Motherhood already has its challenges, I say that with all sincerity. However, adding the fact that we are a military family, we are away from family for support, and did I mention this is our first child? My first year of motherhood definitely was all about survival. It most certainly was a tough, but life changing year in so many ways.
The birth of my son revealed more than I expected. I spent more time learning through trial and error, re-establishing my expectations, and finding a new normal. No this isn’t just me sharing my experience, it’s an encouragement from the other side. That in spite of all of the tough moments, I found ways to survive my first year. Here are some tips from the trenches:
- Communicate: Communicate your needs! This is much easier said than done because you don’t necessarily know what you need at first. In many ways, it feels like you need everything all at once. Yet, not sharing any needs can easily cause you to spiral. So whether it’s the need for a few minutes of rest, someone else to clean up, or a glass of water – communicate what you need.
- Seek Help: I had to learn this the hard way. I’m not someone to ask for help in the most difficult situations, and that’s hard to admit. I’m a strong black mama who can do it all, but that attitude didn’t last me my first month of motherhood! The reality was I couldn’t do it all, and the thought of doing it all overwhelmed me to my core. Carrying all of the responsibilities was no longer an option, so I had to train my brain to seek help. It’s still a process I’m working through, but I’ve gotten so much better.
- Have Realistic Expectations: Before my own experience as a mom, all the other mothers I saw appeared to have it together. So when I became a mother, my expectations were not real. I never knew how little together things were. Not that they’re terrible, but they most certainly weren’t pretty or Pinterest like. Things were and are messy, tiring, you cry randomly, it’s so much more real than what I imagined. My unrealistic expectations almost set me up for failure and feeling like a failure. Keep it, real mama.
- Self Care: Prior to becoming a mom, one of my co-workers used to talk about having “mental health Friday’s.” I didn’t really get why but quickly saw the need. Pick any day to self-care, refuel, take a walk, or just get out of the house. You are no good to your baby, family, or anyone else if you don’t take care of you. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary.
- Sense of Humor: It’s so much better to laugh than to cry. One of my greatest survival techniques was finding humor in the most unexpected situations. Being able to laugh allowed me to remember that this is all new and I’m human. I’m doing the best that I can and that’s all my baby and my family want from me.
- So here is a bonus mama: Gratitude…being grateful and appreciative of every little achievement along the way. Motherhood is a long journey that feels long, but it’s truly short. Embracing a heart and mindset of gratitude kept me from being harsh on myself and seeing the greatest in what was happening around me. Grateful for a healthy baby and a new version of myself brought a lot of comfort during my first year.
We all discover who we are in different seasons of life, but those seasons can bring out some of our greatest qualities if we let them. My first year of motherhood set a tone for the woman I am becoming and the survival tips I acquired during that year have made me a better mom and so much more.