Recently I experienced the birth of my second child, and have survived the first couple months. Unlike with my first child, where I didn’t have many close friends who had babies yet, this go-round I’ve traded some battle wounds, text message prayer requests, and swapped stories with some other moms. I’ve gone through the recent swirl of emotions that go with this process, heard from others who have recently been there too, and come out with the overall conclusion: We’re all in this fight together.
I hope to share some of what I’ve learned in these small moments of clarity to help new moms, veteran moms, or even myself again.
Dear New Mom,
Wow. You are a mom. It’s hard to get that reality through your brain, isn’t it? It feels almost alien. A little unreal. Daunting. Scary as hell. You keep looking at the baby and pinching yourself. You would think 9 months would prepare you, but it doesn’t really.
I’ve had two kids now, and I should be used to it and I’m not. I still don’t feel old enough to take care of myself, let alone another human being. And, I still feel a little scared when I have them both by myself for more than 30 minutes.
But I have learned a few things. But let’s be very clear: I haven’t “learned” them in the sense that I don’t struggle with them anymore – in fact this list I may need to read every day until I get it through my thick head. No – God in his mercy is showing me and pointing these out to me personally, and I feel I should share a few of them with you for the very reason that you shouldn’t feel alone in this battle, and that like me – you could preach these to yourselves daily.
- There isn’t a right way to feel about being a mom. I remember wondering if I “felt excited” enough about the fact I was pregnant. After taking the pregnancy test, I was so freaking tired that I went to bed that night without telling my husband and waited until I could conjure enough energy to break the news to him with at least excitement in my voice. From the very beginning, I was very down on myself for feeling the pressure to “feel” how I saw others feel. Over time I learned that for me – it was hard for me to be excited about something I knew nothing about. Now that I’m no longer pregnant I’m still tempted to judge my feelings by comparing my inward feelings to what I perceive other moms are feeling. If I feel anything less than the warm fuzzy feeling I suppose other moms feel – I question myself by saying “do I love being a mom as much as they do?”, or “What’s wrong with me that I don’t want to be around my kids 24/7?”. The reality is that there isn’t a “right way” to feel – and we can never be certain how other moms are actually feeling. We need to stop being the judge of our feelings and feel the freedom to just feel them and bring them to God.
- Motherhood is Messy. Now that I’m a mom, I realize my sinfulness more than I did before becoming a mom. I often joke that when I hear baby girl cry in the morning, I’m wondering if I have enough time to make a pot of coffee before tending to her. Or the times that I have gone bat shit crazy and have yelled “I can’t do this anymore” in the middle of the night when my 3 year old was still waking up more than our newborn. Yep, it just gets messy. You wonder if you are going certifiably crazy. You Google and try to self-diagnose yourself for depression or mood swings. But all of this isn’t a mess to God. He sees who you are going to become out of all of this, and he’s using Motherhood to peel back your hidden layers and get to your heart. It’s painful, it’s scary – but trust that he will make something out of the mess. If you look through the Bible, you’ll see example after example of messed up people and situations that God still used. Be amazed that he wants to do the same with your messed up self 😉
- It’s more about worshipping a Perfect God than being a Perfect Mom (or having Perfect Kids). Why is it that we Christian’s KNOW that we aren’t perfect and can never be perfect, but still strive with all of our heart to be perfect parents and raise perfect kids? This is MESSED UP. If anything, we should look at all of the imperfections and shortcomings as proof that we have something greater to hope in. That we have such a perfect Father who gives us the best gift of all: the freedom to mess up. See, the more pressure that we put on ourselves to live out this perfection, the more we’re trying to play God. Does this mean we should stop trying or striving to be better moms? No. But it does mean that we should give the weight, the guilt, the worry, and the comparison games we play over to God. We should be liberated that our children and their future don’t depend on us, they are in the hands of the great God of the universe. Let us rest in that, feel freedom in it, and constantly show our children this fact. We don’t need our children to grow up thinking we are perfect people. And we don’t need them to also grow up with the pressure that they have to be perfect to validate us as good parents. We need them to grow up knowing we worship a perfect God who loves us in our imperfections.
- God will give you what you need, daily. Perhaps the lowest points I’ve had so far in being a mom are the times where I sink into dispair. When I entertain thoughts like, “I just can’t do this anymore”, or, “I’m so tired, when will I ever sleep again?”. Resist the temptation to take your struggles in the desert and extend them out for eternity. The fact is: these struggles are momentary. They will pass. God will deliver you from them. Will there be other struggles? Likely. But they will be different. And God always promises to give us everything that we need to get through them. This doesn’t always mean he will give you everything you want, or even what you used to consider were “needs” (like 8 straight hours of sleep!) – but if you carefully look at how he’s providing and getting you through each day you’ll see this demonstrated. With my oldest son he didn’t sleep well for, well – ever. I’ve learned in this struggle to take each day as it comes and see what provisions God has given me to get through. This has led me to be less bitter and to feel less self-pity because I’m reminding myself God is caring for me in the day-to-day and will deliver me.
- Other Moms Struggle Too. I swear this one is the hardest for me. I go to church or really anywhere and I look at other moms who are sporting their 4 kids and I entertain thoughts like, “what’s wrong with me, that I struggle with being a mom to just 2?”, or “how did they get their toddler in that button up shirt and bow tie, when I can’t even get mine out the door in real pants?”. I’ve learned simply by asking other moms “what can I pray for”, that every mom is in need of prayer and every mom struggles with something. And while some moms may not struggle with your exact struggle- they likely struggle with something you don’t struggle with or will inevitably struggle with something similar at some point in motherhood. Unfortunately – the devil likes when you compare yourself to other moms because you either feel superior or inferior. He likes you to feel alone and different. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to other moms, your own mother, or even the fictional picture of the mother you desperately want to be and remember you aren’t alone. It’s ridiculous to believe there is a mom on the face of this earth that will leave motherhood without a battle wound in the process, so embrace this and use this to form rich community with other moms.
- Give yourself a break for crying out loud. I don’t know why we have such high expectations of ourselves, but we do. We think to ourselves that if the baby isn’t doing something – it must be our fault. Or we think that we should be at a certain “place” emotionally or physically by a made up time period. Stop it already! Go get yourself a freaking cup of coffee and don’t worry if it’s going to pass through your breast milk or make your baby stay awake at night. Give yourself the break and the slack you’d cut for someone else. Rest in the fact that God’s got his hand on your ship. There is literally nothing you can do to screw up his larger plan. Relax in the larger reality that God is up to something bigger than “sleep training” methodologies, breastfeeding or formula theories, being a stay at home or working mom, or whatever else you are worried or giving yourself a hard time about currently.
That’s all I have for now, as I’m continually trying to figure this out and desperately want a shower and another cup of coffee before the baby has to feed again.
Sincerely yours in the struggle,