Look, I don’t have it all figured out. But I’m learning that’s kind of the point.
Motherhood is powerful and purposeful and painful and all the things. I couldn’t possibly describe it for myself, let alone everyone else…
But I have learned a few things I feel compelled to pass along.
As Calvin turns one today, I can’t help but reflect on what has undoubtedly been the best, most beautiful year of my life.
Whether you’re a hopeful mom, an expecting mom, or a mom of many, I hope these learnings inspire and uplift you in your own motherhood journey. (And if you have encouraging tips of your own, please share in the comments!)
Here are 10 surprising things I’ve learned since becoming a mom.
I’ll admit it: I used to think parenthood would be kind of a drag.
Oh, I knew I’d love my children and all. But I’d heard enough “just wait”s to assume raising kids would be really, really hard.
On one of my last date nights with Troy before having Cal, I cried driving home, feeling a kind of finality. There goes my freedom, I basically thought.
Yet here I am a year later, and my freedom hasn’t left my side.
Instead, I’ve got Cal on my hip, and he goes with me wherever I want — literally and figuratively.
Calvin is the embodiment of joy. Practically overnight, I went from being a girl who wasn’t a “baby person” to a woman who snuggles her own as much as possible, who can’t help kissing his cheeks at every opportunity.
Being Cal’s mom has given me a sense of purpose and confidence beyond my wildest dreams.
I wish I had given myself permission to hope for that years ago.
If I could go back in time, I would tell pre-pregnant me, “You can trust yourself.” As someone who naturally loves hard, I should’ve known I’d love my son harder than anyone. I shouldn’t have let fear, doubt, or “just wait”s get in the way — I should’ve believed that motherhood would bring out the best in me, that the Lord has been preparing me for this honor my entire life, that he will never fail or forsake me, no matter how hard it gets.
If you are apprehensive about your own ability to parent, please hear me: You can do this. Parenthood will be, in one way or another, even better than you ever thought possible.
While most of the world does warn about the difficulty of parenting, some people (mostly celebrities and influencers) claim that modern moms can “have it all” — the kids AND the job, the health AND the hobbies, the marriage AND the self-care.
Sounds awesome, but I have not found that to be the case.
There’s no getting around it: being a mom requires sacrifice.
I undoubtedly work less (and/or less productively) now that I have Cal.
Working from home with him is a bit of a joke. He’s constantly interrupting me… and so is my mom guilt.
Even full-time daycare has its downsides. Troy and I vastly underestimated the amount of time we’d have to take off work to care for a sick kid — or ourselves — thanks to that school-sized petri dish.
And that’s only the work part of life. Add in working out, doing laundry, cleaning the house, cooking healthy meals, going on dates, and doing all the other things I loved (or at least felt required) to do before having kids… and there just isn’t time to commit 100% of my time and energy to 100% of my previous responsibilities and interests.
So, no: moms cannot have it all.
But — with luck, planning, and prayer — we can have a little of everything.
Since having Cal, I don’t log quite as many hours of work. I don’t hit quite as many workout classes. I don’t read, vacation, or clean quite as much as I used to (though I do run many more loads of laundry!).
…Yet I still do all those things.
If you’re in a season when you need to pause something in order to be a better parent, that’s totally fine. I know not everyone has the flexibility or health I am fortunate to have.
But maybe, you simply need to accept that giving 90%, or 50%, or even 5% of yourself is better than none.
As someone who repeatedly slept till noon as a child (and, okay, young adult), I was terrified to say goodbye to my precious sleep.
But, as it turns out, not all babies zap all your energy.
Now, I’m aware Cal has been a better sleeper than many. Whether that’s purely his nature or partly helped by our efforts (including my research into sleep methods like Little Z’s), I do not take credit for this. I’ve heard too many stories of moms who thought they had it all figured out after their first baby, only to be thrown for a loop by their second. *Knocks on wood.*
I will say, though, that decent sleep really is possible with a baby, especially once they’re out of the newborn stage.
Even those nights when Cal’s up multiple times, it’s usually not that bad. Because not only do I remind myself it’s temporary, we’ll both go back to sleep eventually, and I can always nap on the weekend… but also, there’s a tiny part of me that, dare I say, enjoys it.
