It’s been a long time since I had a newborn on my hands. (Well, not “on” my hands—in my hands. I did know how to hold him. Mostly.) Years later, I still vividly remember a few pieces of advice that helped me through those tough first months of motherhood. Things only a real friend will tell you—no “they grow so fast” or “enjoy every second” mini guilt-trips here. The kind of no-nonsense advice (like mini life-rafts) I actually needed.
Here are the magical pieces of advice I still carry with me to this day:
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For me, the parenting anxieties started even before I had a baby on/in my hands. At the time, I couldn’t get enough of the “What Could Go Horribly Wrong” series of pregnancy books (not a real title, but should be). One day, after obsessing over the latest womb developments—according to that chapter, my baby was now the size of a lime and could already have a rare hiccuping disorder—my husband said firmly, “Stop reading. Right now.” And he took my books away. At first, I felt lost without my directory of prenatal disasters. Soon after though, I saw that blissful ignorance could be quite nice and actually started to enjoy my pregnancy. To this day, I only consult the books when I have an unambiguous question. If my husband will unlock them for me, that is.
A good friend was a few months ahead of me and had already had her son. While catching up with her on the phone (as I sat there about eleventeen months pregnant), she casually announced, “The first three months stink. They just absolutely stink.” I was taken aback by her boldness—how dare she try to ruin the magical newborn times that awaited me? Fast-forward a few weeks. My newborn is wailing. Exhausted, I match him tear for tear. And wouldn’t you know, those frank words floated through my head, and I took the first deep breath I’d taken for days. Someone else thought it was hard. It wasn’t just me! And right then I knew it was going to be okay. I loved that friend even more for having the courage to say something few others would dare to.
One bleary, new-mom morning, I was happily sifting through the well wishes in my inbox, when one jumped out at me. It was a short note from a casual acquaintance—an older woman with grandchildren—and yet, she had the insight to type exactly what I needed to hear. After the standard “Congrats, he’s so cute,” she wrapped up her message with, “Remember: He’s new at this, too.” Later I realized how right she was. Instead of being frustrated that this baby wasn’t clueing me in to why he was fussy, I felt sorry for this poor little soul who had just landed in a bright place full of strangely big people. And right then I relaxed and decided we would figure out this weird new world together.
One of my co-workers, Dee Ann, quickly became my mom mentor when I returned from maternity leave. Cool as a cucumber, she gave me several bite-sized pieces of advice to snap me out of whatever work-life anxiety had popped up. One day I got worried about picking my son up late from day care. She calmly shrugged her shoulders and said, “What do you remember from the first five years of your life?” Other than a fuzzy memory (literally) of a stuffed animal or two, “nothing” was my answer. She nodded, threw in a “calm down already” for good measure and went back to what she was doing. Lesson learned: Stop obsessing about the small stuff. Someday, it won’t mean a thing.
Okay, I’m cheating a bit. This one, I saw on a magnet. Still, though: I’ll take advice wherever I can get it. I quote that darn magnet to friends all the time because it rings true—take care of yourself and everything else will fall into place. No one benefits from a stressed, tired mom. If you need a moment to yourself, speak up. Your kids won’t remember the time you spent a few hours away doing something for yourself. But they sure will remember that they had a happy mom. Pretty smart for a magnet, huh?
There you have it: just the kind of real advice a new mom needs to hear. And I’ve made it my own personal mission to pass those on to any friend who might just need a few honest words to hold on to. Until then, I’ll keep searching for my next magnet manifesto.