Monday, November 16, 2015

9 Things I Learned in My First Year of Motherhood—That Are True at Any Stage of Life

It’s been a year of this parenting gig. Officially now.

In some ways, it feels like Luca has always been here. That we’ve always been washing bottles and reading board books and buckling and unbuckling the car seat.

But sometimes it feels like this all started last week, maybe just a couple days ago. There are times when I look at him and think: I’m actually entrusted with making sure you turn into a functional, capable human and that you are also caring and kind and know how to do your own laundry.

I’ve heard so much about the first year of motherhood. How it’s tiring and it’s trying and it goes by fast. So, so fast. That you’ll never be happier, but also, just wait, because it only gets harder from here. How to balance work and how to balance housework and how to balance your relationship.

Some of that advice I’ve internalized and some, like everything else, I’ve had to just experience for myself. But when I started looking back on this past year, I realized that so many of the things that I did learn—or at least, have tried to learn—are just good things to remember for life, whether it’s in the parenting context or not.

Here’s what I want to remember:

No one is exactly where you are—and that’s ok. 
My biggest wish, when I was going back to work or when I couldn’t deal with all the dishes in the sink or the unmade bed or all the things and goals and thoughts, was that there was someone I could look at—someone who was in the exact same place as me—and just do exactly what she had done. I wanted someone to hand me a very specific outline of what worked for her and I wanted to follow it step by step—from her career choices to what color she painted her kitchen. But the truth is, no one’s day-to-day life looks the same. And even though I know this, inherently, it was only in taking a step back and realizing that other people’s decisions can’t be mine, did I start to gain some perspective. What does Amy Poehler say? “Good for her! Not for me.” 

Slowing down can be a good thing. 
The whole winter after Luca was born was an exercise in slower living. We weren’t running from this to that or making plans that filled up entire weekends. Truthfully, a trip to Target was basically the best thing ever—which is not how I’ve always been. Things have definitely picked up since then, sometimes too much even, but there are times when I’m sitting on the living room floor on a Sunday morning and remind myself that if all the grand plans for the day aren’t met, the world won’t come to stand still.

Get in on the group chat. 
Because who else can you message at 3 a.m. after a breastfeeding breakdown—and actually get an answer? Or exchange 867 photos with—and know they’re actually being looked at? The group chat kept me sane and made me feel less alone and was a way to stay connected to people who knew me when I was a 14 year old with a questionable blonde streak in her hair.

You’re still you, no matter what. 
I danced in a small-town bar until 2am. I sat on the beach at midnight eating smores around a bonfire. I had drinks on a rooftop in the middle of the summer. I went to kickboxing and read books in the backyard and hung out with my husband. It’s so easy to get swept up in all the new-ness, in all the must-do’s and have-to’s and the guilt, the ridiculous amounts of guilt. Sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics and back to the beginning. To do the things that make you, you.     

Guilt is almost never, ever worth it. 
Speaking of the ridiculous amounts of guilt, it was there in spades this first year. Whether it’s about going to work or not making organic purees from scratch or letting your kid your sleep in your bed cause you’re just so tired, everything you ever read or see or happen to overhear in an elevator somewhere will make you feel like your decisions are wrong, wrong, wrong. Whatever. Life isn’t static and, wait, what was that first point about ‘no one being where you are,’ again?   

Everything is a phase. 
This applies equally to baby-related things and life-related things. The guilt I felt over not making my own purees was huge. Huge. And seriously, he ate purees for like, 2 whole months before deciding he’d much rather eat real food, teeth or no teeth. If I had known how short a period of time it was going to be, I definitely wouldn’t have stressed about it so much. Same goes for just general life things. I can get so myopic and think things are always going to be one way forever and ever that I forget that really, it’s pretty much the opposite.

Accept help. 
That whole ‘it takes a village’ advice? So so so true. I cannot express the amount of true-ness in it. I’ve always been surrounded by lots of family, so the idea that people help each other out was nothing new. But I know not everyone feels this way. And oh how short sighted that is. Our parents, our siblings, our extended family, our friends—they were there for us this year in such a monumental way. I am more thankful for this than I could ever wrap my head around.  

Write it down. 
Even if it’s just on a scrap of paper that you stick in a notebook somewhere and don’t find for five or six years. Even if it’s just a note on your phone or a caption on Instagram. It doesn’t have to be some scrapbooked piece of art that you frame and hang over your bed, it just has to be somewhere. 

Trust your gut. 
I’m going to get this tattooed somewhere super visible and make myself read it, mantra-style, every morning. It’s the tried and true lesson. When all the anxiety and the worry and the fear is taken away, it’s just that feeling. Always. Listen. To. That. Feeling.

And that was just the first year. I wonder what year two will have in store.

What did you learn your first year of parenthood? What are the life lessons you stick to no matter what?


  1. That first point is spot on... mind you I still need to remember that and I've been parenting for 12 years! :)

    1. Thanks! I have a feeling it's something I'll be reminding myself for MANY years to come! :)

  2. Lovely post :-) Crazy how much you learn as a parent!