MOTHERHOOD SHOULD COME WITH WARNING LABELS
Have you ever felt like becoming a parent should come with an instruction manual? Like there should be a test they make you take before leaving the hospital to make sure that you, you know, have a clue? Know what to do? Are somehow, even the tiniest bit qualified to keep these humans you’ve created or adopted alive and well?
I was in the shower in the middle of the day last weekend. A Saturday. Dan had an all-day obligation so I was heavily outnumbered playing zone defense against my three littles, 6 and under. Phew – Solo parenting is not for the faint of heart. Shout out to all the single mommas listening – this is your reality every day and I bow down to you. You deserve all the credit and if you’re local, send me a DM, I’d love to bring you a lasagna, my friend.
Ok, back to the shower – I had this idea. My kids were happily watching a movie on the couch so I could shower and get ready for a kids party in the afternoon. We had spent the morning playing play doh, doing laundry and vacuuming, hitting up Costco (spent under $100, thank you very much), and playing at the park. I was 10 hours into my 12-hour shift with the kids, which I say jokingly, but it IS exhausting being the only human responsible for these little ones, as you well know!
And it hit me… Motherhood should come with warning labels. As moms we should sit down and tell our mom-to-be friends and newborn mom friends and foster mom friends and general mom friends all the things we wish we would’ve known the first or second or seventh time around for us. We should do this in a loving and caring way – not to scare them about labor and delivery – but rather to tell them about the actual peaks and valleys of raising humans. To help them feel seen and heard. To normalize the doubt and the struggle. To tell them we didn’t feel like naturals the first week, either. So here you go… 4 Warning Labels motherhood should come with.
1 – GUARD YOUR NIPPLES IN THE SHOWER
I had just delivered my oldest son. I had a C-Section, spinal anesthesia, a foley catheter and I could finally feel my toes, my catheter was out and I needed a shower in the worst way. I had labored for what felt like three weeks (it wasn’t, don’t freak out, it was more like 36 hours) and I had been so sweaty, so stressed and quite a bit scared when we decided to perform an urgent C-Section for heart decelerations at 9cm dilated. Turns out the stubborn bugger who now rocks a mowhawk was transverse in my pelvis and he had gotten his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck not once, not twice but three times. So he came into the world via the wonders of modern medicine and his mama (me) needed a shower in the worst way.
I gingerly navigated into the bathroom that is the size of a sewing thimble, peed (no small feat) with the assitance of the peri bottle and with lots of clenched teeth and stepped into the hot shower. YOUCH! My nipples!
After trying to nurse C throughout the night, my nipples were sore as all getout. The hot water plus the sore nipples was excruciating. Why had no one warned me about this?!
Turns out, if you later them up with ointment like Lanolin before hoping in the shower those first few days to weeks postpartum you don’t have to guard your nipples with one hand while trying to wash with the other hand.
2 – THERE’S NO ONE RIGHT WAY
The other day I bought a bra that an IG influencer has been raving about for years. It’s a sports bra / athleisure bra. It’s from a company that is woman owned and fair trade and uses recycled water bottles to make the bra. They have branding and models that are of all skin types, body types and hair types. What’s not to love, right? I’ve purchased other things that this influencer has recommended and love love loved them. We have similar body types and clothing styles so I thought FOR SURE these bras would be a slam dunk. Wrong. They are good, but not great, and I had to go into a store, try several different bras, realize that those ones didn’t work and eventually found some that I love that work for me.
Here’s how this applies to motherhood. Just like there’s no one right sports bra for moms in their mid thirties with multiple kids and B cups, there’s no one right way to parent your kids.
I’d go so far as to say that with each kid, you need a different approach, different strategies and tools that you use to make it through and with each age and stage you need to adjust your approach… which sounds an awful lot like the one constant in life (and parenting) is that things are going to change. Give yourself grace in this process. Create opportunities to try on different parenting styles and approaches until you find on that fits you like the perfect sports bra, but expect things to change the next day. Be ready to pivot and know that when things aren’t working, it’s not that you are doing something wrong, it’s that the situation calls for adjustment. It’s not you, it’s the job – the job of raising humans who are growing and developing and changing minute-to-minute. As Katherine Wintsch reminded us in Episode 53, give yourself permission to be a rookie… because you ARE a rookie at this stage of both life and parenting.
