In the fall, I sat down and had some major hot mess journaling processing times with the Lord, working through some of the Hard about those early days of being a mom. Those early days for me not only included life with a newborn but being way too hard on myself, juggling work and this new role and feeling utterly overwhelmed by it all. As part of processing those days, I wrote a letter. I wrote it to the new mom who might be like me. I wrote it to myself, what I would tell myself if I could go back. It feels so appropriate on a full day of things out of my control and not the way I would have planned, I’m posting this at 9:30pm at night, instead of much earlier in the day. Whether you are a new mom or not, my hope is that this truth would meet you where you find yourself today.
Dear new mom,
No one tells you how hard it will be. No one tells you the havoc your hormones will wreak on your emotions, in your most sleep deprived state. No one tells you how desperate and crazy and wonderful it is to have an infant. No one tells you that you might have days where you feel like your worst self, and wonder if you’ll ever be half the person you were before you had a baby. No one tells you that there will be times when you’ll want to give the baby to someone, but you’re not the babysitter anymore; you’re the parent.
And if they did tell you, you simply couldn’t imagine being the person you find yourself today. You didn’t believe it, not because you doubted the people who came before you. You didn’t believe it because you simply couldn’t. I know because this was me. I knew having a baby would be hard. I knew that being a working mom would be hard. But I didn’t know what that meant until it happened. Austin Kleon says all advice is autobiographical. So, just as his book is written to his 19-year-old self, this is what I would say to me, at age 27, trying so hard, feeling incredibly exhausted and crying and depressed and alone. I would take her face in my hands and wipe her tears away and tell her this:
You’re not alone.
Being a mom is hard stuff. Really hard stuff. Maybe the hardest stuff you’ve ever done yet. You’re doing a good job. You’re being brave.
You don’t have to like being a mom to be a good one.
The Lord doesn’t ask us to like the role we’re in. He asks us to be faithful. (1 Cor. 4:2)
If your baby is alive, you’re doing well.
If you’re waking up to feed her, you’re doing well.
If you’re changing her diaper, you’re doing well.
If you’re crying, that’s okay. Humans do that.
If your baby is crying, that’s okay. Humans do that. No one ever died from crying that I know of.
You might feel like you are your worst self. Maybe you are and maybe you aren’t. This won’t last forever. This season will end and you’ll come through on the other side.
You’re normal. You’re human. You’re not alone.
You’re doing a good job. You’re a brave lady.
I’ll confess, I don’t really like being a mom. However, I’m a huge fan of my daughter. In fact, on most days, I’m pretty crazy about her. I like her squishy arms and thighs. I like her happy noises and her silly faces. I get a kick out of watching her eat food. Seriously, it’s like National Geographic in the comfort of your own home, as my friend Haley says. I like watching her discover the world with wonder. I like feeding her chocolate chips and pancakes and peaches. I like watching her sway and dance when music comes on, no matter the genre. I like how she signs for “more” and nods her head with gusto. I like seeing her splash in the bathtub and suck on a washcloth to her heart’s content. I love her big belly and seeing her examine her toes. I like how she giggles when I throw her upside down on my lap and pretend to eat her neck.
But here’s the thing, I don’t really like everything that comes with being a mom. I don’t really like changing diapers or having to figure out why a baby is crying. I’m not a huge fan of maternity clothes, although I certainly appreciated them in my time of need. I don’t particularly enjoy talking about spit up or what size clothes my daughter wears or signs of teething. And I really don’t like experiencing signs of teething. I don’t like waking up in the middle of the night. Tiny people have lots of gear, arguably too much. It’s hard work to be consistent in training someone what is acceptable behavior and what is not. I don’t want to wear sweatpants or forget to shower. I want to wear earrings and mascara and some flats with my skinny jeans. I want to talk about things like adventures and coffee and books I’m reading, not allowing my life to revolve around this tiny person I birthed.
It’s only been over a year and a half since my daughter was born, and if you throw in the months of pregnancy, I guess I’ve been a mom for two and a half years, give or take. I still feel pretty new to this thing called motherhood. Some days I like it. Some days I don’t.
But here’s what I’m learning about being a mom. You don’t have to like it to be a good one. In fact, being a good mom is a lot more about grace and showing up than looking a certain way or feeling good about what you’re doing.