He’s only this little once. Sleep can wait.
Plus, you learn to operate on less sleep. Some days, I wonder why I’m dragging at 3 p.m., and I remember, Oh yeah, Calvin woke me up three times last night. It’s not like I’m constantly thinking about how tired I am throughout the day, even if I am abnormally tired.
If you’re concerned you’re going to hate your life once you start getting less sleep… well, I can’t promise you won’t hate your life, but I doubt it will be only due to lack of sleep.
More likely, you will simply have a bit less energy and patience than you normally do. (Although you’ll hopefully get some of it back as your baby gets older — which happens faster than you think!)
And while exhaustion isn’t fun, it doesn’t have to rule your life. You’ll probably be distracted enough by the other aspects of raising your child — feeding, cleaning, taking endless pictures, looking at those endless pictures when you should be asleep — that you won’t be so consumed by the thought of how tired you are.
Caffeine helps, too.
Wait… parents can have fun, too??
As it turns out, YES!
I know it probably seems like I used to think parenthood would be a death sentence 😅 but doesn’t our culture make it seem like once you have kids, you’ll never enjoy yourself again?
Since before we got pregnant, Troy and I have been determined to bring our children into our lives, rather than the other way around. Even if that means some extra finagling on our part.
Since Calvin was literally three days old, we’ve been taking him with us practically wherever we go. (His first outing was to meet his grandpa at the casino pool.) Those first few excursions were admittedly a little awkward, as I fumbled with breastfeeding in public and balancing the diaper bag and hoping we weren’t bothering anyone around us… but we did it. And I’m so glad we powered through.
Now that he’s one, Cal’s a busy boy, so eating at nice restaurants is markedly less fun than when he slept through all the commotion as a newborn. (Parents of only one infant: GO OUT NOW!)
But hey — we still can go out with him. And with the right attitude, it can still be fun.
Orrr we can pay for a sitter and enjoy a hands-free night on the town. The choice is ours.
Same goes for traveling.
Calvin’s first big vacation was a 10-hour road trip to the Minnesota Northwoods when he was two months old. I admit, the prospect was a bit daunting. But we prepared and packed well, stopped on the way as much as we needed, and gave ourselves grace once we got there — and we had a blast. (It helped that, since we were going to Troy’s brother’s wedding, we had plenty of family around to help us out. Pro tip!)
Since then, Cal’s been on several more road trips, plus six airplane rides. And I don’t regret a single one of them.
Flying was somewhat frightening, if only because I was worried he’d annoy everyone around us. But people on planes are surprisingly so nice to young families! And although holding him on my lap for hours was not exactly comfortable, it wasn’t awful. Even on one particularly restless flight when he was 11 months old, I just kept reminding myself that the rest of the trip would be worth this one hour of bouncing him up and down the aisle.
It’s all a trade-off, right?
If you are wondering whether you can travel with a baby — or even just go out to dinner with one — YES, you can. I promise!
The process might take some getting used to, so don’t let the first couple of times scare you.
On the flip side, don’t assume that because it was easy once, it will be easy forever. (Flying with a three-month-old was vastly different from flying with an almost-one-year-old!)
I know my experience in this area is so limited, but I do believe that by bringing our son with us on our travels and dates, we are building adaptability into him — and into our family as a whole.
The family that plays together, stays together, right?
Is my stomach a little softer? Yes.
Is my face a little more lined? Yes.
Is my appearance generally more, uh, unkempt? You betcha.
…But do I care? NOPE.
At least, not really. I won’t deny that, after a lifetime of body image issues, I still struggle occasionally with feeling 100% confident in my skin.
But now that my body has given birth to, and sustained life for, a literal human being, I not only care less what my body looks like, but also am so damn proud of it.
It’s almost like I have finally given myself permission to be imperfect. (Not that I ever needed it.)
It helps that I have prioritized my health since giving birth (see tip #8). I work out pretty regularly, get decent sleep, and try to eat well. I believe these habits strongly impact my mood and, thus, my self-image.
Regardless, I am finally content with what I look like — I think because I have a stronger sense of who I am.