3 – IT’S NOT EITHER/OR – IT’S BOTH/AND
It’s normal to not love every single minute of being a mom. It’s not that either you love it or you are a bad mom. It’s not either you embrace this season or you suck. It’s both hard and a blessing. It’s both challenging and rewarding. It’s ok to feel both overwhelmed and grateful.
Feeling like you’re either grateful or you are terrible isn’t getting you anywhere. Look for opportunities to remind yourself that this life and this journey as a mom can be both and… both thrilling and mundane. Both full and fulfilling. Both overstimulating and a blessing. Both too much and moving too quickly.
You aren’t meant to love every age and stage as much or more than the one before. I’ll readily tell you and any new Mom friend that, although I savored it, I didn’t LOVE the newborn stage. Yes, they are so cute and so cuddly and when they nap with their head on your chest and their butt up in the air it is incredibly adorable… but as a Mom I thrive when they start to show their personality, when we can do activities and go on adventures together and they can interact. The newborn stage wasn’t my favorite and that’s ok.
Remember that you can love your kids AND not love the stage they are in or the challenges that this season is presenting.
4 – PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Kids are loud and distracting and demanding. Just try to have an adult conversation in your home around the time where any sort of food is being served and you’ll see what I mean – you can be talking about the most mundane thing (who’s going to take out the trash) or the most important thing (trying to relay an important story or a pivotal AHA! Moment that you had today) and your kids will, without fail, interrupt you at the exact wrong moment. If you’re anything like me you’ll lose your train of thought and you may or may not get back on track after the kids are all in another room or more likely in bed for the night.
It’s so easy to lose yourself and not prioritize your relationship during the years when your kids are young. You took on a new identity – Mom… but you didn’t stop becoming you, the woman, the wife, the sister, the daughter, the friend. You are still a human being with needs and passions, dreams and goals. The thing is your newborn will scream to be fed, your toddler will throw the tantrum to end all tantrums and your teenager will sulk and say things that concern you…. But your dreams and your goals don’t have those mechanisms to get your attention. Burnout and overwhelm in motherhood are fueled by this loss of sense of self. When you aren’t pouring into your own soul, you will eventually feel so resentful that everyone and everything else feels more important. Revisit those goals. Create routines and habits that fill you up. It’s not anyone’s job to make sure your needs are met but your own. If you are looking for some more practical and tangible tips on ditching mom guilt and creating a morning routine that works for you, check out episodes 17 – How to Make Space and Ditch Guilt as a Mom, Ep. 21 – The Approach I Personally Use for Self-Care, and Ep. 47 – Get Back In the Groove in 9 Steps – how to re-establish or create healthy self-care routines.
Which brings me to part about remembering your relationship with your partner. Although your partner is responsible for many things in this life, meeting your needs isn’t one of them. Yes, they can respond when you request their help and respect your boundaries when you build them to defend your own time, health and sanity in taking care of you… but they are ultimately responsible for making sure that their own needs are met.
Here’s a friendly reminder in the form of the last warning label about motherhood – don’t neglect your marriage, your relationship, your love or your partnership during this season. Invest in each other. You are the foundation of this family, whatever yours looks like and that relationship with your partner is the one that’s going to outlast the newborn stage, the toddler years, that teenage angst and be waiting to embrace you when empty nesting happens, God-willing.
Find ways to invest in your relationship and your partner that feel good. Find things to do together, alone, and with the kids, that fill you up, make you feel connected and remind you why you fell in love in the first place.
I’m curious – if you were to write a warning label for motherhood what would it be? Drop it in your review when you review the show, message me on instagram @mrstracybingaman or email me firstname.lastname@example.org – I want to learn from you. And start telling your friends about your truths, your struggles and the lessons you’ve learned along the way. It takes a village… but it’s best when the village is vulnerable with you, so you know you aren’t alone. Sending you all the love as you walk this winding path bordering on a roller coaster that is motherhood. I’m thankful for you.