Not all of us can claim the title of second (or third, or fourth, etc) time mom. But if you’re a mom at all, you can definitely say you’ve been a first-time mom. Part of being in this category means you receive a ton of advice. From moms of babies that are one month older than yours, to moms with five kids grown and living on their own – giving advice to the doe-eyed, first-timer is just what another mom does.
But as my belly gets bigger with a baby that will soon knock my only-child from his throne, one of the things I’m trying to remember is how exactly to encourage the first-time mom who is deep in the trenches. In light of that, here are a handful of things I think we as first-time moms can all agree we wish those veteran mommas would refrain from saying to us – or at least, learn to say differently.
1. “Don’t worry about it!” There’s a difference between brushing aside a new mom’s worries because you’ve been there and you know that a newborn cluster feeding from 9 p.m. to Midnight is normal; and truly listening and relating to a mom who thinks her milk supply must be dropping and her child isn’t getting enough food so apparently they’re eating for hours on end every night. Empathize with her, and let her know you get it – that her worry is totally normal, and give her concrete reasons behind why it’s not a legitimate fear. Remember when you were there? Remember how real that fear was? Remember the tears, the anxiety, the late-night Googling, the totally-confused-and-helpless husband? That’s where she’s at. Validate those feelings with everything you’ve got.
2. “Try doing it with a toddler running around your feet!” This is essentially one-upping another mom – akin to bragging about how your husband bought you diamond earrings for a push present when her husband completely forgot that was a thing. Ain’t nobody wanna hear about that. Being a first-time mom is tough, and there’s a reason you (usually) start with just one child. Momma’s need to be eased into this motherhood gig and I’m willing to bet that if your first-time-mom-self could hear you now, she’d roll her eyes.
We get it, making dinner while a newborn cries in the sling shouldn’t be that tough for us, but right now it is. We’ll learn to not let those cries affect us too much in the future, but for now, it’s all we hear and it’s pretty dang hard on our hearts. So please, keep your mom-skillz to yourself for now and just tell me I’m doing an outstanding job.
3. “You don’t want your child to roll over/crawl/walk! Enjoy it while you can!” This one always befuddles me. I mean, I could be wrong, but I thought as a mom you’re supposed to want your child to develop normally and reach milestones and – I don’t know – actually grow up to be a functioning human being some day. As a first-time mom, that kid is all I’ve got. I may change my mind when I’ve got 2+ running around my ankles, but for now, let me revel in the fact that my kid just crawled across the living room. It’s a big moment for my kid, but it’s a big moment for me too.
I know, I know – it means I have to get outta my chair and save my child from life-threatening stair-falls more often, but isn’t that part of my job description? You can laugh at me and say “I told you so,” when I have my second and I’m desperately trying to enjoy the last few days of having a non-mobile child, but for now, try to just share in my joy as I freak out over the fact that my child just took his first steps.
4. “Enjoy every moment, it goes by so fast!” This one usually comes from the moms that have been out of the day-to-day trenches of motherhood for a bit. And we do know what you mean, and it’s all well and good, but sometimes, the fact that we probably heard that exact line 10 times in one trip to Target while our child screamed in our arms and pulled all the cake mix boxes off the shelf because they’re just. so. curious. makes that line grate on our nerves a bit. Maybe try just telling us that we’re doing okay, and we’re gonna make it. That someday, that little boy I’m carrying on my hip will be big enough to actually make that box of cake mix he just knocked off the shelves for my 40th birthday – and it’s okay to not relish in this particular moment – as long as you take time to remember the good ones.
5. “Just Wait.” “You think this is bad? Just wait until they’re talking and have opinions!” “Just wait until they become crazy, hormonal teenagers!” “Just wait until you have two to juggle, you’ll never leave the house!” I get it, parenting is hard, it’s hard when they’re a newborn and it’s hard when they’re rebelling as a teen. Different kinds of hard, but hard none-the-less. But these comments do nothing but serve me a big ol’ dish of doubt as to why I ever even had children.
Instead, tell me about the good times, tell me that if I think this stage is good, then oh man, am I ever going to love it as they get older. Tell me about how your kids make you happy, how much joy they give you and how it’s only gonna get better. Because I know you love your kids and there were good things happening as they grew up in your house. Help me to look forward to the road ahead – not dread it.
6. “I just wonder if your opinions will change when you have a second…” Let’s be honest, they probably will. In fact, I hope they will. That’s part of life. But right now, my reality is one child. It’s my world. I know nothing different, and while there are so many good things that I know I can (and will) learn from veteran moms, this one makes me feel pretty inferior. It’s like a passive-aggressive way of saying that I’m ignorant and wrong – and I might be – but I almost wish you would just say that instead.
7. “If your first is good, just wait till your second, then you’ll pay!” I hear this one a lot. My son is a good sleeper, and I totally know it’s one-part sleep training, two parts just having a child that loves his sleep. But telling me that there’s no way my next will be similar 1) demeans any little bit of work I did with sleep training, and sorta hurts my pride – but more importantly, 2) makes me scared-spitless of having a second because apparently they are destined to be a wild, insomnious terror that will make me pay for any good deed of my first’s.
No one can predict the future, so please don’t give me needless worry. I prefer to live in the land of puppies and rainbows until my reality-check actually arrives.
No matter how many seats you have filled in the mini-van, we all know parenting is hard. It’s complicated, ever-changing, life-giving and heart-breaking. Just as the number of children you call yours changes, so do your realities, thoughts, worries, hopes and dreams. As moms to just one, we know we have LOTS to learn, and we’re looking to you veteran moms to guide the way. But please, don’t demean our efforts with flippant comments. We know you don’t mean to hurt us and sometimes, we probably do sound pretty whiny and ignorant to you – but please, remember you were here before.
You were that worried, scared, low-capacity, bright-eyed, positive – sometimes prideful – and likely totally ignorant, first-time mom once too. You know first-hand what a joy parenting beyond the newborn stage can be. And so instead of saying all that other stuff, just remind us of that joy. Remember what it was like.
Remember, you were us once.
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