My first year as a mom has come to a close, and as I reflect on the last year, there is much I have learned (though much more that I have left to learn!). While I’m still a newbie, I thought I would share the top five lessons I’ve learned with those who are even newer on the journey than I am. I hope that these encourage you as you walk the road of motherhood with me!
1. It’s okay to ask for help. Though a glaringly obvious truth, this has been one of the most difficult lessons for me. I love to be independent, and sometimes I feel like I need to prove myself since I’m still such a new mom. However, there are times when as moms we really do need help. Humble yourself and ask for assistance if you don’t know what to do for your little one. Accept an offer from someone else to babysit or help you carry all your baby gear to the car. As a Christian, you must not only be willing to help others, but also to admit that you are limited, finite, and needy. Allow the Body of Christ to be the Body and serve you when you are in need.
2. Invest in real-life, face-to-face relationships with others, more than online ones. Going from working full-time outside the home to becoming a stay-at-home mom was a big transition for me. Since most of my friends were like me (working full-time), it was lonely to stay home with a newborn. I was tempted to spend all my free time on Facebook and blogs, rather than reach out to other moms at church. For awhile, that’s what I did. However, I discovered that while the Internet is a useful tool, it’s poor substitute for real human interaction. God designed us to live in real community. So I made an effort to invest in face-to-face friendships with other mothers. I started going to baby time at the library with a friend, I joined the women’s Bible study at church, and I set a goal of getting together with a different woman from church every month. The more I’ve reached out to other moms, the more I appreciate real interactions rather than online ones.
3. Try to enjoy this season of life, even if you don’t enjoy every moment. Well-meaning older women at the grocery store are going to tell you to “Enjoy every minute, because it goes by so fast!” and while that’s true, it’s also a lot of pressure. Honestly, how can you possibly enjoy every minute when some of those minutes contain teething, diaper blowouts, and spit up all over your clothes? You can’t. And you’re not a bad mom if you don’t. Instead, try to enjoy the season of mothering little ones, rather than every single moment. It’s a much more realistic goal.
4. Strangers are going to give unsolicited advice. If you happen to look like you’re fourteen years old, they’ll give you even more unsolicited advice (don’t ask me how I know that!). At first, I was offended by this. I wanted to defend my mothering skills (though in fact I often didn’t—and don’t—always feel confident in them). I began to realize, though, that it was my pride that felt the need to insist that I had it all together. Most people have good intentions when they offer advice to a stranger, and if they don’t, it’s a great opportunity to be a witness for Christ to them. I decided that I would try to handle unsolicited advice by thanking the person for sharing, rather than trying to convince them I didn’t need any help in the first place. If you determine ahead of time to always respond gently, graciously, and in a non-defensive manner, you will be a happier person and a better ambassador for the Lord.
5. Keep the main thing the main thing. Lots of people have very specific mothering strategies. They believe in breastfeeding, or they believe in formula-feeding. They're strong co-sleeping proponents, or they're adamant co-sleeping opponents. They think pacifiers are God’s gift to parents, or they think they’re the devil’s tool. It’s easy to be so dogmatic about parenting theories and ideas that we forget that the main thing is pointing our children to Christ. If you are meeting your baby’s needs, not neglecting your husband, and investing in your relationship with the Lord, the specific ways you choose to parent are less important. Remember to keep the ultimate goal of parenting biblically at the forefront, and keep your other parenting ideals in place behind.
I hope these tips are helpful to you. I'd love for you to share some of the most important lessons you've learned with me, too!