What I could tell myself in 2018: my advice for new mamas
I now have 6 months of blogging under my belt! Mamas Café Society has been such a passion project. The tech side has been frustrating, but creating content has really fulfilled me this year.
As I reflect on my blogging journey, I can’t help but to also reflect on my parenting journey. Like with blogging, I’ve had many ups and downs with parenting.
With almost two and a half years of mamahood under my belt, what advice would I give to a new mama? What would I tell my expectant self in 2018?
Settle in with your favorite brew (heck, this time of year, it might be a Christmas tea!) and enjoy my pearls of wisdom.
Your body will never be the same, but it’ll get better.
One of the biggest shocks to carrying a child was how different my body was after I gave birth. There are definitely some changes that are permanent… flatter boobs, a softer belly, and a C-section scar.
It took a while for me to accept these changes. For the longest time, I couldn’t look at my scar. I still don’t like seeing it today. My boobs actually look bigger, so that’s a plus, but I’ll never have flat abs again. Do I care? Sometimes, but not a whole lot.
I grew another person inside me. That’s pretty cool. The body is amazingly complex, and without even knowing how, I made sure my baby had fully functioning vital organs, 10 fingers, and 10 toes.
The organic body is also changeable. Pregnancy brings massive changes to your body, but rest assured that the vast majority (if not all) will return to normal. Time and age bring other changes. Why should we be so upset about the pregnancy changes? You’ve given life to another person.
Perhaps harder to accept at first were my physical limitations after surgery. Before C’s birth, I was walking up to an hour a day, scaling hills and such. After C’s birth, I could barely walk upstairs. Just a 10-minute stroll outside left me in excruciating pain.
But gradually, I worked back up to my usual level of exercise—and this was carrying C unconscious on my back in her sling! This past year, I’ve had a lot of time and opportunity to start running, something I had never done consistently before. And you know what? I reckon my body got EVEN BETTER than before I got pregnant.
So, accept the change, and accept that it’s not all necessarily permanent. It’s normal to feel disappointed about physical changes, but don’t accept defeat. Be kind to yourself and treat your body as best you can with a good diet and regular exercise. It’s the best way to feel good about yourself because you’ll know you are doing your best to keep in shape.
Make sleep a priority.
This is a tricky one! You know the saying “Sleep when baby sleeps”? Yeah, that never worked out for me.
It was so tempting to get stuff done around the house when C finally slept. I knew I was tired, but I simply couldn’t let the dishes pile up! What a mistake.
I should have slept. At least I should have tried. I’d have been a much better person to be around.
One thing I did get right was trying to get C to sleep through the night. After a month of not sleeping, I finally realized that I needed to take action. I started doing little rituals to help C know that it was nighttime, time for the Big Sleep.
I know plenty of other parents who prefer to let their baby manage her own sleep schedule. That’s fine if that works for you. But I knew early on that that style wasn’t going to contribute to my sanity at all.
Today, I’m super proud that C sleeps like a champion, both at naptime and nighttime. I surely can’t claim all the credit, but I like to think I helped a lot!
Being a “good” mama is not about how much you can sacrifice for your child.
I am specifically thinking of breastfeeding here. I guess it depends on what you view as a sacrifice, but breastfeeding was much more of a sacrifice than I thought it would be.
I didn’t especially love it, first of all. But also I found I was having to isolate myself a lot to nurse C. Sure, I was spending that time with my baby, but I couldn’t help feeling left out of social situations a lot. I began to resent Papa because his life didn’t seem to have changed much, whereas I felt chained to my child.
But it was something I was really determined to do because I saw breastfeeding as the best way (for many reasons) to feed my baby. I was relieved in a way when a health issue finally forced me to stop after a year and a half.
I bring this up because sacrificing for your child might be breastfeeding or it might look different for you. Maybe you are sacrificing something in your career. Or maybe you sacrifice a hobby. All of these are pretty common.
These decisions are personal and often necessary, so no need to feel guilty if you do have to sacrifice something for your child. My point here is that even if you didn’t have to sacrifice a thing, you could still be a great parent. And trust me, your baby doesn’t give a dang how much you sacrificed!
Prepare yourself to be treated differently by society.
There’s something about becoming a mama that makes you cross over to the other side. But don’t be fooled—society won’t be in awe of you. Quite the contrary.