I’m a MOM — a strong, capable woman who has been entrusted with the life of a soul that will, God willing, be in heaven with Jesus one day. And I get to steward that soul every day.
What could be more empowering than that?
Breastmilk, formula, solids, all the above… There are so many ways to feed your child, and unless the way you’re doing it is actually putting them in danger, none of it really matters.
When I was pregnant, so many moms asked me, “Do you plan to breastfeed?”
Well, yeah, I thought. Why wouldn’t I?
Now that I’ve had a baby, though, I realize the feeding thing is so much more complex than I’d expected.
Breastfeeding has undoubtedly been one of the great joys of my life. Fortunately, Calvin had a good latch early on, my supply was plentiful, and I experienced little pain — everything was going great.
Then, about four months in, he started to go down in the weight percentile. So I committed to pumping even more, eventually feeling like I was a slave to that blasted machine.
I think I’ll always remember when his doctor said, gently, “You’ve done a great job, but…”
I started to cry — both because I was ashamed to need help, and because I was relieved to have it. Having your body as the sole provider for your child’s nutrition is a TON of pressure, which I hadn’t even realized I was wearing. To hear there was another option was eye opening and weight lifting.
After I began supplementing with formula at around six months, both Calvin and I began to thrive more than ever before.
I still cherished breastfeeding him, but I no longer felt this arbitrary need to do so exclusively — an expectation I’d thought was societal, but in reality was probably just self inflicted.
I stopped breastfeeding completely only a couple weeks ago, as Troy and I embarked on our first solo trip since becoming parents (I didn’t want to bring my pump, and I knew Calvin would be transitioning to cow’s milk soon anyway).
I won’t lie — that was a tough bond to break.
I cried several times just thinking about it, let alone when it actually happened. (Another thing I wasn’t prepared for: how hormonal I’d be during the weaning process. Ladies, give yourself some emotional space during that time!)
While the wound is still fresh, I mostly have peace about no longer breastfeeding — partly, I think, because combo-feeding helped me transition more gradually, and helped me see there are so many (good, healthy, life-giving) ways to feed your child.
Someone asked me a few months ago what I thought the most surprising part of parenting was. After a minute, I answered, “Feeding.”
I really had not grasped just how much it would consume my life — the actual act of breastfeeding, pumping, even putting bottles together, plus all the emotional turmoil of wondering whether your baby is getting enough, especially when they’re sick, especially when the weight charts aren’t reflecting the numbers you want…
To any new moms or moms-to-be out there: give yourself a break. You’re doing FANTASTIC at feeding your child.
Trust your body.
Trust your instincts.
Trust that you’ll do what’s right for your baby AND yourself — and if that means feeding with formula, either exclusively or supplementarily, that is A-okay.
Fed is best, right?!
No, you do NOT need all the things.
But some of the things do help.
While many baby products are interchangeable and/or unnecessary, here are the baby registry items I would recommend buying or borrowing, if possible:
If you’d like more details (and/or more products), you can read this separate blog post I wrote about all my recommendations for baby registry items:
Yeah, I still get my nails done.
And I still go to Zumba a few times a week.
And sometimes I go to Barnes & Noble by myself, with no agenda other than to catch up on emails or research an upcoming trip.
Are these times that I could technically be spending with my son? Yes.
But do I feel guilty about them? Not really.
Because, as an introvert, if there’s one person I know, it’s myself — and I know I need time alone in order to be the best version of myself for others. Including Calvin.
When I come home from working, working out, or hanging with my girlfriends, I feel so much more rejuvenated to give Cal all my energy than if I were to spend time with him 24/7.
If there are moms who want nothing more than to spend every waking moment with their children, that is awesome. Good for them.
I am not one of them.
And it’s okay if you aren’t, either.
I talked to my dad about this when I was about to send Cal to daycare for the first time. I was, naturally, torn about the decision.
“I used to think it was a little sad when parents couldn’t stay at home with their kids all the time,” he said. “But then I realized…
“Even though my mom stayed home with us, we were rarely even home! We grew up playing with the neighbors, leaving after breakfast and coming home for dinner. It was a different world back then.”
