My friend Heather wrote a great post about giving first-time moms a break, and I’ve heard a lot about this lately, and even been convicted of it myself. I think, “Oh she’ll learn when she has a second.” And while that may technically be true, it’s also completely dumb to say. OF COURSE she’ll learn more upon having more children, but she’s also learning an insane amount just by having one.
Nothing prepares you for being a mom, Heather says in her post that not even being the oldest of 8 children managed that task. You may learn through life experiences how to do the tasks of a mom, but nothing, NOTHING can prepare you to be a mom. You just have to be one. The fear, anxiety, guilt, heart-bursting love, joy, excitement, pride, and seeing your husband as if for the first time again when he holds that new baby that didn’t exist in the world just two minutes ago! Nothing prepares you for this.
My children are now 8, 9, and 10, and I look at those with younger kids and I just want to soothe those mommas and let them know it is oooookaaaay. You will survive. Your baby will survive. You will sleep again. Meanwhile I’m staring down the barrel of middle school and nearly have to take anti-anxiety pills if I sit in that thought for too long. I have friends who are navigating the waters of parenting adult children. Regardless of what stage you’re in as a parent, your next one will be new to you. And you will figure it out because let’s face it, you don’t really have a choice.
So what is it that changes us so much from the first child to the second, to the third, and so on? I think it’s about learning where to realistically set the bar for ourselves and our family. When you’re entering a stage for the first time, regardless of how many children you have or how old they are, there is no clear answer for where the bar should be set! Everyone does everything differently today, and with such conviction.
Conviction is good, unless it means we think everyone else is wrong. We don’t get to decide how everyone else should parent.
So. Where do we set the bar? Well if we don’t know, then obviously we should set it as high as we can, that way we know we are doing our best. That can’t go wrong, right? That is what I think happens when we’re in a new stage of parenting. (Not 100% of the time.) As we live into the stage a bit, we learn where the bar should actually go, and set it more accurately. This is how the oldest child gets mad at the youngest child for getting away with more and getting to do more
So, experienced moms, you can tell a new mom what you know, but she still has to be the mom. And she will only learn that by, well, being the mom. Give her time, let her figure it out, give her grace, and know that you’ve got a stage coming that is new to you, too. We’re all in this together.