I titled the very first post on Horney Mom Tells All “5 Things,” and it documented the 5 things I’d learned in the month since my first child was born.
One month. I’d been a mom for 30 days and already had 5 things to share, which endears me to my past self in a strange, warm way. The “5 things” are a study in punch drunk love, and reading them stirred up that infatuation of new motherhood that completely overtook me when Clara arrived.
But it made me think- If I met that new mom at the park, the one with a 4-week-old Clara in her arms and eyes full of stars as she tiptoed into motherhood, what would I say? Could I hold my tongue, avoid shaking her by the shoulders with a wake-up call about future pain and mistakes? I hope so. I hope I would hug her, smell that newborn baby with every fiber of my being, and tell her these 5 things from 5 years later.
- Babies normally survive colds.
It’s difficult to believe this when your 5 pound infant sneezes for the first time, or when your 5 month old runs a fever, or your 8 month old keeps coughing, but those are not emergencies. Do not go to the emergency room. Use the nose-sucker from the hospital, give her lots of breast milk, buy stock in Children’s Motrin, and honestly, honestly, everything is going to be ok. You’ll never sleep again, for so many reasons, but everyone will survive.
2. You will finish college. It will be hard, and you will cry a lot, but you will do it.
Don’t get so mad at all the other people who aren’t doing school with a newborn and a husband who’s never home to help. Those kids are selfish idiots, you’re not wrong, but so were you, babe. Remember your freshman year? Cut them some slack. Also, use your time away from home to work harder than you’ve ever worked on anything. Live in that library. Write with abandon. If your sisters tell you the baby is fine and you can take your time to study, take your time to study, dummy. The baby doesn’t miss you. Someday you’re going to hold all your kids on your lap and tell them that college isn’t for everyone, but in this family we finish what we start. You didn’t walk to school uphill in both directions in a snowstorm, but you will graduate from college with a 15 month old baby and 37 weeks pregnant. Someday that will mean something to them. It will pulse with their blood and become part of their story, just like your mom’s survival is so much a part of yours.
3. It’s ok to stay home on weekends.
You will never, ever get this time back. Ever. You don’t have to go out to dinner with friends, you don’t have to get a baby-sitter, you don’t have to apologize for soaking up every single second with your little girl. By next year you will have another baby, college will be over, Sam will work in town, and you will actually crave time to yourself. For now, when you’re not at work or school: Don’t leave her side. Any friendship worth it’s weight will make space for this time in your life, especially if you get better at answering your freaking phone calls and texts. Your friends will survive without you, but your baby will just grow up. You will register her for kindergarten and she will ask you every single day when school will finally start, and it will break you to pieces. Hold your tiny baby. Kiss her soft hands. Sing over her with the sacred, tired tones of motherhood.
4. Write everything.
That baby book you bought will remain mostly empty, so you need to write everything down. Stories, snippets, jokes, milestones, memories, struggles, successes, good days and really bad ones; write them. For the sake of your children, who will inherit your words as a tilted family history. And for the sake of yourself, write everything else too. Write what interests you, what makes you mad, all of the thoughts you can’t escape- write them down. Just like babies grow up and you’ll never get this time back, unwritten words disappear and you will never remember what you meant to say. Also- it is imperative that your kids see you doing what you’re meant to do, because if they understand your personhood and passions, they will hear your voice more clearly than if you remain a one-dimensional figure. Stay up late. Get up early. Write.
5. Be kind.
To yourself. To the kids. To Sam. You will all fail. You will hurt each other. Your beautiful baby will disappoint you to the point of actual, physical heartache. You will yell at your beautiful children in a voice that surprises everyone, even you. Sam will be impatient and you will be impatient with his impatience. There will be one million reasons to get frustrated, upset, and angry, and your reactions will not be ideal. But practicing kindness will change everything. Being mean won’t make water stay in cups or kids listen better. It won’t make husbands more thankful. Being mean in your thought life won’t make you run every morning or use Instagram less. Being mean just makes you a mean person. So be kind. Practice every day, and pray for a kindness that comes from Jesus transforming your heart, because kindness will transform your family. You are the mother. And they will all follow you.
Of course, what is the most frightening part of saying anything, writing anything down? How foolish I may look in the future. The fact that 5 more years are currently passing. And then ten. And then twenty. What would I tell myself now, from the future? What am I missing, now, that I will regret?
“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”