Yes, it was.
I don’t love everything about modern society, but I am glad moms have more freedom now.
I’m glad my husband helps me bear the load, divvying up our parental responsibilities (mostly) equitably.
If you don’t have a partner who helps, or a job that offers you a fair amount of work-life balance, I am so sorry. I know that must make parenthood a lot harder.
But if you do have help available to you… by all means, take it.
Because it really is a lot easier to pour into others — including your baby — when your own cup is full.
I think I first heard this advice from Jenna Kutcher when I was pregnant. Since then, I’ve thought about it countless times, and I’ve found it incredibly helpful to remember in almost every situation involving Calvin.
He’s fussing nonstop, and I want to tear my hair out? It’s all temporary.
Daycare messaged — again — that we have to drop everything and pick him up because he seems sick? It’s all temporary.
We’re snuggling together as he breastfeeds in bed, staring up at me with his big, blue, trusting baby eyes? It’s all temporary.
I don’t want anyone to read this post thinking there aren’t moments of motherhood when I feel desperate or sad. There absolutely are.
But in those moments (or at least shortly thereafter), I really do try to have perspective.
I try to zoom out.
I try, morbid as this may seem, to picture myself several decades from now, as an old woman, maybe widowed, thinking back on these precious moments with my young family. Aching to be back there. Bartering with God to take me back in time, if only for a moment.
I try to honor the baby I never had, and acknowledge how I’d give anything to hold him or her in my arms.
How I now do have a baby to hold in my arms, and how he is the absolute greatest gift I could receive on earth.
If — when — parenthood becomes a pain for you, remember that this, too, shall pass.
For better or for worse.
And that involves more cheering than jeering, amen?
After all, what good does it accomplish to boo, other than to possibly cause the other team to miss a free throw? It doesn’t help your team gain any points.
And motherhood is so not a competition! This isn’t some Air Bud situation, where your child is forced to choose between you and some clown for a guardian. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Ask a ’90s baby.)
Your child is yours, my friend — which means parenting them is your business alone.
…And your neighbor’s child is hers — which means parenting them is her business alone.
I recently saw an Instagram post from a mom-to-be who acknowledged she used to be apprehensive about having kids, but now she’s excited — yet so much of the messaging on motherhood she’s seen has been negative.
“I know that when you say just wait, followed by a negative statement that you don’t mean to scare me…
“But I just wish that we focused on empowering soon-to-be-mamas instead of only sharing on the bad.”
I gave the post a double-tap, then read some of the comments.
While most were encouraging, several moms felt the need to remind her — again — of just how hard parenting is (or at least was for them).
Those comments were so disheartening to read. Here was this woman, admitting she already had low expectations of motherhood — and other women felt the need to bring her down again!
Expecting moms, please hear me: I am so proud of you. You’re already doing a hard thing, bringing life into the world just through your body.
Do you have what it takes to nurture that baby outside the womb, too? HECK YES!
I would be shocked if you weren’t already aware of the risks involved in parenthood. Unless you are a teenager or extremely delusional, you pretty much know what’s coming. You’ve heard enough of the “just wait”s.
It’s time for you to hear a “just wait… for all the GOOD that is about to come.”
Because good is coming, my friend.
And you have full permission to look forward to it.
I look forward to learning them.
Seriously, I don’t pretend to know everything about motherhood. Not even close.
I’m sure some seasoned moms will read this and think, Little does she know.
And honestly, so much respect to them. They’ve got badges I can only dream of wearing.
But I’m not really writing this for the seasoned moms.
I’m writing this so that when I’m a seasoned mom, I can look back and remember the beauty of this blessed first year with Calvin. Hopefully, I will have held on to a lot of these learnings.
And I’m writing it for any other hopeful, expecting, or new moms who might just need to hear from someone close to them, rather than someone seemingly far away.
We’ve got this, guys.
I’m fully aware that my insights will be different from yours. That’s the nature of parenthood (and personhood)!
So, tell me — what have you learned since becoming a parent? How has your life changed? What’s something you wish you could tell yourself before having kids?
(Remember, we’re champions of others here, so please keep it encouraging!) 🤗