It seems like our society expects too much of new moms and, as a result, new moms expect way too much of themselves. We set unrealistic goals, arbitrary deadlines, and unfair expectations, then set out to try to do it all in record time or at least by your baby's first birthday. There were so many things I thought I had to do by 1 year postpartum, but in reality I didn't. Looking back and thinking about all that unnecessary pressure I put on myself, well, really sucks.
To make matters worse, so many of these guidelines and timelines are completely subjective and not possible for all (or even most) new moms to accomplish, because every mom, baby, and postpartum period is different. Nobody really tells you that, though, and when you fail to meet these guidelines and timelines over and over again, you start to feel like you're doing the whole parenting thing wrong. It is so unfair, and I, for one, am over it. I am going to tell you a secret: I may never lose my baby weight. Why should that be a goal when I am trying to survive motherhood and keep another human being (hell, multiple human beings) alive? Seriously. My waist size should be the least of my worries.
I am so over worrying about whether or not my baby will still be sleeping in my room a year from now, or won't go to sleep without a pacifier at age 3. Hell, most nights my 11 year old still wakes up for a hug or a drink of water. In the long run, none of these things will matter as much as I think they matter now, so why do I waste so much time and energy on them when I'm sleep deprived and scared? The fact is, motherhood is more like a "choose your own adventure" story than a "one-size-fits-all" manual. There's more than one way to do it right and plenty of time to figure things out. Take it from me, there's so many other things you should be worried about than what you are able to accomplish in your baby's first year of life.
Fit Into My Pre-Pregnancy Jeans
I have come to the conclusion that I will never fit into my pre-pregnancy size 0 jeans (which I still have in my bottom drawer for some unknown reason). Not in three months, six months, nine months, or ever. It has, however, taken me about a decade to accept it. I guess it's time to clean out that drawer.
Lose My "Baby Weight"
I totally believed the saying "nine months on, nine months off" was an accurate representation of how long it should take to lose the baby weight. Now that I have had three children, I know weight loss after pregnancy is pretty complex and not something that can be wrapped up in some kind of quippy saying. Every body and every pregnancy is different, and life seriously changes as your family grows. So the whole "losing the baby weight thing" might never happen. That doesn't change the fact that my post-pregnancy body is still my body, and still unbelievably badass.
Teach My Baby To Sleep Through The Night
Hahahaha. I laugh to keep from crying. Oh, how I was misled. Last night each of our five children (ages 5 months to 11 years) were up at one time or another. Sleep. My precious, precious sleep. I miss you so much.
Put My Baby To Sleep In Their Own Room
I always planned to move my children to their own rooms at some point, and definitely meant to do it before they reached age 1, with varying degrees of success. Now, I know that whatever works to help baby (and mom) get some damn sleep is OK and may change frequently when I least expect it.
Go Back To Work Full-Time
After my first two kids were born, there was no question about whether or not I would be going back to work after three months of maternity leave. My family couldn't afford for me not to work, and I honestly had no desire to be a stay-at-home mom. This time with this last pregnancy, labor, and delivery, however, I totally surprised myself by deciding to stay home with my baby and work part-time. I had no idea I would want to do it, but I'm five months in and I couldn't be happier.
Leave Baby With A Sitter Overnight
I didn't leave my daughter with a sitter overnight until she was nearly 3 years old, and even then it was my parents. I just couldn't do it. Sadly, people seriously judged me for my inability to "let go." Now, I am way more comfortable with the idea of relying on babysitters, and might just leave my youngest with my parents overnight before my baby turns 1 year old.
Maybe. You know what? I'll think about it.
Take My Baby's Bottle & Pacifier Away
I used to feel so embarrassed that my daughter wouldn't give up her pacifier or bottle when she turned 1. I tried everything. Eventually, it occurred to me that they were her lovies. Trying to take them away too soon was hurting her and making her lose trust in me. Now, I am way less worked up about timelines for things like that. Live and learn.
Get Over Postpartum Depression
I thought for sure that my postpartum depression would magically go away by the time my baby celebrated their first birthday. Unfortunately, like many things related to motherhood and mental health, your mileage may vary. I am one of the lucky people with depression and anxiety that started during my postpartum months, but continued well after my babies were babies. I have made peace with my demons and focus on being the best I can be, which is all we can really hope for.
Feel Like Myself Again
It took me a long time to learn that there's no hard and fast rules or time line for how long it will take to feel like yourself again after having a baby, and it's probably not gonna happen in a year. In fact, eight years into my motherhood adventures, it's clear that I have changed (mostly for the better). Becoming a mother is a huge life change. I will never look, feel, or be my pre-child self again.
Slowly, but surely, I am learning to be OK with that.