From the day I brought my daughter into this world, I was plagued with guilt. Guilt that I wanted sleep more than to hold her some nights. Guilt that I wanted to give up breastfeeding. Guilt that I actually did give up breastfeeding. Whether it is this mom-shaming culture we live in (how can anyone do anything right these days?) or just a self-inflicted standard I wanted to hold myself to, I felt guilt. Fast forward a year, and I realize that none of those things that I felt guilty of were necessarily mistakes. They were just the daily occurrences or choices that I made to get us where we are today.
I am, however, very guilty of these five mistakes. If you’re a momma, I bet you’ve made some of these too.
The Five Worst Mistakes a Mom can Make (any what you can do to avoid them)
1. Not scheduling enough “me” time
Whether you have one infant or three teenagers, making time for yourself is important. Ever hear the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty glass”? The truth in that saying rings loudest when you truly are trying to pour from an empty cup. While we may not be able to get all the sleep we feel we need, or spend our days doing whatever we may want, it is necessary to find time to do things that rejuvenate us. Whether it be a warm bath with a glass of wine after the kids go to bed, or getting a sitter and spending an afternoon shopping with a friend. We need to make the time to fill up our own cup before we can pour ourselves into another human being.
2. Not accepting help
Going into motherhood thinking that you can do it on your own is setting yourself up for failure. While not everyone is blessed with a large support system, most of us have at least one or two people who are willing and able to help when we need it. The worst thing a mother can do is run herself ragged and try to do everything on her own. Take advantage of grandmas, aunts, friends, coworkers, etc. who want to help. “Anything I can do?” was asked to me repeatedly after we had our daughter. I got very good at saying, “oh no, we are fine” and declining the help that I so desperately needed. Pride maybe? I felt that if I were to admit to someone else that I needed a break or needed help with dinner or dishes then I must be somehow failing as a new parent.
Needing help while raising other humans is normal and expected. You are doing yourself no favors by turning down offers from people who genuinely want to help and make your life easier. (Get ready family and friends, I am ready to accept all the help I can should baby #2 come around ;-)).
3. Comparing yourself to other moms
This probably deserves a post of its own. The pictures that mom’s share on social media are the cream of the crop moments or staged to appear that way. My daughter cried for the first three months of her life. I flipped through all of my pictures the other day and saw maybe one photo of her screaming. If someone were to look through those photos they would think that we had a calm, happy, wonderful new baby experience. Do I not have photos of this because I was trying to hide it from the world? Not necessarily. I don’t think picking up a camera was on my mind while I was trying to console a screaming child 8+ hours a day. I picked up my camera and shared the heck out of those fleeting peaceful and cheery moments though.
The mom who always has pictures of her well-dressed, well-behaved children smiling and posing? I guarantee on any given day those kids are just as rowdy and disheveled as yours might be at this very moment. But why would she capture and share the moment that she is ripping her unwashed hair out? We want to world to see our best, but just know that everyone has not-so-picture-perfect moments as well.
4. Giving up hobbies or habits that make you happy
If someone were to ask you, “Who are you?”, what would you say? Chances are one of the first descriptions you give would be that you are a mother. Once you bring a tiny human into the world (and maybe one, two or three more) it truly becomes a full-time job. The essence of who you are changes from an individual to a permanent “plus one”. This does not mean that you now have to live and breathe everything baby.
Holding onto the hobbies or habits that make you who you are is not selfish, it’s necessary. To answer the who are you question, it is normal to have “mother” lead the pack, but don’t forget to include the things that really make you you. Are you an athlete, a dancer, a musician, a knitter, an artist, a hiker? Don’t forget to give the other parts of you attention as well. Taking time away from being a mother to do the things that make you happy will truly make you a better parent and role model at the end of the day.
5. Holding yourself to your “pre-baby” promises
Before kids make their appearance, we have this idea of what life will be like. We have these ideas that are so important to us that they seem like absolutes. For me, a big one was “I will breastfeed for one year”. After a month of trying to feed a screaming miserable baby, I had to let go of that conviction to keep myself and my baby healthy and sane.
Your pregnant self may claim co-sleeping is the best way to raise your baby. You try it for days, maybe weeks, and find out you don’t sleep a wink with the baby in bed with you. You may begin feeding only organic, homemade, garden-grown purees to your baby. Two months later you’re feeding the baby a meal of mashed up french fries and pieces of a McDonald’s burger from your plate. The point is that things change once real life happens. It’s okay for our ideas and strategies to change as well. I may have started my journey worried about everything that was in my baby’s’ food, but I am pretty sure I just saw her eat an old (hours, days, weeks?) Cheerio from under the couch. That’s life.
Now before you start thinking that I have identified and fixed all of these mistakes and am now the perfect mother, let me tell you how real life works. I remain guilty of at least one of these mistakes on a weekly, if not daily, basis. My pre-baby hobby was school, work, and cooking. Now that one of those time-suckers is no longer around (bye-bye school) I have been trying to find a new passion. That quest often gets pushed to the bottom of the long to-do list. Comparing myself to other moms (or friends who are kidless) happens when I am least expecting of it and the inadequate feeling can linger. Identifying the problem is the first step, right? Being a mom is a work in progress for all of us.
The best thing you can do is give yourself the most deserved break often.
Have you made any of these or other “mom mistakes”?