I used to get really excited about women’s magazines. A newsstand full of publications promising me I could be the best version of myself if I just [insert list of overcommitments here]. I was in that same headspace when I got pregnant, and I just knew I was going to be the best mom possible. I dove in gleefully to motherhood fodder: magazines, books, websites, chat rooms. But when the baby came and the reality of parenthood hit, I realized there were new mom “accomplishments” that, honestly, were not worth it. It never occurred to me, in my pre-mom life and in the beginning of my new life as a mother, that all these possibilities were actually impossible to accomplish at once.
And that maybe I didn’t need any improvement.
Maybe I just had to be someone’s mother and focus on the most immediate needs of myself and my infant: nutrition, hygiene, rest, and love. Those things alone took huge amounts of effort. I was sleep-deprived, most likely suffering some postpartum anxiety that went undiagnosed, and adjusting to life with a newborn when all I had to worry about before she got here were a few bills and not losing my whole Sunday morning to a hangover.
Then again, if there wasn’t so much that went into parenthood, the rewards wouldn’t feel so rich. There are truly no words to describe how it felt to hold our baby, to gaze upon her face and imagine a whole wonderful life for her, even if we weren’t financially equipped to give it to her. The possibilities are endless, when I allow myself a moment to soak in my kid’s lust for life and deep curiosity about her world.
In order to enjoy those moments, I had to make room. I couldn’t continue on self-improvement benders. I had to be good enough as is, most of the time, if I were to have the bandwidth to take pleasure in simply having a family. So, while it’s tempting to dedicate a whole Pinterest board to all the wonderful achievements you are looking forward to as a parent, here are some new mom “accomplishments” I don’t think are worth your (limited) time and energy:
Took A Shower
I was determined to shower daily, even in the earliest days of new motherhood. I really don’t know who I was trying to impress, though. I was going to put on the same spit-up covered clothes (why soil yet another shirt?) after the shower, and it’s not like I was even remotely going to deal with my hair. Meanwhile, my kid would always scream when I stepped into the bathroom. She had some weird sixth sense about it.
Sent Thank You Notes For The Baby Gifts, Before Maternity Leave Ended
I really felt accomplished after handwriting personalized thank you's to everyone who sent us something in those first few months after our babies came. I also felt tired, resentful, and stupid for committing to spend my time that way. Yes, it was a thoughtful gesture, but I could have shown my appreciation in less time-consuming ways that didn’t give me hand cramps.
Put All The Clean Laundry Away
Doing this the first time really did feel like an accomplishment, with the constant feeding, burping, changing, crying interruptions from my newborn. But once I did it, I felt like I was then supposed to continue doing it. Like being home with a newborn all day means I’m the default laundress. Nuh-uh. Immediately, laundry was transferred from the “accomplishment” list to the “delegation” list.
Snapped The Perfect “Just Born” Photo
I can’t be alone in thinking that newborns are just not that photogenic. Fresh from my body, my kids were, well, kind of a mess. Who needs to see that? I mean, yes, we all need to see the realness that is childbirth because it is the most amazing thing a woman can do with her reproductive system. But the cutest pictures of my kids were not taken in their first week of life, when they were ruddy and squished and throwing some serious side-eye when they weren’t sleeping. When I look at my kids’ “just born” photos, it’s because I want to remember those moments when they entered my life. It’s not because I want to ogle their cuteness (which was non-existent at that point).
Sent Out Announcement Cards
Can we just take a second here to dissect the birth announcement? We are spending money telling our friends and family how much our newborns weighed. Let that sink in. From birth we are inviting judgment on a child’s size. While my husband and I did send out birth announcements for both our kids (before we realized how strange reporting on their weight and length was), we sent out far fewer with our second child, when we were posting to social media much more prolifically than we were with our first child (who was born before I joined Facebook).
Go Out For A Few Hours By Yourself
The initial solo outings after each of my kids was born were some of the most stressful events I can recall that didn’t involve multiple choice questions. I was exclusively breastfeeding, which meant I had to time my excursions to fit between nursing sessions, not an easy task when your postpartum OB check-up involves two full hours of commuting time to and from the doctor’s office. If I was waiting just five minutes for my haircut appointment, I’d start to sweat. If I had to do it all over, I’d find a physician closer to my house and make more use of hats.
Prepared An Insta-Worthy Bento Box Lunch
It’s not that I don’t want to be able to mold rice into kitty shapes so my kid will be enticed to eat actual food, it’s that I find it a complete waste of my time. I get that cooking can be a creative outlet for some people, but not for me. (However, I do very much like when those “into cooking” people invite me to dinner.)
Stayed Strong While Crying It Out
Having my daughter cry it out at six months was so, so hard. It was killing me to hear her wail. We were trying to follow the Ferber method, and if my husband wasn’t there to assure me that the baby was going to be fine, I would have failed one minute into the training.
Yes, our daughter did stop crying at some point, but I have no recollection how long it took us. Two nights? A week? The experience left such a bad taste in my mouth that I can’t even accurately say that it worked. Maybe other things were in play that caused her screaming, and subsequent calm. I will never know. I take comfort in knowing that my child has no memory of her nightly screaming as an infant. However, the memories of her desperate cries haunt me, because I’ll never know, despite studies and books and science, how my child was affected by my forced stoicism during her sleep training.
And needless to say, I did not sleep train my second kid. Luckily, for me, he fell asleep more easily than his older sister.
Called Or Texted Anyone Back
In my pre-kid life, I always responded to emails or voicemails. Now? Unless it’s an emergency, or I see it’s my kid’s school or babysitter calling me when I’m at work, I don’t pick up. I will never reach inbox zero. I’m sorry, but if you really needed me, you would find a way to let me know other than messaging me: “Hey, are you there?” Pro tip: if you need your BFF and she’s also a new mom, please reach out to anyone else on your list of friends and family who might not be elbow-deep in infant diarrhea before pinging her. She’ll be forever grateful.
Got Your Body "Back"
Admittedly, I wanted to lose all my pregnancy pounds as quickly as possible. In reality, it took me nine months for them to be gained, so I had to be patient about the rate at which I ditched them; if I were to even lose them entirely. While I did lose the weight, it did take a while. I never got my body “back,” either. My body was forever changed. I mean, I had grown two human beings, successfully birthed them, and was now caring for and raising them, while also continuing to work full-time and be a (mostly) functioning grown-up. There was no going back. And thus started the hard road of accepting that fact. Guess what?
Life was so much better when I abandoned the idea of returning to some old version of myself. I was a new mom. With a new family, and a new body that needed new clothes in some new sizes. I had to move on. The future did not include low-rise jeans.