I have four kids ranging from 2 to 8 years old. I’ve never been one to hang around the house, so we are frequent visitors of coffee shops, stores and restaurants. We are a bit of a novelty and rarely (if ever) go out without someone stopping me to comment, “Your hands are full!”
It is true. I am a busy mama. But honestly, my steepest learning curve was not my fourth child, it was my first.
Being a first-time mom is HARD. If you’re a mom of one or two, and are questioning whether it’s a good idea to add to the chaos, you might consider these reasons (I think) it gets easier.
The first time around…
You have NO idea what you’re doing.
Seriously. I sort of thought I would have a magic infusion of motherly wisdom when I gave birth to my child Malachi. Instead, becoming a parent was like an episode of Survivor. An episode of survivor where my boobs were on fire and my teammate didn’t speak English. It really sunk in when my baby was losing his mind and my mother in-law (veteran child raiser) asked me, “Why is he crying?”
I don’t know, lady, and also, if you don’t know… I’m in trouble.
You may never be an “expert,” but with experience you build confidence and an arsenal of tricks of the trade, plus you’re just more “okay” with the fact that no one ever really knows everything.
You have a lot more time to obsess.
With your first, there is ample time to obsess about things like whether your kid is going to fail at life because they use a pacifier and if today’s “face time” was adequate. Babies two, three (and ever after) don’t have your constant attention because it’s not possible. For me, having more kids helped me make peace with my limitations. You’re having a complete identity crisis.
Many mamas feel like they don’t know who they are anymore.
They say in transition it’s common to feel angry, depressed, confused… and so many other emotions. It’s part of your process. Every baby is a transition, but I believe that moving into motherhood for the first time is monumental. After that it’s, as they say, “once a mom always a mom.”
You are sure that every little thing is going to last for eternity.
You don’t know how to imagine “later” with this child. When baby nurses 47 times in the night you think, “This is it. This is my life now.” You live in fear of things like “sleep crutches” imagining them when they’re 12 sprawled on top of you at every bedtime. When you wake up in a pool of your own milk, you’re like, This is the road I have chosen. I have arrived. Now I’m going to be Soaked-Milk-Girl.
Once you’ve gone through the baby stages once or twice, you have a real-life gauge for how fast it goes.
It becomes a whole lot easier to roll with the punches. I have a friend who says to every infant/toddler concern, from being addicted to pacifiers to exploding diapers to biting your nipple, “Hey, they (probably) won’t be doing that in kindergarten…”
There are just so many surprises.
Breastfeeding sounds a lot less difficult before you actually have a baby to feed. And then there’s the way that little ones seem to know that you’ve just fallen asleep—and make that their optimal time to wake up. No matter how many stories you were told pre-baby, experience is your true education.
You don’t have the know-how to filter advice.
Advice-givers are coming out of the woodwork. They’re in your grocery store, they’re at your church and they’re in your family. You used to think that there were social boundaries around what’s “okay” for people to say to you. Around the time that an older gentlemen in suspenders asks you how much weight you’ve gained in your pregnancy, you realize that baby raising is a strange new world. When I was a brand-new parent, people were constantly informing me that my baby was hungry. I’d doubt myself even though I was fully aware I’d just finished a feeding. With my second, third and fourth, people didn’t assume (as often) that I needed their “expertise,” but I also had the confidence within to hold onto the good things and brush off the rest.
Everything is a baby apocalypse with the first.
Their first cold. First ear infection. First time screaming at you. It might as well be Armageddon, and no one can convince you otherwise. Not even me right now. When my oldest lied to me the first time I wept. Seriously. I told all my friends how concerned I was. They encouraged me while also telling me that maybe I was “overreacting.” To which I was like, “Umm, he’s 3. Clearly I’ve ruined him.” In contrast, my third baby mimicked her first swear word, and without thinking I repeated it to her to see if she’d say it again. With time you realize that every child passes through seasons and it’s not because you’ve failed, it’s because they’re kids. First time around you’re taking everything (especially yourself) way too seriously.
So yes, I’m a mom of four and technically I have “my hands full,” but nothing has compared to my first transition to motherhood. If it was a rough ride for you as well, take heart, chances are it will get easier. As my sister-in-law so wisely put it, “The chaos of babies and toddlers will only last for a season anyway, and when you think about what your Thanksgiving table will look like in 20 years. It will be worth it.”