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Dear New Mama Who Feels Like She’s Failing

  • “(24/7) once you sign on to be a mother, that’s the only shift they offer.”

— Jodi Picoult

“Even if i’m setting myself up for failure, I think it’s worth trying to be a mother who delights in who her children are. A mother who spends less time obseessing about what will happen, or what has happened, and more time reveling in what is. A mother who doesn’t fret over failings and slights, who realizes her worries and anxieties are just thoughts, the continuous chattering and judgement of a too busy mind. A mother who doesn’t worry so much about being bad or good but just recognizes that she’s both, and neither. A mother who does her best, and for whom that is good enough, even if, in the end, her best turns out to be, simply, not bad.”

— Ayelet Waldman

Dear new mama who feels like she’s failing, you’re not. I know. I know. It’s hard to believe me right now while you’re knee deep in diapers and it’s not 11AM yet. But hear me out.

I get it. No one told you that birth would feel like a truck ran right through you and you’d have the scars to prove it. That after a few days, the hospital would send you home to settle into motherhood and you’d be lugging 3 pound stones for boobs and wearing a pad the size of a mattress as you leave with a tiny beautiful acquaintance who fully depended on you. You knew there’d be pain and some physical changes. You knew adjustments needed to be made. But that, that probably wasn’t what you expected at the start of your maiden voyage into motherhood.

Quite honestly, you hoped you’d start out mildly svelte upon delivery and a lot more confident with all the work outs and research you did. But birth left you feeling out of form and more unsure than anything of the course to take when it comes to raising your child.

No. It’s not just you. Motherhood most days feels like a yes and no conondrum. Is breastfeeding better than bottle-feeding? Yes and no. Is co-sleeping bad? No and yes. Is a baby led routine better than a parent led routine? Yes and no. Everything is a contradiction, and it’s exhausting trying to figure it out as you go along.

I know your days now can be summed up as being a walking feeding station a la UHT plant, chef and cleaning lady, what, with all the ways you’ve learnt to clean spit up on the top you’ll probably wear three days straight and how you make poop stained onesies sparkle like new. Now you understand why women have the gift of multi-tasking. At any point you’re doing at least 3 things at a time with your two hands. It’s magic I tell ya.

You make zombie mode look like a Covergirl makeup palette. For real. And no. Your husband didn’t tell me to tell you that. But it’s true. Matted hair, eye bags and semi-chapped lips is like watching a coming of age story in the wild. If I could, I’d take endless pictures of you looking just like that too. Not just with your baby. And if I’m right, those are your hubby’s favourite pics of you. And it’s because your wild becoming is breathtaking.

You wear motherhood so well. I know you’re lined with saggy skin, tiger stripes and your boobs are starting to prostrate south but you were crucial to creating a life, housing it, and now sustaining it. You were and still are, quite literally, the hands of God on earth.

I mean, who else, after going through the equivalent of an accident and surgery rolled up into one, can wear their heart so delicately that it literally beats outside of their chest while pulling all nighters and making food on demand? You. That’s who!

You’re quite literally superwoman. You are. And your cape, well, it’s not invisible like they’ve been telling you. The glorious cape you get to wear is weakness that shines unimaginable strength but it mostly looks like back fat. Don’t believe me? Take a look at every mama you know. That’s the tell. A roll or two of back fat. That’s how to spot the cape coz we’ve all been marked. Some hide it well but it’s there alright. Try and hug it a little tighter the next time you stand in front of the mirror, okay?

It’s okay. Just laugh even as I hear you swearing under your breath how in the next pregnancy you’re coming back as the dad. I get it. Mamahood can be hard on your heart sometimes. It’s a lot of things. But I’ll tell you what it’s not.

Motherhood is not martyrdom. Even if it feels like it, you’re not wasting away. It’s not pushing pause until you’re back to living your everyday life with a kiddo as a bonus. This is holy work. You in all your mess, you in all your glory, get to shape the next generation.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking. “I’m so flawed. I’m going to mess this up.” There’s no easy wasy to say this so I’ll get straight to the point. Yep. You can count on that. To tell you the truth darling, I hope you mess up and that you do so often so you can understand that your knowledge or lack of, your weakness and strength, your wisdom and foolishness has been accounted for. God looked all over His female creation and said, “For this set of kiddos, there’s no one better for the job than you.” 

You were handpicked and chosen for this. So don’t get tripped up with the so called leaderboards and how you measure up to the motherhood “experts”. Mamahood isn’t a contest, because guess what? You’re already crowned. You’re it, first and only.

I know you feel like the newbie in a world of mamas way ahead of you who’ve figured it out. But you’ll soon realize that true motherhood is a discovery. If you ask those ahead of you, if they’re honest enough, they’ll tell you how behind closed doors, no mama has it all figured out. We’re all students in this thing. Try to remember that when the next mama swears that a new sleep training method or teaching program is the holy grail. Maybe it is. Maybe it’s not. Yes and no, remember? Trust your motherhood instincts coz they’ll show you what’s a yes and no for your little ones.

You’re needed. And you became a mother at the right time. It’s true. You have a fresh perspective and new way, different even, of doing things. Your mama might disagree with your methods, but this is your era and time to be a mother. Your voice is needed. Your wisdom is needed. Your heart is needed. This is a relay race in a long line of mamas ahead of you, and the baton is in your hands. You have something to bring to the table. Don’t doubt that.

You’ve probably heard quite a bit about motherhood in your lifetime but don’t trust all the warning labels. Motherhood is a joy. I hope you get to see that. It’s not because of perfection. There’s no perfect people here. Motherhood is one of life’s greatest joys because you get to participate and have a front row seat to watch your children becoming who they already are.

So I hope you get to find your real ones to do motherhood with. They’ll show you that your strength and brokenness is welcome with them and it’ll heal you faster than any tub of ice cream can in the midnight hour, trust me.

One more thing. I know I said it before about marriage, but it’s also true about motherhood. Remember to show yourself wild grace – torrents of it. Hot like the sun, piercing like lightning, urgent like the wind. And never forget that God’s love and mercy are like a flood, always rising over you. He’ll help you through this motherhood thing.

This is what He says on the hard days.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion (dos and don’ts)? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28‭-‬30 MSG

Let God teach you how to ride His unforced rhythms of grace through motherhood. He won’t rank your day to day to see where you measure up like the world does. He won’t throw ands, shoulds and buts at you. He won’t be hard on you on your worst day. Instead, He’ll have His arms open to receive you into the folds of His chest, right where you belong.

All that said, you know, maybe I was wrong. Maybe you are failing. Maybe you’re failing in all the ways you think you shouldn’t be; all the ways your family, friends and the world’s expectation of motherhood says you should be, act and do. And maybe that’s not a bad thing. There’s no one-size-fits-all uniform in this motherhood thing. Your robes are fashioned just for you from heaven’s throne room and it’s with your little ones in mind. So you’ve got this. At least all of heaven believes so. They picked you and that’s all that matters.

Be proud of how far you’ve come mama. Be proud of who you are and who you’re becoming. You’re living a poured out life. And even if it feels like you’re almost always running on empty, you’re the cup that keeps running over.

Thereare crowns in heaven that only mamas will wear. And I bet yours is already sparkling with all your mama shine.


From a new mama going through it with you

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