Today I am welcoming spunky first time mom Corissa as a guest who is openly sharing all about her first year of motherhood.
Like any first time mom I had grand plans about how I was going to welcome my child into the world, all the wonderfully earth-conscious, natural choices we were going to make, the bonding and cuddling we were going to do. I spent my pregnancy in a hormone haze daydreaming about organic meals, baby-wearing, cloth diapering, nursing on the go and a tantrum-free toddlerhood. Like every mom out there I had a voracious appetite for information. I borrowed book after book and surfed blog after blog, anxious to be sure I knew everything there was to know about being the best mom and making perfect decisions for my little bundle of joy. I read articles, posts and books that aligned with how I thought things should be done and, early on, I developed strong opinions about different parenting styles and what I knew was right for me.
My first heartbreak came with delivery. I had planned for a drug-free, low to no intervention delivery but instead was faced with a longer than expected hospital stay, a cocktail of medications and a near cesarean section. I brought my little girl home with a head full of information and readied myself for motherhood, something I thought I should be a natural at. My second dose of shock came when I looked into my little girl’s eyes and felt…exhausted. Where was the adoration, the love, the connection? Was I a bad mom because, while I’m sure the love was there, all I felt was tired and overwhelmed?
I began noticing other moms while out and about. While I rushed though the grocery store in fear of a crying baby, looking slovenly and in need of a nap, other moms were taking their time, toting around a napping babe, hair washed and in clean clothes. My home had become a pigsty, nutritious home cooked meals were a far off dream and my husband I were less connected than ever. Feeling more and more like a failure, I became more tight-lipped about my struggles and retreated to more parenting books and magazines, determine to figure out where I was going wrong.
After too many sleepless nights and difficult days I began opening up to some fellow mommies, friends who appeared to have it together and may be able to offer me some advice. What I was surprised to discover was that these fellow mothers routinely felt frustrated and exhausted and at times, overwhelmed too! It was then that I started to have several revelations that made for a much easier first year. What first occurred to me was that I was being inflexible regarding my expectations and parenting style. I had planned out how I was going to raise my daughter without first having met her or knowing how she wanted to be parented or how our family of two was going to change when we became three. Books told me to stop swaddling at three months, but my little girl liked to feel snuggly and secure, so I became flexible and swaddled until she told me to stop, at nearly 8 months. When I was faced with terrible guilt for not being able to keep up with cloth diapering and found that no laundry was getting done, I became flexible and used cloth when I could and disposables when I couldn’t; how could I live in harmony with the earth if my own home was chaos? My mommy friends were able to have date nights and mommy time, but my daughter refused a bottle and I felt anchored by breast feeding, so I became flexible and accepted that I was not the only one making decisions in this parenting relationship; that it was unfair of me to force my will upon my daughter and ignore doing what I was sure was best for her. I found that I was able to be flexible while still holding on to my parenting ideals. With time I hit a mommy stride and gained more confidence.
Despite my newfound confidence I couldn’t help but observe other moms and compare myself, and parenting style to theirs. I would question why my daughter wouldn’t nap while in a store like “hers” did or why on earth was that mother giving her child sugar loaded cookies. I soon realized that comparing myself to other mothers and my daughter to other babies was setting up unfair expectations for both of us. I was not those mothers and their children were not mine and it was okay to be different. I realized that if all parents and children were the same then we could learn how to be good parents by simply reading a book and taking a few lessons! We are own worst enemies when we compare ourselves to other women and judge ourselves. While it’s not always easy, I strive to not judge my parenting style against another mother’s or my daughter’s temperament or development to other children. With very few exceptions, doing things differently doesn’t make it wrong or bad. My new attitude opened up a whole new world of information as well. All those books, blogs and articles about parenting ideals and styles that didn’t jive with mine own now had a place. While I didn’t always agree with some theories like Ferberizing or time-outs, I was now able to see how aspects of them could be applied to my parenting style, our family. I could now embrace the fact that knowing all sides helps you make better decisions.
I carried out the remaining months of our first year and embraced the years ahead feeling like a successful parent, a good mom. Sure we all have mommy guilt, it’s nature’s tool to see that our kids get what they need, but I don’t confuse that guilt with failure anymore. I know that being flexible with my parenting decisions is both necessary and healthy to the relationship I have with my daughter as her mother and my husband as a fellow parent. I accept that it is okay to make mistakes and change my mind and I am making myself a better parent with each new decision. I can also now accept that we all have different ways of doing things and that doesn’t make us right or wrong, good or bad, but rather doing what is right and good for our family. You are a better parent and better person when you can escape passing judgment and start supporting one another.
To all my fellow new mommies out there, chin up! You are doing a great job!
What was your biggest challenge or fear in the first year of motherhood?
Corissa is a spunky stay at home mom and home maker. She is
passionate about DIY, being crunchy, and cultivating empathy in
herself and those around her. Corissa lives in Massachusetts with her
husband, daughter Juliette and smelly cat.