And this is so much easier said than done. I might sound put together in this letter, but I still struggle to accept the grace and to show up. I’d be much more comfortable if my feelings matched the truth. I’m fighting with you to believe this truth. Being a good mom is about being faithful. Being a good mom is about giving and receiving grace. Being a good mom is about showing up, when you feel like it and when you don’t.
So, new mom, if you’re waking up and feeding your baby, you’re doing a good job. If you’re letting yourself nap because you’re so exhausted and letting the dishes sit, you’re doing a good job. If you’re letting yourself cry because this is hard, you’re doing a good job. If you’re keeping your baby alive, you’re doing a good job. If you’re showing yourself a little grace to be human and showing up, you’re doing a good job.
You’re the best mom for your baby. It doesn’t have to feel true to be true. You know your baby better than anyone else does. You’re the best person to be your baby’s mom. Jesus picked you, a girl he’s crazy about, out of everyone in the world, to be the mom to this particular person that he’s just as crazy about. That is pretty cool.
I know it feels like you’re failing. When your baby is crying and you can’t figure out what is wrong, the world feels like it is falling apart.
You’re not alone.
You are brave.
You are normal.
You are loved.
You are enough.
Jesus offers you grace for today.
He offers his help for whatever today holds for you.
You are not alone.
I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel more different when I became a mom. I thought maybe something would happen to me once I had a baby, like Hagrid would appear and tell me I was a wizard and my whole life would be different. I wouldn’t live in a closet with my terrible relatives anymore. Instead I’d go to Hogwarts and have amazing adventures and close calls and have a fantastic story. But instead of turning into Harry Potter the wizard, I still felt like me. Just a fragile, exhausted me. And as much as I wanted to be given a mom cape or a magic wand, I’m pretty relieved to still be me. I still like to read books. I still like to try new recipes. I still like to talk to people over coffee. I still like to take mediocre pictures on my phone. I still like to sit in the sunshine. I still like to go on dates to eat sushi.
Friend, even if it feels like you don’t care about those things anymore or that you’re too tired now that you’re a mom, you’re still you. Those things that make you feel alive will make you feel alive again. It might not be right away, but you’re still in there. Just because your job involves keeping a tiny human alive right now hasn’t changed who you are and what makes you YOU.
This season might have some things put on hold. You might read while you nurse or you might need to nap instead. You might call for take-out instead of making ratatouille for the first time. You might need to have a date night in, instead of a date night out. That’s okay. You’re still in there. You’re still you.
Open your hands to the grace of today. Be kind to yourself. Having a baby is hard work. Taking care of a baby is hard work. You’re not alone.
You are brave.
You are normal.
You are loved.
You are enough.
You are not alone.
I’m rooting for you and your little one. I’ve been there too.
*I had the honor of reading The Mother Letters this week, and felt myself utterly grateful to be seen and encouraged in this season through this compilation. I grew to love Amber and Seth Haines through their books, Wild in the Hollow and Coming Clean when I read them recently. (You can read my thoughts on those books here if you’re interested.) This book is the result of a collection of letters that Seth collected and compiled for Amber to encourage her as a stay-at-home mom to three boys under three. I’m so glad that the letters didn’t stay between the two of them, and that we have the privilege to read them now.
This book is for every kind of mom. The new mom. The mom to adopted kids. The mom who has grieves a child gone to Jesus. The mom has a child with special needs. The overwhelmed mom. The mom who never feels good enough. This book was for me.
Here’s a few of my favorites:
“Being a whole person makes you a better mom. Don’t become a caricature of a stereotype. Bring your whole self to this mothering thing–your tinies will love it and maybe even grow to love when you love. You will give them permission to love what they love and to pursue their callings too. ” (Sarah Bessey, 30)
“What if good mothering looks different than we imagined? What if you start the new, exciting, meaningful family traditions with pizzazz but sometimes tucker out? What if being a good mother means trying to do the best you can amid feelings of tremendous failure? What if being a good mama means you try hard not to compare yourself to other mothers, even though you’re still tempted to by Facebook and Pinterest? What if being a good mama rarely feels like success? What if being a good mother looks a lot like being a brave heart?” (Grace Sandra, 47-48)
This book is a solid A for me.
Revell Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of “The Mother Letters,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255