We've compiled the top messages we heard from moms when we asked, "What did you need to hear when you were a new mom?" This list is different from others you've seen - you won't read about the Must Have stroller of 2020, or the baby bouncer that you can't live without. Instead, you'll find that moms have a pretty universal message for you: You matter. You can trust your instincts. You're doing great.
“There is no "right" way to do this. I wish I would have listened more to myself and what I needed in figuring out what was best for me and the baby."
- Mom of two, ages 5 and 7
There are so many voices coming at us as new moms. Social media, family, friends, books, doctors...the list goes on. Most of these voices have good intentions, but if you try to take it all in at once, all of the noise makes it hard to hear the most important voice for your family: Yours. It’s not about finding the “right” way, and when we think like that, we can set ourselves up to feel like we’re failing. Instead, try “I’m doing the best I can, with what I have, at any given moment.”
"It’s ok if it all doesn’t get done right away. The laundry can wait, the kitchen can be messy... take the nap you need, have the glass of wine you want. Be sure to take care of yourself during this time.”
-Mom of two, ages 9 and 6
Take care of YOU! However you look at it: An empty bucket, a drained battery, running on fumes, just plain exhausted, if you don’t make yourself a priority, it will be hard for you to give what you want to your family. Somewhere along the way it became a badge of honor to pour all of ourselves into motherhood, but it's just not sustainable. Caring for yourself is vitally important, and the more you can nurture yourself, the more you can be who you want to be (for yourself, and for your children). Sometimes caring for yourself means asking for help, leaving the dirty dishes in the sink, or lowering your expectations for the day. Your wellbeing is worth it.
“You are not the only mom experiencing anxiety right now. Other women can relate, there are resources available to help, and you are not alone. “
-Mom of two, ages 7 months and 2
If feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, sadness, rage, loneliness, or worry are getting in the way of your ability to live your life, reach out to a friend. Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) are the #1 complication of childbirth in the U.S., affecting somewhere around 20% of moms. Here’s the thing: You don’t need a diagnosis to seek help. If you’re not feeling like yourself, there are so many incredible resources out there to support you. Check out Mother Tree Wellness, Postpartum Support Virginia, Postpartum Support International, or find the programs in your area. Every mom's path will be different, and finding what works for you is what's most important. You may not know exactly what you need, but maybe you just feel stuck. For your sake and your baby’s, reach out for help so that you can get back to feeling like yourself again!
“I remember wondering how I could feel such conflicting emotions at once. How can I feel so connected to the baby and feel completely alone at the same time? It’s easy to imagine your experience is unique to you (which can feel even more isolating), but it’s not just you!”
-Mom of two, ages 11 and 12
How can it be that you’re around other humans ALL DAY LONG (baby, kids, partner...ALL day long, now more than ever) and yet feel so alone at the same time? How can it be that you feel so incredibly grateful to have this sweet baby in your arms and you feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and just want to be left alone - all in the same moment? There’s a word for this, mamas, and it’s not just you! Ambivalence refers to holding two contradictory thoughts or emotions at the same time about the same thing, and it’s incredibly common in motherhood. When we were kids, we were taught that we could feel happy OR sad OR angry at any given moment. As moms now, we know it’s not OR. It’s AND. The key is to allow ourselves permission and self-compassion to embrace the AND. We can hold this range of thoughts and feelings at once, and we can acknowledge that this is just one of the many ways that motherhood adds a new depth to ourselves.
“Everybody in your world shifts to a different role after baby is born. Sometimes it’s amazing, and people will surprise you in the way they show up for you. Other times, it’s messy - maybe your mom, MIL, sister, anyone used to calling the shots won’t be feeling their new backseat spot now that you (or you and your partner) are making those calls for your new family. It’s uncomfortable, and also, it’s okay. Just keep doing what’s right for the family you’ve built.”
-Mom of two, ages 6 and 7
Intentional. Boundaries. New moms get flooded with so many inputs - advice from loved ones, parenting books, “Have you tried…?”, and “You should…”. Find your anchor, whatever that is for you - something as simple as a deep breath or a mantra, and only take in the feedback that vibes with the way your new family is doing things. You (or you and your partner) are Team Captain now, and keeping open lines of communication with the people in your world will help strengthen those boundaries so that you’re protecting your time, your energy, and your precious family.