Friday, August 1, 2014

Notes to Myself as a First Time Mom

That used to be me.

Sitting around the dinner table, listening to moms of infants and toddlers and babies-yet-to-be, talking about diaper rash and fevers and agonizing over breast vs bottle. Walking through the park on a hot day and looking at little babies in cute little outfits and sweaters, with color coordinated socks and booties. Listening to moms agonizing to pediatricians about colds and fevers and rashes and what to do when baby won’t eat.

That used to be me-and for the record, Dr. Bradshaw, our kids’ pediatrician from the time Princess C was about 6 months old until we moved up here when G-money was three, deserves a gold medal for putting up with me!

Thirteen years of parenting later, I wish I could look back at my younger self and say, “Hey, breathe! Guess 

The world isn’t going to end if the baby’s socks don’t match. Two kids later, it’s a miracle if the socks have been folded. They usually end up in a basket somewhere. You’re going to lose half of them. Your youngest child will delight in wearing one sock pulled up to his knee and one too short to cover his ankles. “Doesn’t have to match, just has to fit” is going to become a motto, so you may as well get used to it now.

Your child is not going to be mentally stunted if you can’t breastfeed. I could have saved myself months of mental anguish over this. Yes, breast is best, but after 12 more years of fighting over the fact that peanut butter and jelly was never intended to be eaten 3 meals a day, the floor is not an efficient food delivery system, vegetables won’t kill you and tortilla chips aren’t a food group, the whole issue of breast vs. formula makes its way to the back burner. (Also, you’re going to have the only kid your doctor has ever seen that manages to self-wean from the bottle at 8 or 9 months old. You’ve got bigger problems.)

Mommy and Me classes are so worth it. Not because your kid needs additional enrichment, which is what you’re going to be worried about at the time, but because you’re going to need an hour or two out of the day where someone ELSE is responsible for coming up with ideas to keep your toddler occupied. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it. 

Don’t stress the birth plan. 13 years and two pre-term c-sections later, you’re going to give up any hope of birth going the way you wanted it to. You’re barely going to remember most of the details, and the only time you’re going to talk about it is as a cautionary tale to moms who are thinking about waiting until the last minute to get an epidural. (Bad idea. Just saying.) So do your homework, talk about it with your OB/GYN, but don’t freak out when the plan goes flying out the window. DO, however, start thinking about whether you want to breast or bottle feed, because that’s going to determine whether or not you get the good drugs on the way out the door.

It’s okay to hate being a stay at home mom. After having to put Mr. A in daycare when he was only a few months old, I was thrilled at the idea of being able to stay home with Princess C. That lasted 18 months, which is probably six months longer than it would have if I’d just kicked guilt out the door and faced up to the fact that some women aren’t meant to be a SAHM. I worked part time from the time she was a year and a half old until G-money was in second grade, and that worked out great for all of us.

Naps and sleep schedules matter (knowing when you’re going to have some adult time is vital for your sanity), but it’s also okay to toss them to the curb every once in a while. There will be some nights where the kids just aren’t ready for bed at bedtime for one reason or another, and it’s easier to toss a movie on and let them lie down in the living room and wind down than it is to argue with the tossing and turning and cups of water and “I gotta go!” that are going to still be going on for the next three hours if you try and send them to bed now.

Get some perspective. Sometimes it’s just not worth the fight. Learn to pick your battles, and try and give your kids as much independence and responsibility as possible without turning them into juvenile delinquents. You’ll all be better for it in the end.

Your husband is the most important relationship you’re ever going to have. You’re going to be a great mom, and your kids are going to love you for your patience and adventurousness and the easy-going, laid back manner you’re going to have one of these days. (Stop laughing. It's going to happen, I swear.) Don’t let being a great mom turn you into a crappy wife though. Your hubby still needs some time with just you, even if it’s just curling up with a cup of coffee while the kids watch morning cartoons. Your kids will learn what to expect from love and marriage by watching you, so make it good.

Take 20 minutes a day with each kid to just be together. The dishes will wait. The laundry will wait. People will judge you for your crappy housekeeping skills, but you know what? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that your kids have the chance to be with you, because the bond you form with them now determines whether or not you’re going to be allowed to hug them in front of their friends when they get to be teenagers. (And sometimes the answer is still going to be no, no matter how snuggly they are when they’re at home. That’s okay too.)

In short, younger me, chill out. It’s all going to be okay.

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