At work, you’ll be treated as though you only half matter. That might suit you just fine, but it might also upset you. It depends on how you feel about your job in the first place. But you’ll also be made to feel guilty whenever you have to make a choice between work priorities and family priorities.
It’s such bullshit because there are tons of bosses with their own families, too! But somehow they make you feel less valued as an employee as soon as they know you’ve got family priorities.
Prepare to be treated differently by your friends, too—at least the ones who don’t have kids yet or don’t plan to. Their world will keep turning around bars and parties and getaways, while yours will revolve around your baby. It’s okay. It’s natural.
What helps me through all this is to remember that I started a family for a reason. I want to spend time with them. And the best times are when the kids are very young. In time, I came to realize that my friends’ activities didn’t really appeal to me as much as they used to, because I genuinely preferred to stay home with my baby and get to experience all the important moments together.
Conserve the parts of your identity that aren’t strictly about mamahood.
Not sure if this advice is going to upset some people, but here goes. Just know that I’m not judging you for however you want to live your life—this is advice for myself as well as any other expectant mamas that might want to hear from me.
Be careful about cutting everything out of your life that isn’t strictly about motherhood. We usually say “don’t lose yourself,” but I don’t really like that phrase.
I definitely don’t like society trying to push any one concept of mamahood on you—whether that’s being a full-time mama only, or whether that’s being a “supermama” who seemingly does it all.
I guess my advice goes back to how much you sacrifice for your children. Admittedly, we all sacrifice something. It comes with the territory. You need to make room in your life for a baby, no doubt about that. But after about 10 weeks of being a mama, I realized that I really hated feeling stuck at home where I felt like I was “just” a mama.
Here’s the truth: your kids will grow up someday. They’ll get their own friends, develop their own interests, get married and start families of their own. You need to have something else to live for than only your children.
If there are hobbies or interests you had before becoming a parent, try to conserve them (at least some of them) in some way. For me, that meant making a career change toward reading, writing, and editing. It meant forcing myself to prioritize self-care even when I had a laundry list of other stuff to do. It meant asking Papa to watch C for an afternoon so I could go visit a friend.
People grow and change over time. I’ve found that some of my previous hobbies no longer interest me at all. That’s fine, too. But while C is my priority, she’s not my only priority. I want to be happy in my career, too, and I want her to see that I also need Me Time that doesn’t involve her. Isn’t it much better for your kids to have you as a role model, as someone who has their own interests and hobbies and pursues them with passion?
Everybody’s Free (To Be Their Own Brand of Mama)
Mamas Café Society isn’t about advertising one sort of parenting over another. If any of my advice doesn’t resonate with you, I’d love to know why! Different perspectives are my jam. So no judgement.
But hopefully some of you nodded your heads as you read. It’s impossible to know what parenthood will feel like before your child arrives. You can dream, you can try to imagine it. But no one tells you how hard it is sometimes.
I’ll close this last post of the year with these words. 2020 has been a particularly hard year for everybody. I sincerely hope that all my readers will find peace in this season and that 2021 will have better things in store for us. I can tell you that I’ll have some pretty big news to share here on the blog, but I haven’t decided yet when I’m gonna drop it. So stay tuned!
Need more advice? Check out my other articles here on Mamas Café Society:
- The best advice for new mamas—Read about the advice I received from friends and well-meaning strangers when I was pregnant with my daughter in 2018.
- New mamahood expectations vs. reality—Read about all the good and not so good surprises that come with parenthood!
- Popular parenting methods I don’t use—You’ve read about what you should do as a parent, but what about all the things you shouldn’t? Here is Part Un and here is Part Deux.
A big MERCI to all my readers! I’ll be back with a fresh post next Monday and every Monday after that at 11am EST.-Jessica
About the Author
Jessica is an American expat living the dream in Normandy. She is wife to a French hubby and mama to a Franco-American daughter, born in 2018, and one whippet. Passionate about all stages of writing, this Francophile created her blog in 2020 to help others navigate motherhood with a focus on conscious parenting and bilingual parenting. Bonne lecture !
Other helpful resources
- Pregnancy Series: She’s here! M’s birth story
- Pregnancy Series: Month 9
- Pregnancy Series: Month 8
- Pregnancy Series: Month 7
- Pregnancy Series: Month 6
- Pregnancy Series: Month 5
If you enjoyed this post, please spread the word!