Momming ain't easy
A quick user guide for the part of life with no user guide.
*TW: talk of pregnancy, motherhood*
"They don't come with a manual". I mean, at this point, after literally thousands and thousands of years of people growing and raising babies, you think we might have some sort of easy-to-follow plan on how not to screw up a human child, no? Or at the very least how not to lose your mind while trying not to screw up said child? I think we could maybe all sit down and try to do that?
It's true that there's no easy way to be a parent, and there is sure as hell no one size fits all solution to anything to do with being a mom. Every woman, child, and family are different, and that's an absolutely beautiful thing, but it also makes it pretty hard to find any solid advice on what the hell to do when you're stuck. So here I am, once again, my delusions of grandeur in full swing, ready to save the entire parenting world with my sage advice after being a mother for approximately 5 minutes.
Before my son turned 1, I wrote an article about the truths of pregnancy I wish I understood before I was living them. On occasion, I share this article with new pregnant mamas going through it and wishing they weren't being bombarded with the rainbows and butterflies bullshit they aren't feeling about carrying a baby. I can't tell you enough how much I've heard that "it's just nice to read something that doesn't make me feel like I'm wrong for not loving every part of this" when my article is shared, which is sad, because I hate thinking that not everyone knows we are all just trying to enjoy what we can and survive what we can't.
I also cannot stand parenting advice, so instead of making this an advice article, I think of it as more as a "mom hack" list; I just literally want to share things that made the first year of being a mom easier in any way; because being a mom is beautiful and amazing but it's also a total stressful shit show. If you don't agree with me or these things sound awful that's totally fair-- like I said, I've been a mom for about 5 minutes, I'm by no means an expert. These things are just what worked for me. So far. And "worked" is a subjective term. When my son can talk we'll see how he's faired so far. Here are the things I couldn't have lived without.
1. Hand-me-downs: absolutely key.
Anything you can get second-hand is worth the pennies saved, people. Do you KNOW how much a stroller costs? Nursery furniture goes for CHEAP once it has been used and seriously-- get a can of chalk paint and make that crib and change table whatever you want. Get on the online marketplace and you'll find it all; there's nothing you can't wash and restore with a little elbow grease for less than half of the price. TAKE the tub of clothes from your friend's sister; babies wreck clothes and extras are always great. TAKE the baby toys. For the amount of time that your baby is a baby, I can promise you that not only is it completely not worth the money to buy things new, but it's also not super cool for the planet to buy all that new crap just to throw it away when it's covered in poop or puke.
2. Freezer meals, freezer meals, and more freezer meals.
The last thing you're going to want to do at the end of a long day with your baby or a long day at work or both is cook 7 days per week, or 5, or hell sometimes even 1, but you also probably are going to want to save those dollars you now need for diapers and matching mommy-and-me sets rather than pizza. A great idea is to ask for freezer meals as a baby shower gift or to have some of the great chefs and bakers in your life come over and help you stuff that freezer a couple of times after baby is born. If you feel so inclined, make big-batch meals and set some aside to freeze and have another time- anything you can do to save yourself some time on your feet is going to be something you thank yourself for later, my friend. It's definitely better when you get other people to do it, though.
3. Accepting help.
There are (hopefully) going to be people who want to help you, let you take a shower, babysit for date night, cook you dinner, shovel your walk, whatever. If there aren't, you tell me where you live, who the people in your life are, and I will be there in a jiffy to hold your baby and vacuum while I kick their asses. My point is, SAY YES. EVERY TIME. Unless you seriously don't need or want the help-- but none of that guilty "I shouldn't", "I'm fine" crap. Every parent needs help and can use it at any time. Kids are exhausting. Free help is a miracle.
4. Getting out. Seriously.
Whether it's a coffee with a girlfriend, a date with your partner, or just going grocery shopping alone, you have to get out and away from baby once in a while. It's good for both of you. It's good to miss your baby once in a while. And the sooner you prioritize and normalize you having adult time away from being a mommy, the easier it will be to incorporate that into your life going forward. I meet moms that have never been away from their kids and I am I pretty sure they must kill for sport to manage their stress. For me, this is literally sometimes just a trip to walk around Marshalls with a coffee for an hour.
5. Knowing that the right thing is what works.
No matter what, if your baby has something to eat in their belly and is loved, they're gonna be happy. You aren't doing it wrong if it's working for you and your baby, period. You can't sleep with the baby in your room? They don't have to be there. They will sleep just fine in their own room, and it won't make them "less bonded" to you. It won't hurt your baby if you bath them every night. If you think your baby seems ready to try solids, let them try. There is a lot of "shoulds" and "should nots" that float around in the parenting world and you need to know that they are all bullshit. For example: I hated breastfeeding. It was painful, it was shitty, it wasn't enough for him anyway, and I dreaded feeding my son. I felt a LOT of pressure to continue even though it hurt terribly and it was preventing me from bonding with my son, when finally I said, "who am I doing this for?" My son was happy no matter what I gave him, and I figured he might have a better time if his mom wasn't swearing, clenching, and crying as he ate, and was instead able to interact and bond with him. CALL ME CRAZY. It worked for him, it worked for me, so it was right.
Bonus: My incredible support system.
I don't want to brag, rather, I want to acknowledge that I know how lucky I am to have had the help I have had and still have thus far. I have loving attentive parents, sisters, and in-laws who adore my son and have helped me without question countless times in the past 15 months. I also have friends who are also moms with an incredible wealth of knowledge, know-how, and "calm-the-fuck-down". I know not everyone has the help and support I have and I truly feel for those moms/parents and have so much respect for the strength it takes to navigate this shit storm alone. Just know I see you, I'm here if you need to chat, and I can mail you a lasagna at literally any given time due to point number 2.