Rolling over? Sitting Up? Walking? These are some of the baby milestones that parents eagerly anticipate the minute the pink line etches into a positive pregnancy test.
All the parenting books I’ve read focused exclusively on the milestones that your baby would experience—but what about the mom milestones that we hit as mamas?
For every new rung my daughter reaches on the milestone ladder, there are new gems of wisdom for me to glean. We are growing up together by experiencing the same moments from two very different lenses. It’s these little slivers of daily life, miles marked (both big and small, triumphant and not) that add up to motherhood.
Here are a number of milestones that helped me develop into a mother, all while watching my daughter develop into a newly-formed little human:
Baby Milestone: Birth
Mama Milestone: Responsibility
The moment my daughter made her debut was the moment I knew I was no longer the leading role in my life.
Sure, all I wanted to do was eat, sleep and binge on reality television post-delivery. The only thing standing between me and a “Real Housewives” marathon, however, was this new member of society whose life entirely depended on me. The realization that I am now someone’s mother continues to simultaneously fill me with terror (what do you mean no more midday wine o’clock sessions?!) and joy (you’ll never love anything else more in your life).
Baby Milestone: Getting hurt
Mama Milestone: Empathy
Before I became a mom, when someone around me has gotten hurt, I’ve offered the contents of my expansive medicine cabinet and quietly hoped that they would feel better soon.
However, the first time my daughter took a bad spill, I felt the jolt of the initial shock from falling with her. If she was battling a mild case of the sniffles, I would think about how I would do anything to make them go away. There aren’t many people whose poop, pee and projectile vomit you gladly welcome being launched towards you—but when you do, it’s because you would take any amount of pain for them.
Baby Milestone: Showing love
Mama Milestone: Pure joy
I used to consider joy as something such as a salon facial. However, the feeling of being acknowledged for the blood, sweat and tears that go into motherhood is unparalleled.
The first time my daughter flung her tiny arms around my neck into a snuggly embrace, I assumed she just needed a place to wipe her nose. But, when she did it again, I cried tears of joy realizing that someone had been paying attention to all my efforts—both the ups and downs of parenthood.
Baby Milestone: Eating solids
Mama Milestone: Patience
Patience was never my strongest virtue until my daughter switched to eating solids. In the beginning, she would eat anything I put in front of her. Shortly after her first birthday, she acquired a newfound pickiness that would lead me to spending fretful hours trying to coax her into eating something besides waffles. The remaining hours of the day were dedicated to trying to outsmart her via creating various concoctions that incorporated hidden fruit and veggies. Still, I struggled to get anything by that little forensic investigator. As if I were a contestant on “Top Chef”, I’d present my daughter with several delicious options that, without fail, were always rebuffed.
This excruciating cycle always frustrated me (just ask my husband), but I had to show restraint in front of my impressionable daughter. The meditation app I listened to on repeat helped me control the veins in my forehead from popping out. This newfound restraint manifested itself into a necessary patience that could only be reserved for a child.
Baby Milestone: Getting angry
Mama Milestone: Emotional Regulation
Despite the need for a newfound patience and unwavering zen as a mom, we are still human. We all get frustrated at times, and very little is more irritating than trying to appease an angry child who can’t tell you why they are angry in the first place. Are they thirsty? Tired? Do they just want the commercials skipped during “Baby Shark”? Trying to decipher why your kid is pissed off is similar to taking a never-ending multiple-choice test, with the stakes potentially being very bad for your hearing.
When my daughter decides to display her highest range of emotions while demanding something in baby language, I have been guilty of shrieking, “What do you need?!” in my most aggravated tone.
However, one look into my daughter’s big brown eyes instantly makes the stress melt away. I am reminded that I am dealing with a pint-sized person who gets frustrated a lot more quickly than I currently do—and she is new to figuring out how to regulate and communicate her emotions in this new world.
Baby Milestone: Walking
Mama Milestone: Emergency response coordination
While my daughter couldn’t believe that she was finally propelling her little body upwards to start walking, I also couldn’t believe the danger zone we lived in! Hot tools on the bathroom floor, uncovered electrical outlets, uncapped pens everywhere, loose credit cards—you name it.
While my daughter diligently practiced putting one foot in front of the other, I scanned every room she was about to enter for any potential danger. I had become my daughter’s own personal secret service agent.
Baby Milestone: Going to daycare
Mama Milestone: Learning to let go
From choosing what kind of vitamins she ingests to selecting her daily outfits, I have been Type A involved in almost every little aspect of my daughter’s young life.
It was no surprise that daycare drop-off was hard. I sobbed into my coffee on the walk home, feeling helpless. I’ve been my daughter’s tour guide into the world since birth and suddenly, she was left to navigate it on her own. At some point, I was going to have to trust someone else to care for my child, so I figured that I might as well rip the Band-aid off.
Baby Milestone: Saying no
Mama Milestone: Creative problem solving
There comes a time when all kids will emphatically shake their head “no” at you. I just didn’t think that time would come before the age of one.
Babies seem to require a lot of tricking into doing things—putting toys in their crib to draw them in, swiftly swapping their pacifiers out of their mouths for bottles, or desperately trying to replace digital screens with any other form of entertainment.
Dreaming up the actual distraction requires a lot of brain cells, such as figuring out how to convince your child that the swimming pool is actually just a big bathtub or that they don’t need a pacifier because there is a better and healthier thing for them to munch on instead.
Baby Milestone: Talking
Mama Milestone: Unadulterated pride
Sure, I gave myself a healthy dose of props when I aced exams, landed new jobs and even locked down my husband along the way.
I assumed my little one never really paid much attention to my daily humming or colorful vocabulary. Until one day, I heard a tiny voice reply, “EI-EI-Oh” in response to my off-key singing of Old MacDonald. However, there is being proud, and then there is bursting with pride with every fiber of your very being.
Baby Milestone: First night away from mama
Mama Milestone: Nostalgia mixed with guilt
Indulging in my first (of many) mom nights out brought a lot of mixed emotions. After tipping back my first margarita, I started to miss a piece of me—the pre-baby glam, no responsibility part of me.
It was after the second margarita, however, that the intense mom-guilt started to seep in. I quickly realized that I was out of sight and out of mind for my daughter and that she might barely register that I was even gone. Recognizing this reality, despite my new parental responsibilities, I figured that I might as well stay for another drink.
Whenever I breathe a sigh of relief and think I’ve got motherhood figured out, my daughter throws a new curveball at me. However, with new curveballs come new milestones, which build up the self-confidence it takes to grapple with parenthood. The shiny new mom milestones I have acquired under my belt are culminating into the ultimate life lessons on adaptability, patience and compassion.