Last month, my 10-month-old daughter started crawling. One moment she was next to me on the floor, and the next, she was clear across the room with her finger scratching at the electrical socket. Since then, she’s been zipping around our home, unpacking my purse, toppling stacks of clean laundry and chasing after the cat, much to his chagrin. She’s animated and funny, joyful, curious and just a little bit wild – a far cry from her colicky and inconsolable newborn days. But I hate to admit it, all of this change makes me equal parts jubilant and sad, too. Where did the days go? How did they pass so quickly? Why didn’t anyone teach me how to manipulate time?
So, from one mom to another, here it is – the advice I wish I would’ve received as a brand new mom:
Ask for help
In the beginning, there will be more offers of help than you will know what to do with. My advice? Take all of them. Have your mother stay the night. Welcome your girlfriend into your home. Let your aunts, sisters, brothers and uncles hold your baby, make you meals, stock your refrigerator, get your oil changed, what have you. You don’t need to multi-task or be a good hostess and entertain. What you need to do is nap. You’ll never feel well-rested again (I’m convinced), but sneaking in a nap here and there will do wonders for you. You’ll be a better mom for it – and you’ll enjoy being with your baby more too.
There’s no nice way to say it, so here goes: It’s time to lower your standards. There will be times when putting on a bra – heck, brushing your teeth – will be the day’s biggest accomplishment. Just go with it. New motherhood is soul-shaking, life-changing work – treat yourself with kindness and don’t despair when you realize your new wardrobe is 95 percent spit-up stained yoga pants. This time will pass before you know it. Don’t waste a second of it worrying about a messy house or fancy meal. Scoop up your baby and squeeze.
Know that it gets better
Every time I ventured out in public with my newborn daughter strapped snug to my chest, strangers would approach me with a knowing smile. “It gets better,” they’d each say, without a clue as to what life with my baby was like at home. “Yeah, right,” I would think. By design, newborns are demanding, selfish and so confusing. But once that first little smile appears on their faces? You’ll realize the strangers were right all along – it gets better. And better and better. Have faith and hang in there.
Realize it’s fleeting
When you’re in the trenches of new motherhood it can be tough to see beyond the moment. You’re tired. You’re frustrated. You want more than two hours of uninterrupted sleep. Trust me, I know; I’ve been there. But recognize that this time is just a blip in your little one’s lifetime and waking up at 2, 3 and 4 a.m. suddenly becomes more doable. Remind yourself to soak it all in, every second of it. One day, believe it or not, you’re going to miss this.
— Lizzie Goodman is a writer who lives in Chicago, IL with her husband and their baby daughter.