The other day, I came across a photo of myself from when I was pregnant with my son. In the 12-year-old photo, I looked so young, so untethered, so relaxed.
Motherhood has morphed me.
I am more stressed, more loved and loving, more ambitious, busier, fuller-hearted, crankier, more impatient, adventurous, organised, exhausted.
Watch: Be a good mum. Post continues after video.
Parenting is the hardest, most consuming, confusing job I’ve ever had, by miles. It took me years to acclimate to being a mother, to the relentlessness of it, the sacredness, the tenderness of witnessing another human become.
And although I’ve been mumming for almost 12 years now, I still remember the absolute overwhelm and panic of new motherhood.
Each decision, from circumcision to if, how and when we should introduce a dummy, seemed monumental, with repercussions that threatened to ripple through my son’s entire life. Here are a few things I wish that young woman in the picture had known — tidbits that might’ve made my early mothering journey a little easier.
Make your own emotional regulation a priority.
Our bodies are wired to respond to our babies' cries — this helps ensure their survival.
But at some murky point, our child’s wellbeing no longer depends on nursing through the night. As a sensitive, empathic person with some codependent tendencies, I’ve always struggled to stay regulated if someone I love is hurting.
And as anyone who’s ever had a baby or a three-year-old knows, kids experience A LOT of emotions in the span of an average day.
I wish I’d had the tools to regulate my own emotions better in those early days, to know that as long as my kids' immediate needs were met, I could unhook from their upsets.
Simple actions like belly breathing or taking a quick break to lie on the floor with my legs up the wall might’ve helped me in some of my darker moments of early parenting.
It’s okay if you’re not the type of parent you thought you’d be.
Before motherhood, I was sure I’d be a stay-at-home mum, or at least a work-from-home-while-my-baby-peacefully-napped mum.
I hadn’t counted on having a baby who barely napped.
I learned the hard way that I’m a better mum when it’s not my only job. It took me almost two years to enroll my son in a meager two days of childcare, and several more years to accept that my desire to be a writer as well as a mother was valid.