one year later: advice to new moms

I’ve only been a mom for a year and some change- so I’m sure I’m not the most qualified person to be giving advice to new moms. Yet, I feel like I’ve learned a lot in this past year of identity wreckage and resurfacing, shifting of priorities and character.

There are a lot of things I could tell you as you become a new mom. Birth is not always magical. People will tell you it is, but to me, it was really just extremely painful. You will sit on a diaper of ice for a week and everything will hurt and your new baby will cry and things will go wrong and you will freak out every minute of the day for a while.

You will try and make “mom friends” and it will be hard because you can’t be friends with someone whose only shared interest is mothering. It’s not that big of a bond. It’s okay if you don’t fit in at a mom’s group.

Go on a walk everyday. With your baby. Sometimes with a solo cup of wine. Just walk. Even if sometimes it goes wrong (and you carry a screaming baby down the street while kicking the stroller to keep moving)- go anyway.

But really, if I was going to give one piece of advice from a rollercoaster year of learning, it would be this:

Be aware of your privilege.

While I think this important advice in every aspect of life, it especially applies to motherhood. I learned this early on when I found myself pregnant without even trying-- painfully aware that this shift in my body and life, that I felt so unprepared for or even desiring-- was the dream of many. Several of my friends were, and are, dealing with infertility or miscarriage, and it wasn’t too hard to start to realize that my language and “whininess” about what I was feeling had to be tepidly moved through. With social media, there is this feeling of perfection and so often people swing the other way-- to be “raw” or “real”-- showcasing the “hardships” of motherhood. While I’m not downplaying how annoying the day to day of motherhood can be, this “realness” looks pretty whiny to those who would do anything to be in your shoes. I feel this immensely now as I struggle with the “why me!? Why my kid?!” aspect of cancer-- but I can also be aware that in my own hardship, I am indeed still privileged. Of course, life calls for whininess sometimes-- but I think it’s better to call up a friend or get coffee to hash out the “realness” in your life rather than broadcast your “troubles” on the internet to a world of people who wish they were in your shoes.

Someone else's circumstances shouldn’t make you thankful for your own. But awareness outside of yourself can remind you to be thankful DESPITE whatever you are finding to be troubling in that moment.

This also applies to the way you raise your child. There are so many amazing options out there- organic foods, clothing, wooden toys, toxin-free products. But let’s be real, you can’t get on a high horse about using these things because they (in and of themselves) are a construct of privilege. Shouldn’t ALL baby products be toxin-free, rather than just the high-cost ones? Low income families can’t afford the lifestyle many moms claim as best. It’s not a bad thing, but be aware of your privilege and judgement. If you are able to buy top of the line products, toys, and clothing- great! But get your nose out of the air at those who can’t. You can breastfeed solely (if you don’t have to work and have that as an option). But these aren’t choices that everyone gets to make. Choice is a privilege. Inequality is real and rampant in this country whether your secluded view of the world allows you to see this or not. Again, be aware. Be thankful. Be kind. And be generous. Teach your children to do the same.

You can spend your time isolating and protecting your child from a broken world. Or you can roll up your sleeves and try to fix it for them. In year one. I’ve learned that I would rather do the latter.