New moms feel they are measured by how much their child sleeps, eats, how soon they walk, how fast they grow, how clean they are, and how they behave around other people. I know, because I thought how my kids and I performed on all of the above was some type of motherhood report card. If my kids did all these things at the right moment (there are no right moments) or the length they were supposed to (every child is different), I would be acing motherhood.
But when you really sit your ass down and think about who is grading you, do you even give a fuck about what they think? Probably not.
I didn’t totally mess up my kids with my nagging, stressed-out, overanxious behavior. I didn’t ruin them with my strict schedule. Trying to chase them around to make sure they were scrubbed clean if we had company or went out in public was probably only slightly harmful. I mean, my daughter still talks about how I used to chase her around the house with a hairbrush trying to comb out the huge snarl she would wake up with every morning, even though she hated the hairbrush more than anything else, but she is fine.
Now that I have one teenager and two tweens under my roof, I can tell you this: I would have been the one benefiting from not getting my undies in a twist every time something went astray or wasn’t what I had envisioned in my mind, and if I could have a do-over, I would take it in a hot minute because certain things do not deserve so much stress and anxiety, things like…
1. Their Eating and Sleeping Habits
If we weren’t home at exactly 11:02 (at the latest) so I could feed them lunch and get them down for a nap, I would start clenching certain body parts. Although we long for routine, need it to function, and realize our day goes smoothly if we stick to it most of the time, it’s OK if we loosen our grip on it every once in a while. I certainly wish I had. A stressed-out mother leads to stressed-out kids. And take it from an experienced, frazzled mother who used to care about her grade too much: Stressed-out kids don’t eat, sleep, or poop very well.
2. Whether or Not They Were Clean
Falling asleep in their high chair while eating was something I never used to let my kids do, and they tried to many times. What the hell was I thinking? I could have passed out in my plate of food right next to them. I felt I had to bathe them first, lotion them, and put them in a fresh outfit, but guess what? Once I got them all clean and snuggled in their crib, they never fell asleep. They were dressed and ready for a party, so that’s what they did — they partied. Meanwhile you could find me in a corner sobbing from exhaustion.
3. How Clean My House Was
Just in case I got visitors, or decided on a whim to host a playdate, I wanted to be prepared. It was a very rare occasion when someone came over unannounced or I decided to get crazy and invite more kids into my home, but when I did, they fucked up my house faster than a Category 5 hurricane and sent me into a panic. I should have spent less time trying to keep my house pristine, and more time hosting half-assed dinner parties.
4. What They Wore
I had three kids really close together and fashion is my jam, so really, it was a recipe to get them all snazzed up in matching outfits. At the ripe age of “I was just born,” all my kids hated matching outfits. They hated the Converse and sunglasses I used to force on them too. I mean, what 8-month-old likes wearing shades and leaving his shoes on? I still haven’t met one. My time would have been better spent trying to floss my dog’s teeth.
5. What They Ate
I know this is a big one. But hear me out: I nursed all my kids and didn’t enjoy it very much. Then I either fed them organic baby food that cost a trillion dollars each week, or made a mashed-up version of the organic home-cooked meal we were having that night. Then I got really fucking tired trying to kill myself each day to get the right food in their bodies.
It worked for a few years, but now they all gorge themselves on sugar cereals behind closed doors, take 4,367 mints as we are leaving the Chinese buffet (where all they ate was two chicken fingers and a cup of ketchup), and eat stale Halloween candy off the floor of our dirty car. Yes, put some thought into what you feed them, don’t fill their bottle with Mountain Dew, but don’t kill yourself trying to hit it right every damn time. A bowl of Fruit Loops every now and then is good for the soul and might buy you a few extra minutes to pluck your eyebrows.
Take it from me, a mom who has been there three times over. I have regrets, things I wish I had done differently, and every single one was based on how I handled things. I probably would have benefited the most from just calming the fuck down, and I am sure my kids would have liked it too. For the record, I really don’t regret the shades. I mean, how adorable.
So, Mama, just so you know, it’s OK to go off your schedule sometimes and relax a bit with the routine, fall asleep in your plate of pasta, and skip bath time. I know as a new mom you may not listen to this advice and need to do what feels right to you, so if you don’t listen to a word I say, no biggie. Honestly, I wouldn’t have listened to me either.