, your close, authentic friendships, being present for your kiddos, your passions, those things are worth every second and cent in your pocket. And you'll avoid that empty feeling of "less-than" if you aim for REAL, even when it's messy and hard and mind-numbing. I'll tell you a secret: those who appear to have all their $%*# together are some of the loneliest people I've ever met.
2. RELAX. Filling all your free time with errands and cleaning and to-do's gets really old really fast. Leave the dirty dishes in the sink when baby takes a nap and catch up on your own sleep. As the kiddos get older, leave some of the work for them - laundry and dishes and trash are real life skills. Don't run yourself ragged (see #3 and #4 for more on this). Put your feet up when you can. You're less likely to lose your $%*# when someone in your family gets sick (or worse-lice), gets in trouble, or needs a homemade costume for school, tomorrow.
3. RECRUIT. You can do it all, for a little while, but you'll kill yourself in the process. And your spouse won't like living with you. True story. But, if you've worked on #1, you'll have a network of friends and family willing to share the work and come to your aid. Ask for help when you need it, and offer it in return when you see your friends exhibiting signs of being maxed-out, i.e.: eye-twitching and head-jerking and drooling. There's a reason they say it takes a village. Because it does. Make sure you're one of the village people, not one of the zombies.
4. PRIORITIZE. It's not just okay to say NO to things, it's a necessity. Figure out what's truly important and then make sure there's a buffer for emergency situations (AKA: illness, injury and LICE). This takes a self-awareness that you may have to work to attain but if you make that a priority too, it really will help everywhere else. I'll go a little further and remind you that it's OKAY to take time for yourself. Don't be a martyr. It's BAD for everyone.
5. FORGIVE. Not just your kids, who will press you beyond limits you ever imagined, not just your spouse, who will come up short every once in a while (we all do), but yourself too. If you work outside the home, if you spend hours on Pinterest, if you sometimes indulge in coffee, Diet Coke, Netflix, novels, wine, shopping, chocolate, Hobby Lobby, or name-your-vice, if you curse or yell or hide in the closet on that rare occasion, LET IT GO. We are fallible and this job is HARD. Harder than anyone ever admits. Tomorrow is another day and as you figure out how to do #1-4, you'll need #5 less and less.
6. SAVOR. This is probably the one that you'll hear the most: Savor every moment. And it's true. But the way you do this is important too. Please don't make the mistake of trying to record each milestone and every event that you spend all your time looking through the lens of a camera. Your baby, your pre-schooler, your pre-teen, your graduate...they want to see YOU...not just present, but aware. They yearn to witness the joy stretched across your face, the tears in your eyes, the pride when you point and say, "That's my kid." And if you're hiding behind a recording device focusing on downloading the moment instead of living it, you'll miss it. And then the moments will be gone.
New Mommy, I hope my hindsight perspective is useful. Congratulations and Godspeed. This truly is going to be the BEST part of your life.
Happy, happy Mother's Day to all!