This month we’ve dedicated time to talk about mental health for Mental Health Awareness Month, specifically mental health for moms.
One of the healthiest things for moms and their mental health is to know that they are not struggling alone, that others have been there, and we know what they’re going through. No matter how Instagram-perfect some moms are making it look online, we all know the truth: motherhood is hard.
In this spirit, I wanted to get very real and honest with all moms everywhere and tell you what I wish someone had told me when I was a young mom. I hope it helps you, wherever you are on your motherhood journey.
What I wish someone told me when I was a young mom…
1. Pregnancy and the first year are EXHAUSTING.
I was used to fatigue because I had to be on call every fourth night as a pediatric resident in a large hospital. But when it came to parenting, my fatigue was incomparable. I was expecting life to be “romantic” and that I would stay in love with my new baby every day. Instead, I battled enormous fatigue, anger at my baby for crying and having colic and anger at myself for not being a good mom. You are going to feel more tired than you have ever felt. That’s OK. That’s normal. It does not make you an inferior mom. It makes you human.
2. You should NEVER compare your child with a friend’s child.
It is normal to watch a friend’s child and size your child up to him. If another baby was walking and mine wasn’t, I felt bad. If another child had more words at two years old than mine, I thought I wasn’t parenting well. But this comparison doesn’t serve you or your child. Each child is unique and on his own journey of growth. Let your child be your child and try not to compare him to others.
3. You will sacrifice more than you anticipated.
No one told me that I was going to have to give up many nights’ sleep, stop doing what I enjoyed most (reading), stop working at my office as frequently, and have little time for any social life. This sounds selfish and crazy, but I honestly thought that having a baby would be all fun and simply fit into my life. It didn’t. Instead, I had to learn how to fit into my baby’s life and let other parts of my life go. Not all of them and not for forever, but it was certainly a bigger sacrifice than I had anticipated.
4. You will doubt yourself every single day.
Parenting keeps one humble, but I never understood how badly I could feel about myself. When I became a mom, I constantly worried that I was doing something wrong. That a mistake I would make would irreversibly harm my child. It took me years and a fourth child to stop this feeling. You’re not alone in your self-doubt, and here’s a secret: you’re doing a better job than you think you are.
5. You and your partner will discover your No. 1 reason to argue.
This is how it was for me and my husband. He parented one way and I another. I was convinced I was right, and he thought he was right. We came to blows sometimes over who was right. (We are both pediatricians and that didn’t help.) Over time, we learned to negotiate with one another, and this was an entirely new experience for both of us.
I know these are some hard truths, but I also know if you’re a new parent, they probably don’t come as a surprise to you. If you are experiencing any of the above, know that many of us have been there. You’re not alone and you’re not doing it wrong. You’re figuring it out, one day at a time, just like the rest of us and that means you’re already being the best mom you can possibly be.