You are in the thick of it new Millennial moms. Sleep deprived and haggard, there are days you wonder how the hell you got here. Just a few years ago you were fake adulting your way through college and the first few years of the real world. Now your days are filled with diaper changes, awful cartoons, bite-sized food and endless bedtime routines. How did this happen?
Most of the time I can’t believe I am allowed to have kids. I’m still a kid myself. When people talk to me, half the time I mentally end their sentences with the very mature “that’s what she said” phrase. And yet here I am responsible for two other human beings (three if you count my husband).
“If I think back to when I was 16, I thought I would be ancient at my age now. My 16-year-old brain thought 26 is when you have everything figured out and you’ve had all your kids. You’re done. Your career is established and everything is great.”-new Millennial mom, age 26
Oh, how rosy our view of adulthood is at such a young age. Maybe it’s the clichéd images of moms that are stuck in our heads that make us think we would have our shit together by now. We vision dinner in the oven, a squeaky clean house, kids playing happily together in the backyard. Ok, no one is that naïve. But I bet you unconsciously set some lofty goals of how life would look when you became a parent.
And then you do become a parent. And the reality of your new life hits you so much faster than you anticipate.
It’s not a slow transition. It’s like a Mack truck hits your life. No matter how much you have prepared for it, you aren’t prepared for it. Sleep deprivation, postpartum baby blues, the physical recovery, the resentment towards your partner who, despite their good intentions, cannot begin to understand what you are going through. And that’s all in the first few weeks of becoming a mom (or mom again).
And if you are lucky enough to have a healthy and reasonably happy kid, that initial fog starts to lift a couple of months (three, four, five?) into parenthood. And you look around your house and find it filled with breast pump accessories (I shudder as I write), dirty bottles, piles of laundry and dishes, and you smell something foul that is not coming from your babe’s butt. It’s you. You smell. You haven’t showered in days. HOW HAS IT COME TO THIS?? Where did MY life go?
“I knew life would change but I didn’t know how drastically. I think the lack of sleep is a big part of it. So there’s the lack of sleep and the lack of ability to maintain my sense of independence. I feel like I never get to go out and do anything for me. If both kids are sleeping, there’s cleaning or laundry to do.”-new again Millennial mom, age 31
And it’s at this point, new moms, that you’ll want – no, need – to get some balance back. You are at a critical point where you recognize your priorities have changed, but that you need to get some of your groove back. But how to begin that journey back to YOU?
For me, it was doing something that felt so incredibly counter intuitive post-baby. I had to be selfish (as a Millennial this should come to me naturally, right?). As a mom, you are hardwired to be selfless. Your kid(s) come first. Your family comes first. But at this critical juncture, YOU need to come first. If momma isn’t happy, no one is happy (my husband can attest to this).
I started to remember what made me happy pre-kids. And then I had to commit to figuring out a way to do those things again. So I started slowly working ME back in to my life. I wandered aimlessly through Target for an hour. Met some friends for a drink. Went to a movie. Had date nights with my husband. I wasn’t as quick to say no to an invite. If I could make it work with schedules and babysitters, I would.
And those short bursts of time away from my kids taught me a few things. First, they will be just fine without you. Yes, you will feel some momma guilt at first. It’s unavoidable. But when you come home to happy babies (or better yet, sleeping babies), you’ll realize they are not nearly as breakable as they seem and having them spend time with other people is good for everyone. Grandparents need grandbaby time, and your friends who always offer to babysit will finally get a chance to see the chaos that is your life.
Second, you’ll feel reenergized and mentally ready to be at your best when you’re at home. A little less on edge, a little more willing to put up with the shenanigans your littles pull on you. Again, good for everyone. And third, and maybe most importantly, you’ll start to see how you can be a mom without just BEING mom.
Whatever it is that you enjoyed doing before having kids, really try to get back to it. I’m not saying full-time. You have a new baby, remember? But work those pre-baby happy places back in to your life at some level. Schedule it. On your calendar. Right now. And get back to YOU.
And if you’ve ever dealt with harsh online judgement about how you parent, check out my post on how to deal.