This is me...
My name is Mareika. I am married to this guy...
He is Graham, and together we made these two
They are Genevieve (Evie) and Peter.
This is our story.
Surviving Being a ‘New Parent’
When Morgan invited me to write an ‘advice to new moms’ post for her blog I contemplated what I could possibly have to add to what is likely the most popular blog post topic on the internet.
I could debate breastfeeding vs. formula…but as long as your child is being fed, you are doing your job well. To use a pacifier or not to use a pacifier? But really, it won’t ruin your child’s future as a Crest model, so KOKO. And, I am pretty sure you can figure out whether your baby likes to be swaddled or not on your own (I think your chances are 50/50 on that one).
There is no end to that kind of advice - and in most cases, there is no right answer, rarely a wrong answer and usually a plethora of people ready to give you their answer. Practical advice has its place, but it doesn’t get your through the moments when you wonder if you made the right decision to be a parent.
I can remember, prior to having kids, people telling my husband and I that it would be hard. But you don’t know until you are in it. So, if you are pregnant, don’t read this yet, just bookmark it and come back to it later, once your babe is born. It will mean a whole lot more then.
I have two children, one is just shy of two years old, and the other is just shy of his first birthday. You read that right. Evie, is only 13 months older than Peter…so clearly I shouldn’t be giving birth control advice either :). Having two children so close together has been incredibly challenging, I hadn’t even exited the ‘new parent’ phase before we had another child!
The reality is that it is very easy to live in a world of social media that tells us that everyone around us has it ‘all’, or is coping well with every challenge they face - the end result is that we feel less adequate. I try to ensure that my social media reflects the realities of my parenting life…not every moment is wonderful, and my children have…character…
There will be amazing moments of laughter and love and pride and hope. And then there will be those other moments. This post if for you, in those other moments, when you feel overwhelmed or defeated. May these words help you through the transition from child-free to child-full!
Survival Tip #1: Accept that you can’t ‘do it all’.
My husband, Graham, and I, joke a lot about what we used to do before we had kids. Like, what did we do all weekend? How did we fill our days? Now, we can’t find enough hours in a day to get it all done. And the reality is, we never will get it all done. Ever. Again.
Say it loud. Say it as a whisper. Say it over, and over, and over again. It is okay. You will never have enough time ever again and you will come to accept that, because you have to, in order to stay sane.
Your house will be messy. You won’t read as many books as you used to. You might not make it to every Church small group get together (I know we don’t!). Some mornings, you will roll over, look at the alarm clock and decide that 10 more minutes of sleep, after nursing 3 times overnight, is more important than a shower. Other mornings, you will roll over, look at the alarm clock and decide that a shower is way more important than 10 more minutes of sleep because you can’t remember the last time you had a shower.
And I will be honest, we haven’t used an actual alarm clock in 2 years because the only thing that every actually wakes us up is our children crying. NEVER ENOUGH TIME.
It’s okay. Your child will be loved, fed, clothed and that is the only ‘all’ that needs to really matter for a while. Everything else is icing. You never thought a clean toilet would be icing, but it can be.
Survival Tip #2: Accept that you can’t do it without help.
You probably came into parenthood knowing that you would need help. You might not have known how much.
I knew I would need my husband. His love, his support, his patience, his forgiveness. I knew I would need our families; for advice, a helping hand, and emergency child care. I knew I would need our Church; to help us raise our children in Christ, to give my children a safe place to learn and grow. I knew I would need our friends; to keep us grounded, to lighten my mood when I got dark, to take me shopping when I needed an ‘out’.
But there was help that I hadn’t expected needing. Professional help. It is hard to know when you need that kind of help, some times you can’t always see it yourself. During my first pregnancy, I suffered from peri-natal anxiety. I saw the signs and sought out Post-Partum Mood Disorders (PPMD). During my pregnancy with Peter I didn’t have any anxiety, and I felt good after I delivered as well. It wasn't until a few months after his birth that I began to struggle. I couldn’t see the signs. Or maybe, I wasn’t ready to see them? I am a member of an online community of moms, and they saw the signs. They encouraged me to go see my doctor. I couldn’t do it without help - their help, and professional help.
