I think back to my first year as a mom and although I wanna say it was magical and full of amazing baby firsts, I tend to grimace at some memories too. I've thought about it many times - that idea of what would I do differently if only I could go back in time?
Advice from current me to past me:
- Stop being so shy and join a damn mom's group: I was so lonely that first year. I was a new mom in a new city, friends and family far away. I went back to work at 11 weeks and interacted with adults 5 days a week but I still felt it. The loneliness wasn't just about those first few months at home as a new mom, it was that first year where you just don't get out as much and people tend to stop inviting you to things. I needed company, I needed to gripe, laugh, swap horror stories, get advice, and even give advice. I needed some mom dates with my baby. I needed to commune with other moms. Google it, find a group near you.
- Take time for yourself and don't dare feel guilty about it: I'm a much better mom when I have some time away from my kids. I don't care what it is, just do it. Very important, you don't have to wait until your kid is 5 and can communicate with other people. Get a date night, ,spa time, workout class, dinner alone, nap, whatever scheduled within a few months of your baby being born if you can swing it. You need to be reminded there is life outside of milk and diapers.
- Try swapping out a few nights with "dad' to get some real sleep: I slept on the couch for two, maybe 3 weeks after we first brought her home while the baby slept next to me in a little bassinet. Don't do that. Get in your own bed and once you're comfortable with bottles, pumping, whatever your gig is, take a night off and sleep. Let dad take a turn and feed the baby at night. It may not go perfectly but don't give up, keep trying.
- Try "The Pause": I think I accidentally did "the pause" with my first child as she started sleeping somewhat decently around 6 months. My guess is that I was so tired that I often waited her out in the middle of the night out of sheer exhaustion and she learned to go back to sleep on her own. Basically, the idea is that many of the night wakings after 3 or 4 months of age are something you need to let the baby learn how to handle themselves. Give it 5 minutes and learn to understand the baby's different cries to see if you really need to go in and console them. See Pamela Druckerman's Bringing Up Bebe for more info but actually just read the whole book. It changed my idea of what parenting should/could be quite a bit.
- This one is a little more abstract but I wish I'd had a way to be "easier" on myself in those first few months, especially the first 2 weeks, hell, the whole first year. I remember 4am feedings on the couch in a sleep deprived state, angry and miserable. I yelled at my baby at 4am and I hated myself for it. How could I hate my life when I had a brand new baby? Easy. Because a brand new baby is hard. And scary. And exhausting. Forgive and move on. (I could write pages on forgiving yourself, but just try.)
These days, I know that first and foremost, I'm a woman. I wanna feel good inside and out. I'm certainly not trying to win some medal about how hard it is to be a mom or sacrifice every bit of my life for my kids. I've got more hobbies now than when I was a lazy, sometimes college student who drank too much. I like the current balance between my children and I, our time and our separate time. It's something I'm constantly evaluating but when your kids understand you're a person too, they seem to gain a different level of respect for you and for themselves. Be a mom, go for it. Be a woman too.