Now that the last of my three babies is 7 years old, I really do feel like the baby days are just a sweet memory. There are plenty of things I miss about being the mom of babies (that sweet smell, an excuse to sit down every few hours to nurse, and oh that baby laugh). Now I am trying to learn to embrace this new stage of motherhood where people can tie their own shoes, sleep past 5am, and we can even go out on a date once in awhile.
When my youngest stepped out to kindergarten last year, I had been mothering babies for over a dozen years. There are plenty of things I learned along the way, and lots I might change if I had gotten to do it all a 4th time. With perspective though, I’ve been able to see that there are some things I’m really glad I did. Hoping this list might be helpful for new moms, trying to make your way through those first few wonderful, hard, rewarding, exhausting, exhilarating years.
1. Cut back on work, if you can.
I thought about this one for years, as it was the hardest professional decision I ever made. I had a job I loved, and an income I thought we couldn’t do without. When my second child was born, I steeled my nerve and asked my new boss if I could cut back my hours and work part-time. Unbelievably, he said yes, and I got to spend two days every week at home with my kids for the next 10 years. This was a sacrifice financially for us, and professionally for me, but I wouldn’t trade those “mama days” as we called them, for anything. It lent sanity to our world, and allowed me to work almost guilt-free those other days, investing in myself and a job I loved. The decision to work, or not, for us moms can carry great weight and be controversial. Often times we don’t even have much choice in the matter. But when we do, it is worth thinking about creatively. Can you work from home sometimes? Do without even part of your income? Move to a different department with more flexibility? I have now made the transition back to full-time work, and continue to be grateful that I was able to take a step back when the kids were little.
2. Keep track of milestones (little and big)
During those baby years I tried my best to keep track of milestones, new words, and big moments. I kept an actual calendar for each child, where I tried to write just a few words each night. I didn’t do a great job all the time, but the ones I did are so fun to look back on. It’s easy to forget which foods they started when and who liked bath time the most. The simple calendar allowed us to write these daily memories quickly at the end of each exhausting day, before they got forgotten. We also really liked the birthday books that a friend gave us. The kids LOVE to fill them out every year themselves now, and look back at all their parties, friend lists and favorite gifts. I thought I’d never forget that Fancy Nancy party, but after 33 birthday parties, turns out they kind of start to blend together. Even if you miss days, or years, you will be glad you at least tried to capture as much as you could.
3. Connect with other moms
Sometimes it felt easier just to stay home snuggling with my little ones and not venture out, but many days I made myself do it anyway. I went to MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), playdates, baby swim lessons and even yoga for new moms. It was probably good for the kids to see different faces and places, but it was also good for me. I was a happier mom and wife when I had the chance to connect, commiserate and celebrate with other new moms. I’m grateful for these friendships, many of which I still maintain, and grateful for the role these moms play in my village.
Make some time, find some moms, watch them grow and enjoy the ride! Before you know it, they will be headed off to their first year of high school all too soon.