When I became a mom I read endless amounts of articles on conquering labor and birth, what organic foods I should make and feed to my baby, and how to “say no” by really “saying yes.” No one prepared me that I really should have been reading articles on “how to spend an entire evening making dinner to find you’ll be the only one eating it” or “how to correctly cut the crust off of a PB&J but actually forget it because you’re doing it wrong anyway” followed by mountainous tantrums. Three years, two kids, and one extremely exhausted mama later, I’ve come up with the ultimate guide for surviving. This guide will help you survive because let’s be honest, there is no epidural for parenthood.
1. Accept Help
I can still recall my 23-year old self when I became a mom the first time around. “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” they said. Sleep? Who needs that? Cooking? That’s what ordering take out and anything frozen was invented for. Help? I Ignored the advice my very own mother gave me. I felt that accepting help would be a sign I’m a weak, incompetent mother. If only I could go back and throw a drink in the face of my young, naïve self. I could not have been more painfully wrong. Fast forward two years when I had my son, I knew better.
I accepted anything anyone possibly offered that gave me the slightest hope of tranquility. I welcomed meals, entertainment for my toddler, and even an isolated chance at running an errand or two alone. Accepting help will also be something I will be grateful to have mastered when my kids are grown up. YES. YES. Say it with me, “YES.” Ok, good. Accepting help is being brave enough to admit you are not perfect. Becoming brave enough to admit I was not perfect gave me the strength I needed to survive this messy and chaotic thing we call parenthood. Whether your help is through people or it’s spiritual, embracing support is so important. You never know when an opportunity for solitude may present itself, so always say yes. Your future self (who will probably be hiding in a closet from the kids, shoveling a guilty snack in your mouth) will thank you for it.
2. Find Your Village
When I had my daughter, I had acquaintances who were moms and I deeply appreciated them, but I still had yet to find my village. I hurdled through the first year of motherhood trying to maintain my friendships with my past friends. Most of them respectfully kept their distance as their lives were completely unrelated to mine. I felt so much loneliness and loss of identity as a new mom.
In time, I found women I connected and became united with, and our bond became unbreakable. I found true friends who loved all versions of me; the friends that loved the messy version. They love the adventure version. They understand the version that sometimes falls short and makes mistakes. No matter what failures I face they are always there to pick up the weight when things feel heavy. Most of these friends are fellow parents, but a few are not. They are there to simply offer me coffee when I drag my crew over for a play date after a sleepless night. They are there to whisk away my heavy baby and give my arms a break without hesitation. Some are purely there to make sure I can make it an entire night out focusing on enjoying myself and not talking or worrying about the kids safely tucked away at home. They know my love language. I found them in various places throughout the community. They are the women I exercise with, the women that draw out my creativity and inspire me through this blog, and there are a few more I found on my messy journey in between. Your village should influence you to always strive to be the best version of yourself while recognizing and forgiving your flaws. Finding your village is so important.
3. Search for Balance
Our kids’ happiness generally tends to influence our own, but are we doing enough for ourselves to maintain our personal joy? When you become a parent, you almost instantly and instinctively put your children’s needs before your own. So much of YOU can end up getting lost in the daily hustle just keeping that kid alive. Don’t forget to feed your own needs. Going for a walk/run or simply being outside, enjoying a glass of your favorite wine or craft beer in silence, sitting down with a good book or podcast, or finally joining that yoga class you’ve always wanted to try. Find what makes you happy and don’t forget to fill your own cup! It’s a key to keeping that happiness alive and continue thriving as a parent. I’ve found that even if you don’t have family in town to watch your kiddos, there will usually be a friend or couple willing to take on the kids so you can swap time to renew yourselves. Even a half hour of solo time can reset your mood for the week. I find any week I make it a priority to set aside time to do something I love, I’m a much better and functional mom because of it. So embark on a new adventure mama and pursue your own happiness. You won’t regret it.
4. Keep Your Identity
This is something I constantly need to remind myself of, especially after becoming a stay at home mom. My main title used to be “hairstylist,” but now that my job revolves around my kids and our home, every day is a constant battle to make sure that people recognize I am much more than a mother. I am an artist. I’m a runner. I am a snowboarder. I’m a music lover. I also believe it’s important to maintain our identities and passions once we become mothers. Before I had my babies, you could find me strapped to a snowboard about 90% of the winter. I ran 5ks in my spare time and traveled when I could afford to. Fast forward a few years and I have to actively try to make sure I continue to include these things in my life, pursuing those passions that make up who I am as a whole. By doing this, I am thriving with my pursuit of happiness and being the best mom I can be. Don’t let your past define or control you, but let it inspire you to help you become the best version of yourself.
5. “Live One Day At A Time”
Currently I am living off of this well-known phrase. It’s okay to feel like you’re drowning in motherhood from time to time; just make sure you find the courage to take a step back and breathe. Live in the present. It’s easy to let yesterday’s parenting mistakes come back to haunt you. Let it go, choose to reset your day and start fresh every day. I generally wake up to see the sunrise and I find it helps me truly start my day with gratefulness. It helps remind me that I deserve a clean slate and I am lucky to be alive today because tomorrow is a gift not a promise. I remind myself and my peers to forgive themselves for yesterday’s cons. Unplug when you need to. As parents, we are repetitively being drawn into negativity and jealousy with social media. If I’m feeling I’m being influenced in a way that doesn’t benefit me, I love to unplug for a day or two. Try it. I promise you will survive without it.
What can you do to make your day easier or more beneficial? Pick one of these topics and apply it to your life. Trust me; you will be thankful you did.