I am the mother of a newborn, a toddler, and a preschooler. When my friends who are first time moms tell me about their parenting challenges, two words try to creep to the tip of my tongue: “Just wait.”
When a friend says, “I just can’t take the baby to the grocery store, it’s too stressful!” What I want to say is, “Just wait. Try taking THREE kids to the grocery store! Taking just the baby feels like a vacation.” But I try to hold my tongue. Because I really, really don’t want to be that mom, the “just wait” mom.
When I was heavily pregnant with our second baby, our 2 year old, who had been sleeping in til 6:30am, started waking at 5am again every morning. It was toward the end of the pregnancy and I was just so tired from the third trimester insomnia, chasing a toddler all day, and trying to wrap my mind around what it would be like to become a mother of two. So, I told someone about how Benjamin was waking up so early and how I was just at the end of my rope. And she said, “Just wait! Just wait til that baby’s born. You’ll never sleep again. I can’t even remember the last time I slept past 5am!”
I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to snap at her or just burst into tears at her dismissal of my frustration and exhaustion. Because what she essentially communicated was, “You may think what you’re going through is hard. But it’s not. It’s not as hard as what I do.” Instead, what my discouraged little heart needed to hear was, “I’ve been there! That’s so hard. I’ll be praying for you.”
Sometimes, I forget what that felt like and I find myself becoming the “just wait” mom. But lately when those two little words try to escape from my mouth, I’ve been trying my very best to hold them in and give that first time mama what I wish I had been given: some encouragement, some sympathy, and some validation that yes! What you’re doing is really hard! I know what it feels like. Hang in there, mama!
Because the truth of it is, that transition from having no kids at all, to being a mother and having a little person need you every second of the day is beautiful, but brutal. Going from sleeping whenever you want to finding yourself at the mercy of a howling, hungry, tiny human at all hours of the night is painful. And when you’re struggling to stay sane through all of it, the last thing you need is someone telling you that you’re strolling down Easy Street compared to what they’re doing.
When you’re in the midst of the most trying season of motherhood you’ve experienced and someone tells you it’s just going to get harder, what could be more disheartening? And I have to remember that my first pregnancy was the hardest thing I’d ever undertaken. Then when my colicky precious newborn arrived, the exhaustion was the hardest thing I’d ever lived through. And then being pregnant while caring for a toddler, learning to mother two children, trudging through months of unbearable morning sickness with my third pregnancy while caring for two little ones….in each season I am pushed to my absolute limits. It is all the hardest. And it is all the best. And I never want to invalidate the parenting struggles of another woman who is also tackling the most difficult thing she has ever experienced with the insinuation that my lot is harder. And mamas, I think this motherhood thing gets a little bit easier each day that goes by. Not because the circumstances are easier, but because motherhood transforms me. It makes me capable of things I never thought I could do.
So bring it on. You mamas deserve a sympathetic ear and a word of encouragement. This motherhood thing is hard. But just wait, it will get easier. You got this, mama.