I was such a "perfect mother" before I had children. I knew everything and had all the answers and was so confident. Then, when I became a mother, I discovered that parenting was nothing like I expected. In fact, there are so many things I thought I had to do simply because I was a first-time mom.
I thought I had to have an unmedicated labor and deliver my baby "naturally." After all, natural is always better (spoiler alert: it's totally not). Then I was going to exclusively breastfeed my babies, because "breast is best," right? I mean, that's what it said in all of the baby books. Wrong again. It turns out that breast is only "best" when it works for both baby and mama. Who knew?
During maternity leave, I thought I could never put the baby down and that we had to literally be touching every second of every day for me to be a good mom, which made going to the bathroom and getting sleep really freaking challenging. Then, I went back to work and felt so guilty about spending time away from baby, that I sacrificed a lot of my free time and parts of who I was to spend every ounce of extra time with her. Not healthy at all.
After almost eight years of being an imperfect mother, I have learned a lot about what's really necessary and what's totally not worth it. As it turns out, there's no one right way to be a good mom, and there's a ton of things you don't have to do.
Have An Unmedicated Labor
I wrote an extensive birth plan the first time around. I was going to labor at home for as long as possible, go to the hospital at the right time, not use any pain meds, and bring my baby into the world like a badass warrior goddess. Instead, I was admitted for induction, stayed up all night in pain, begged for an epidural, and then had a completely empowered birth anyway. All births are badass and no one gets a cookie for doing it without pain medication.
Breastfeed My Baby
I thought that after I had my baby, I would be so happy, and I was, until I wasn't. No one told me about postpartum depression. I felt so much shame that I wasn't happy all of the time, even though it wasn't my fault.
Hold My Baby All Day
It was exhausting. It's OK to put down your baby to go to the bathroom, take a shower, or get some sleep. It's even OK to finish pooping when the baby starts crying. They will be fine. I promise.
Love Every Moment
I love many moments of being a parent. I don't love every moment, though. Some of them really, really suck.
Do Everything Perfectly
In our culture of perfect parenthood, no one wants to admit they don't have all of the answers or that they don't know what they are doing. It's crucial to learn that not every moment has to be perfect, not every birthday cake needs to be "Pinterest-worthy," and no one is without the capacity to make a massive amount of mistakes. No one. I needed to learn how to go with the flow and prioritize. It isn't easy. Honestly, I am a hot mess most of the time, but I'm also way happier than I was when I tried too hard.
Call The Doctor For Everything
I called our baby's doctor about 50 times in her first four months of life. I am sure they laughed when they realized it was me.
Spend All Of My Free Time With My Child
I felt so guilty going out or going for a run without my baby. Now I know that spending time on my own or with my partner is self-care. I need to take care of myself if I want to be a good mom.
I thought I had to give up myself when I became a mom. Now I realize that I need to stake a claim to my identity, despite how challenging it is. I find ways to maintain a sense of self and it honestly makes me a better mother.