Not everybody will need that kind of help, but be open to the signs. And ask those around you to look out for the signs of PPMD. I had a friend close to me who was ‘in charge’ of asking me about how I was doing everyday, just as a check-in. Lots of people ask about the baby, they sometimes to forget to ask about you. Be willing to accept that seeking out help isn’t about your failures as a parent or as a partner. It is about accepting that you need help to be a parent and a partner.
Survival Tip #3: Accept that you won’t always do it the way you had planned to.
I remember, a few years before I had children, seeing a child sucking on a fruit pouch. In my head I proclaimed - “That will never be my child!”. Fast forward to the present: the cashiers at Fortinos know that I will always have at least one empty pouch they have to scan (and then throw out for me), because we can’t make it through a trip to the store without my daughter wanting one. Those pouches are amazing and some days they are the only way my picky-eater gets any vegetables!
I can tell you a dozen anecdotes like that one…my child won’t ever co-sleep, only organic food, no disposables, no screen time…the list goes on. So quickly I learned that my greatest strength was to learn to be flexible in my thinking. Be open to trying different things. I accepted that plans are only my plans. They aren’t my child’s plans, nor are they God’s.
And the plan changes depending on the child too…what worked with Evie, hasn’t always worked with Peter…they may have the same parents but they are very different individuals. Having a second child has taught me a whole new level of flexibility. Having a plan isn’t a bad thing, it is necessary. Being unwilling to deviate from the plan if necessary, however, will serve only to frustrate and exhaust you.
Survival Tip #4: Accept that you shouldn’t always come last.
You had a baby. Or two. Or more. So now you come last, right? Yes. And, no.
You can’t always come last. The truth is that your kids will come first, most of the time. But you can’t always come last.
A lot of the time my cat comes last. That usually means I feed my children, then eat my dinner, and THEN I feed him. Unless he won’t stop. Then I give in and just feed him and get back to my dinner. I wish I were joking.
More seriously though - don’t let becoming a parent mean that you have given up everything that made you, ‘you’, before you had kids. Yes, you are a parent. You can put parent at the top of the list of descriptors, just don’t let it be the ONLY descriptor.
Go back to the gym. Or your Church small group. Or your book club. Or whatever it is that filled your days before kids. Make the time. It doesn’t have to be for long, but it has to happen.
Put yourself first at home, now and then, too. It’s okay to spend 5 extra minutes in the shower (possibly asleep, although this isn’t really safe) just standing under the hot water. You are allowed to put on Paw Patrol so that you can eat lunch sitting down (You will find that eating a meal with two hands is suddenly a treat). And it’s okay to play that game where your toddler puts blankets on you, while you may or may not be entirely awake (This is a great game, trust me).
You will not survive parenthood if you always put yourself last. And you are no good to your child if you don’t survive. Taking time for yourself means that you can be a better parent when you are with your child.
Survival Tip #5: Accept that you had a baby.
This tip is specific to the birth mother. Women are tough on themselves. We live in a world where we are inundated with media images that tell us what we should look like, including how we should look minutes after we have a baby.
Be kind to yourself. You brought life into this world. Your body, and soul, carried that weight. Having a baby is HARD WORK. If anyone tells you otherwise, ask them if they can run a marathon and tell them to read this.
Love yourself. Give yourself time to heal. Try to look in the mirror and see the beauty. Even though you might not feel like yourself yet. Even though you look different than you did before. Even though things hurt, and feel…odd.
Some people look like their old self within a couple of weeks. Other take months. Others still years. And yes, some parts of you might never look like they used to. Some women lose weight nursing, others hang on to it.
But when your baby is about 8 months old, hold him or her up to a mirror next to you and look at their smile when they see you. They never knew any other you. That smile. It doesn’t care about the stretch marks or the extra pounds. It loves you unconditionally. Just as you should love yourself.
That’s it. That’s my advice for surviving. I hope some of it rings true for some of you. Having children is the hardest thing I have ever done, and continue to do. But I love it.