I babysat a lot growing up. I was the go-to girl in my neighborhood. You need a sitter? Call Cheryl. She’s fun, great with kids, and won’t eat all the snacks in the pantry while you’re gone. I was responsible, polite, and made sure parents came home to a clean house and happy children. I enjoyed it and was really good at my job. Parents told me this a lot. They also told me I was going to be a really good mom when the time came.
Eventually I grew up, married my high school sweetheart, and a few years later announced we were expecting our first baby. I was ready. I had all of this babysitting under my belt, I read the great books, I watched other awesome moms, I knew to hold my baby when he cried and nurse on demand. I had this motherhood gig in the bag!
Enter baby #1.
Somewhere along the way of sleepless nights, breastfeeding problems, endless witching hours, and tears from everyone involved, I realized I had equated “you’ll be a good mom” with “it’ll be easy.” Boy had I misinterpreted their well-meaning sentiments. I felt like a failure because it didn’t come as easily and naturally as I assumed it would. It was hard. The house was a mess, the child was not happy, and all I did was try to survive and keep the tiny human alive. I felt like a bad mom. I didn’t tell anyone how hard it was because I didn’t want them to know my struggle and realize that I was indeed a bad mom.
Now 16 years and 6 children down the road, I can tell you, it’s hard y’all, but I am a good mom. Being a good mom doesn’t mean it’s easy or it will all come naturally, or you are perfect, or you will enjoy every single moment. Spoiler alert: you won’t. I’m here to tell you that’s ok. It’s ok to acknowledge the struggle. That’s part of the journey. The thing that makes you a good mom is that you love that tiny human you created, you keep going, you reach out for help, you take in the good and the bad and you learn what it means to mother your baby every single day. Some days are Hallmark movie perfect and other days you are covered in poop and can’t be bothered to find a clean shirt because who does laundry anymore anyway?
Here are a few things I wish would have come along with “you’ll be such a good mom” comments. Things that would have been helpful to me. Maybe they will be helpful to you.
1. Build your tribe.
Our culture doesn’t understand mothering. We aren’t set up for success in most cases. We are sent home from the hospital, wished well, and left on our own. Some friends and family will come visit, bring a meal, and hold the baby, but we aren’t taught to prepare for postpartum. Postpartum lasts way longer than pregnancy and way longer than birth but we aren’t told what we need to make it through the hard days, the breastfeeding issues, the baby blues, nada.
So, I’m here to tell you. Find your tribe. Find like-minded mamas who will encourage you through the sleepless nights. Find the friends who will support you when you feel like giving up. Find an awesome lactation consultant who can help you with breastfeeding issues or just to answer your questions. Find a chiropractor who can help those aches and pains from childbirth and get your baby all aligned after a long journey earthside. Find a midwife or a doula (before birth!) who will help you process your birth afterward. Find your go-to person for baby questions. Find that person who will say “I know it’s hard, but you are doing it – keep going, I’m here right beside you.” These are the people who will carry you through. This is the tribe that will make mothering a new baby a gentler experience for you, a new mama. Find your people. Maybe you already have them or found them in unexpected places, lean on them because it’s ok to need people in this season. One day it will be someone else’s turn to lean on you and you’ll know from experience how to show up.
2. Perfect mothers don’t exist.
We are inundated with Pinterest perfect mothering and Instagram filters, and we set ourselves up for failure when we measure our parenting against these unrealistic standards. Even now, I have to unfollow what looks like perfection to me. It’s not good for me, it makes me feel bad about myself and I don’t like it.
I want you to listen really, really closely to my next words…. You are the *perfect* mother for your baby. Hear that? Now, that doesn’t mean it’s easy or you won’t make mistakes or won’t accidentally knock the baby’s head on the doorframe walking into a room. It means that you have all of the tools you need for your baby and what you don’t possess on your own, you have sought out (see item #1!) You work hard every day to be the best and give your baby the best and that makes you perfect. You are perfect on the days you fail, and you are perfect on the days you rock. You are perfect to your baby and that’s enough. Pinterest and Instagram don’t have anything on you!
3. Ask for help.
Do it. Seriously. If you need help – ask. Here’s a story for you….
- *Set the scene* Baby #3. 2 toddlers. Couch covered in clean clothes. Neighbor comes over to see our new baby and offers to fold the laundry on the couch. Guys, I said “No, I’ll get to it!” WHAT?
Let people help you! Ask for help if you need it. It’s not a weakness, it’s letting your tribe (see item #1 again) show up for you. If you need to talk, vent, cry, call someone. No one will think you are a bad mom. They will think you are a human. If you need help with laundry, if your bathtub is dirty and it’s making you crazy, if you really want a drink from your favorite place, ask someone! People want to help. They want to support you. Let them. Asking for what you need makes you a really good mom.
You are doing a great job. Know that. Know it deep in your heart. You’ve got this.
Cheryl Amelang, Birth Boot Camp Childbirth Educator, Trainer, Certification Coordinator