It seems that no matter how many baby books and mommy blogs you devour during pregnancy, nothing can truly prepare you for the joys and hardships of becoming a mother for the first time. In honor of Mother's Day, we asked new moms from all over the country to reflect on what they have learned since becoming mothers. These teachers, lawyers, social workers, and stay-at-home moms jumped at the chance to share their experiences. From the rumors behind the true joys of motherhood to the power of laughing at a poopy diaper, here are seven things motherhood can teach us.
01. Being a Mom Trains You to Schedule Like a Boss
Pre-baby, you can grab your purse, swipe on some lipstick, and waltz out the door. Now, running a quick errand is equal to an epic journey. You'll need extra time to get places and get things done. Embrace it as a fact of life. “Give yourself at least an hour to get ready to leave the house with the baby,”says Laura Ann, a social worker and mom of adorable 2-year old Liam. “You feed, change, and dress the baby. Then you dress yourself, maybe even squeeze in a quick shower. Then you pack the car and the diaper bag. By then, you'll need to change the baby again, or he will have spit up. Then he will be hungry again. It takes a good bit of practice to master the art of leaving the house without help.” Build in extra time when planning your day so you never feel rushed. Bonus: Although everything takes longer, time will also pass by faster than ever!
02. Children Unlock Secret Powers You Never Thought You Had
The “fourth trimester” is a difficult period for everyone. Be forgiving toward yourself and others. You're embarking on a new journey into uncharted waters. “Recovering from childbirth and possibly major surgery from a C-section, dealing with sleep deprivation, and having your world turn on its head takes some getting used to,” Laura Ann says. “But every cuddle, smile, giggle, and tiny milestone makes it worth it!”
In time, your own abilities will surprise you. “I am a person who used to have a hard time functioning on less than eight or nine hours of sleep,” says Becca, a teacher and mom to newborn Thomas. “But I have not slept more than five hours at a time in almost three months, and I rarely feel tired. I truly think moms have superhuman powers. We are given the grace to push past our own physical limitations to take care of our little ones.”
03. You Don't Have to Enjoy Every Moment
Time flies. So treasure every moment, both good and bad. Kathleen, a teacher, mom of Emma and another little one on the way, says, “If lack of sleep and spit-up on my clothes is the price I pay to get to raise this sweet baby, I’m lucky to have the opportunity.”
Katie A., a lawyer and mom to 1-year old Nolan, adds, “It's so easy to get caught up in wishing for the next stage—whether it's wanting him to sleep through the night, sit up all by himself, or learn to walk—that you forget to enjoy the stage he's in. It's true that it goes by so fast. And if you blink, you will miss it. I won't say enjoy every moment because some of the moments just aren't that enjoyable. But every now and then, slow down, breathe in, and enjoy where you are with your precious little baby.”
04. Flexibility is the Key to Your Sanity
It's not exactly a newsflash that babies disrupt everyday life, often in surprising ways. Learning to be flexible and embrace the lack of predictability in your life is invaluable. “One thing that took some time to learn with my first baby was that it’s much easier to adapt your life around a baby than try to force a baby to adapt to you,” Kathleen says. “Accepting the ways of my baby enables me to appreciate her uniqueness more. And that makes me a better parent, which matters far more than being on time or having the house perfectly clean.”
05. Moms Are Each Other's Greatest Supporters
New moms discover that it can be pretty lonely when it's just you and a nonverbal newborn or a toddler in the terrible twos. Making sure you have a community of moms for support is crucial. “I was surprised at first by how lonely it can be to be a new mother, at home all day alone with a newborn baby who can't smile at me or even make eye contact yet,” Becca says. “I found it essential to have a network of mom friends to visit with and answer my questions.” Connect with other moms to help you feel less alone as you navigate your new joys, doubts, and worries.
06. Having a Sense of Humor is a Saving Grace
The less-than-glamorous aspects of motherhood can be overwhelming. But being able to laugh can help mitigate the stress of everyday life. “One thing I have learned that is essential is to have a sense of humor,” says Victoria, a teacher who has a precious daughter, Evelyn. “It's easier to deal with a lot of the negative things if you can find the humor in them. You can stress out about their crying or be grossed out by poop or phlegm and spit. Or you can try to view that particular situation as ridiculous and funny.”
07. There Really is Such a Thing as a Mother's Intuition
Almost everyone said that they have learned to trust their own instincts when it comes to caring for their children. “It has been exciting for me to learn how to trust my motherly intuition in making decisions for my baby,” says Katie L., a stay-at-home mom who recently gave birth to Sammy. “Lots of people will give advice, and there are many good parenting ideas out there. What is most important though is to learn to trust your own judgment. Do whatever works best for you and your baby.” Laura Ann adds, “I think it's hard, especially with the first baby, to stand up for yourself and how you've decided to do things, whether it's swaddling or co-sleeping or breast-feeding versus formula. But in the end, you made your decisions for a reason. So stick to your guns! It's great to ask for advice when you need it. But don't let other people push you. Be confident in asking someone, even a grandparent, to hold or feed the baby a little differently if that's how it works best for your child.”
Katie A. shared a time when she had to trust her intuition because the health of her baby was at stake. Her son Nolan was rapidly losing weight, and she suspected something was wrong. She thought allergies might be the cause and made an appointment with an allergist. She recalls that when she wanted an allergy test done, the first allergist told her she was crazy and was subjecting her child to unnecessary medical intervention. “He said that he was only testing Nolan for my peace of mind. Nolan came back positive on everything this doctor tested.” She trusted her intuition despite the misguided advice of her allergist and switched doctors.
Motherhood is exhausting. But the rewards outweigh the sleepless nights and endless diaper changes. “It just keeps getting better and better, and the challenges are always overcome by the amazing moments,” Laura Ann says.
As a new parent, it can feel like you might never get the hang of this motherhood thing. But Victoria sums it up well: “I've learned a lot about what unconditional love looks like. Even when she's been crying for an hour straight, I love her through it in a way that I've found more difficult to do with other people in my life. She can't do anything back yet, but we still pour out love for her with a patience that I never thought I was capable of.”
A well-deserved Happy Mother's Day to all our wonderful moms and mother figures out there. Thank you for your love!