I made a lot of mistakes as a new mom. Not parenting mistakes (not that my parenting is perfect!), but mistakes that affected my well-being and happiness.
Being honest, I am 13 months into raising my second son and am still making some of these mistakes, and they have a direct effect on my family’s happiness.
My advice? Learn from my mistakes!
Nobody can read our minds as much as we would like them to. Delicate hints and innuendos will not always get the desired result. Being honest and clear in what you want or need directly impacts your happiness as a parent.
Honesty in Pregnancy
Let’s be real, the need for honesty starts the moment you find out you’re pregnant. Labor is not easier by claiming how great you feel every day; so why do we do it? We don’t want to make anybody uncomfortable? We don’t want to seem like we aren’t cut out for this? My theory is that 90% of women feel like shit for most of their pregnancy, 10% admit it, and everybody else tries to live up to the expectation of a perfect pregnancy. Feel like death? Admit it. Need a nap? Take one. Anybody who has problem with that has either never been there or doesn’t remember it. And who cares what they think anyway!
I wanted to die nearly every day of my second pregnancy. I admitted it rarely and made a joke about it occasionally. I should have cried; broken down and refused to adult for a few days. I should have been honest and said I was miserable so my husband, family or doctor could have made it better or at least known how I truly felt. Instead I faked well-being, came down with pneumonia, became exhausted, and that exhaustion never went away. I feel like I had an opportunity to manage it by attempting rest during my pregnancy, but never felt like I could or should; so here I am almost two years later feeling no more rested than I did at 6 months pregnant.
Speak up. Your health and happiness are worth it.
Honesty in Birth
There is no bigger need for honesty than when you are in the throes of labor. Are you in pain? Are you hungry? Thirsty? Is the room full of well-meaning friends and family driving you crazy? Speak up! Traumatic birth experiences are a real thing and can be minimized with honesty. Admittedly, being honest in the moment of birth can be a difficult task. Be honest with your birth partner up front. This may be your mom, partner, spouse, friend, doula or anybody you appoint as your advocate. When you can’t be honest or think clearly in the moment they will be honest for you. There are two people that truly matter in this birth scenario, and that is you and your baby. Your day, your experience, your choices. Even if that means telling everybody to get the hell out of the room and leave you alone, telling the nurse you need to get out of bed and walk around, or bringing the nurse in every 5 minutes to check you because you are sure you need to push.
After the birth, be honest of you needs. Do you need pain medication? Do you need food at an ungodly hour? Do you want no visitors in the hospital? Do you want no children in the hospital? Anything you want or feel in those moments and days after the birth are real and valid. Go with your instinct and let those around you know what you need.
Advocate for yourself while preparing for birth, and during birth, unapologetically.
Honesty in Motherhood
Congratulations! Your journey of motherhood has begun. Now is not the time to shrink back out of honesty, but to be more honest than ever. Your contentedness now directly impacts a tiny human being who needs you to be as happy and sane as you can possibly be.
I have personally found this the most difficult portion of my honesty journey. Honesty in motherhood can imply you are overwhelmed or can’t do it all. And guess what? That’s true. We can’t do it all and are too damn tired to screw around with hinting what help we need.
When somebody stops by and offers to help, let them. Let them do laundry, clean dishes, cook a meal or hold the baby while you shower and nap. When friends and relatives offer to help, two things will happen if you claim there is no need: they will quit offering and you’ll be resentful at doing it all.
Don’t let it get that far. Have a list ready to go so you don’t even have to think about what you possibly need in that moment; just direct them to the list on the fridge!
This goes for your spouse or partner as well. They are exhausted, they are emotional, and likely they want to help you but don’t know how. Some of my worst moments with my husband are when I expected him to know what I needed and became hateful when he didn’t act upon my assumptions. Don’t do that to him. Don’t do that to you. A simple, “Can you make a sandwich for dinner? I’m way too tired to cook,” beats the hell out of throwing your pots and pans around the kitchen, increasing your blood pressure with each toss. Parental fights stem from exhaustion and lack of communication. We have control over one of those; use it.
I’m hesitant to even use this word, because we aren’t selfish, but rather we are meeting our own needs. However, we (and most of society) decided that this behavior is selfish, so to avoid confusion I’ll follow along.
So be selfish. What does that mean? If you feel you need, want or feel something it’s valid. Go for it.
Selfishness in Pregnancy
I can’t stress enough that this 9 months is about you and your baby. You are exhausted, cranky and emotional. You don’t need to make excuses for yourself.
Do you want a nap? Take one. Are you hungry but don’t feel like cooking? Order out. Do what you need to in order to nature yourself and your baby.
Again, I screwed up here. The exhaustion and resentment I felt during my pregnancy for not being ‘selfish’ poured into my maternity leave and literally ruined most of it. I also think it spurred my post-partum depression.
I have a pregnancy role model who will not be named. Do you know what she asked for when she was pregnant? A prenatal massage. Big deal, right? But it is. She knew what she wanted and sent me the details with where she wanted, for how long, and a link on how to order it. This lady knew what she wanted. And do you know what? She got it. I could have spent that money on a cute baby outfit, but she’ll have millions of those. Instead, she got an hour of ‘me time’ and I couldn’t have been happier for her.
Selfishness in Birth
I don’t have much here. I was pretty selfish during both of my birthing processes, much to the annoyance of my husband who had to help me in and out of the tub every 5 minutes because I was sure that’s where I wanted to labor, and instantly changed my mind every time I sat down. Kidding. He was a trooper. But when you’re in the throes of labor just say and do what you want. Who has the balls to argue with you at that moment anyhow?
And after the birth? In those early days of motherhood? Don’t do a damn thing that you don’t want to do. By nature, those days are designed to ensure you and your baby build a bond that nobody can break (not that the last 9 months didn’t already do that!). You don’t want company? Don’t let them come in. You don’t want to cook? Don’t. You want somebody to bring you a meal? Tell them.
As an overflow from my pregnancy, I was not selfish enough during my maternity leave. I had actual needs not being met, was exhausted, and battling post-partum depression. I sank to a level where the only thing that made me happy was snuggling my new little dude and that is all I should have done. A year after he was born I am still trying to find my reset button and that happiness I should have. The more selfish I am, the more happiness I find. Crazy how that works.
Selfishness in Motherhood
This. Is. Huge. People will make you think everything you do is a mother is selfish. They need to get over it and you need to be selfish.
I babywear. Apparently this is ‘selfish’ because it neglects the others that want to hold my babies. Nope. With both babies I held and cuddled anytime I could, to hell with who else wanted to. They are now 4 and 1, and I have no regrets. Had I given up all of my moments so that others were happy and holding them I can imagine there would be some resentment. I can look back and know that I ate up every moment I possibly could.
When I was pregnant the first time I close friend told me that everybody would want a piece of our time now, and she was not kidding. Not a weekend goes by that there’s not something we should do or somewhere we should be. I spent the first two years of motherhood trying to make it all work. Do you know where that got me? Crying in my bedroom. All. The. Time. I was exhausted and no matter how hard I tried I was letting somebody down anyhow. So why not let everybody down except yourself and tiny family unit? It took me too long to realize that as long as me, my husband and our boys are happy and healthy everything else will work itself out.
I turn down a lot more requests for our time now and have a sense of relief each time.
Be Guilt Free
There is no big lecture here. For every decision you make as a mother – from the moment you find out your pregnant, until you see them go to college and beyond – own it. Your life. Your family. Your decision. Period.
Hello honesty and selfishness; goodbye guilt. I promise you the rewards far outweigh any potential negative reaction you may encounter along the way.