Jen at Conversion Diary asked for words of encouragement for a new mother. Well, as I come crashing in at the end of my third pregnancy I’m feeling rather smug regarding my parenting knowledge and thought I would share what my experience has taught me.
#1 DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
Now, I know everybody tells you this from the moment that the first pregnancy test comes back positive, but I will tell you that this is the hardest lesson to learn but also the most important. Every grandparent or ‘retired’ parent will tell you; “spend less time cleaning and more time playing”. You know what? Listen to your elders. Is my house a mess? Yes. Most days my sink is full of dishes, my laundry back-loaded, and toys in my family room. In exchange for that I have well-adjusted children who get to experience a mentally sane mother (on most days). Some day I will have children old enough who can do the dishes, vacuum and make their own beds. In the meantime, they clear their dishes, put their laundry in their hamper and do the best they can. And you know what, I no longer care if my house is clean. I reject the idea that cleanliness is a sign of a successful mother.
#2 DON’T CRY – LAUGH
Motherhood is filled with the most ridiculous moments and indeed most “mommy blogs” are filled with tales of such silliness. In my case I can recount stories of spilled paint on carpet, exploding poop on visiting relatives, puke in the middle of the mall, etc, etc. If you thought child delivery lacked modesty and was embarrassing, well, that is only the beginning. You must learn to laugh at yourself or you will find yourself crying far too often.
#3 ASK FOR HELP
At 39 years old and approaching the arrival of my third child I have learned this lesson. I cannot do it all, and I’m not going to martyr myself in an effort to somehow garner praise and appreciation from some invisible entity. Let me fill you in on a secret, your children will not appreciate you more for killing yourself and neither will your spouse. They won’t appreciate you, they will resent you. I pay for a housekeeper to clean my house every two weeks. I pay for babysitters when I need a break or assistance to get things done. Motherhood is a hard job and it is a 24 hour job – you cannot do it all the time
#4 CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK
You are not going to be a perfect parent all the time. You will snap, yell, scream, throw a grown-up tantrum, let them watch tv, eat popcorn, processed foods, sugar, soda pop, etc. None of these things make you a terrible parent. One of my best friends is a family therapist and she has said to me on more than one occasion that unless I’m beating, purposefully neglecting or feeding my kids drugs I’ve got a long way to fall to become a bad parent. Most of us are consciously trying to read to our kids and provide a well-balanced diet in a loving and supportive environment. It is just that that environment is hard to maintain 365 days a year. Some days you are going to be lucky if the kids spend the day watching PBS and eat macaroni and cheese for dinner.
#5 YOU KNOW NOTHING
When I was pregnant with Lucy I was terrified of the unknown. What was it going to be like to be a parent? How was I going to handle it? How hard was it going to be? When I got pregnant with Max I had confidence and arrogance that was most definitely a mistake. Max came out and was NOTHING like Lucy. It was as if I was a first-time parent all over again. Now, pregnant with my third I recognize that I know nothing and there is peace in that. No use in preparing for this child because it won’t matter. Whatever I anticipate or plan for will be wrong.
Finally, my mother-in-law has a sign on her desk that says “children grow to become the love they know”. No matter how crazy my day is, or how much my children drive me crazy if I can end the day with a hug, kiss, snuggle and the knowledge that my kids know that they are loved, well, that is a successful day.