Behind every Regina George is not a regular mom, but a cool mom. To those who don’t get the reference, it’s from a 2004 film, Mean Girls. For most girls my age, we all laugh at Mrs. George until we become a mom ourselves.
Will I ever figure out motherhood? I’ve been a mother for two years now and sometimes, I don’t quite know what to make of it. What can a first-time mom do except to learn as she goes?
I keep a mental list of the things I picked up. Right now, it’s a hodgepodge of lessons full to the brim with emotions (sometimes angst) and is littered here and there with hacks that helped me along the way. Here are some of them:
Note: Motherhood isn’t the same for everyone. What I’m sharing is based on my personal experiences.
When in doubt, ask your mother
I (idiomatically) burned my fingers one day when I asked how to remedy a boo-boo I made on Tikoy while cutting his nails. I only ended up getting criticized. That’s when I decided–and was glad to have learned it early on–to always ask my mother first. After all, she’s been there and done that.
It’s ok to ask for help
When Tikoy was born, I thought I have to do all the “mom things” by myself: my baby, my problem. I had so much recovering to do and getting out of bed was already too taxing. I certainly couldn’t tackle a mountain of laundry.
I don’t really know where the resistance to asking for help was coming from. After all, it doesn’t make me less of a mother when I do. It’s probably pride. But slowly, I learned to accept help with gratitude.
Don’t hesitate to tell your husband or family what you need: be it having some time alone, a proper bath, or another helping of rice. Also, most people tend to be a little more caring to a mom who just gave birth. They don’t let you wash the dishes! Seriously, enjoy that window.
Recovering is probably the last thing to happen
My obstetrician told me to concentrate on recovering and to take a bath (a little stern on this part) as she was signing my hospital papers. When we got home, however, Tikoy did nothing but cry. So much for getting some sleep, I thought.
Sleeplessness was so overpowering that I dreaded the nights. My midnights were filled with rivers of tears and desperate prayers asking God to help me figure out why Tikoy was crying at 1 am when he’s already fed, changed, and swaddled. Husbands normally sleep through this whole ordeal and it leaves you begging the Almighty to put the boy back to sleep.
Not to scare moms-to-be, but expect the worst. Everything changes when the baby arrives and because of this, we tend to put ourselves last. But here’s the thing: It’s harder to take care of a baby when you’re feeling weak or when you’re sick. So be intentional about resting. Get the maximum days of maternity leave if you can (because I didn’t, and I should have), and don’t lose hope. This too will pass. You will sleep again.
Co-sleeping with your newborn affords you a lot of sleep
Mark was still in Mindanao during Tikoy’s first few months so to help me get a head start on sleep every night, my mom will get Tikoy and just give him back when it’s time for dede.
As you may know, an infant would wake up for breastfeeding every two hours, and it’s not as if he would immediately fall asleep afterward. All of us ended up sleepless with such an arrangement until one night, I decided to let Tikoy sleep beside me and it was the longest slumber I had for a while. 4 hours of sleep is gold, you know! Tikoy was calm and secure, and having to breastfeed was a lot easier because all I had to do is to face him and offer a breast.
It helps to have a tribe
As we get older, our circle of friends gets satisfyingly smaller because we’re wise enough to cut toxic people out of our lives. I’m perfectly happy with our friends who are as good as siblings, but it did help a lot to have parent-friends who are going through the same things. I value the shared advice, recommendations, hand-me-downs, and most of all, a safe space to ask questions, voice out concerns, get encouragement, and rant occasionally without being judged.
I’ve typed the weirdest questions from “my baby is crying for no reason” to “what does red poop mean?”. And yes, Google has the answers! Having these questions auto-completed in the search bar somehow assures me that what I’m encountering is normal, aside from getting a clear picture of what’s going on and how to deal with it.
Aside from Google, the Baby Center App has been such great companions from pregnancy up to raising our toddler. So when I faced Tikoy’s first fever and more recently, his reluctance to say sorry, I try to ditch old wives’ tales and read useful and founded resources available on health, milestones, discipline, education, and more.
Of course, nothing beats the sound advice of a pediatrician. But for those times when you can’t visit the clinic or if you think it’s not too serious to disturb your doctor in the middle of the night, you may consider asking Google or checking your baby app.
Note: if you’re wondering what the red poop was about, it turns out that the culprit was the bowl of red dragon fruit Tikoy devoured the previous day.
The perfect mother does not exist
Let’s be honest, we all strive to be the perfect mom. Yet no matter how hard we try, others will always have an opinion about us and comment on what we do. So, while I try to give my best self to my family, I also keep in mind that I don’t know everything, that I can mess up, and that’s ok. Knowing this saves me from the unnecessary guilt of being an imperfect mom.
Baby carriers are friends
Some are adamant about the carrier because it looks like an uncomfortable contraption invented by lazy moms who don’t want to carry their babies properly. But they were such a great help for me, and later, for my husband and for the grandparents whenever we go out or work around the house because it enables us to do things with both hands. It also prevents strain as it distributes the weight all while he’s snug and secure.
We also love that it creates more skin to skin contact with our baby and keeps his flatulence at bay. Funny story: we’ve always had a hard time burping Tikoy but he lets out gas as soon as we wear him.
Note: Before anything, make sure that you’re purchasing a hip-dysplasia safe baby carrier. Brands we recommend are Manduca and Ergo Baby. More than this, make sure to follow the proper way of carrying your child.
A working mom and a stay at home mom are both mothers
There’s no one size fits all for motherhood, and to be a stay at home mom or a working mom are both valid personal decisions. Be it an economic reason or otherwise, it’s noble. A mother will always be a mother whatever path she chooses because there’s no such thing as a “part-time mother”.
So please, stop the judgment by saying “nasa bahay ka lang pala!” (We detest that “lang” word), and “you have all the time in the world” (No, I don’t.) because taking care of a child is never a walk in the park. Another hurtful comment for working moms is “inuna mo talaga ang career mo.” She just chose to work. She didn’t abandon her child.
Consistency is key
It’s easier to build good habits than breaking bad ones. Consistency plays a huge role in this because your rules will only work when it’s always implemented.
For instance, we’re building good eating habits in Tikoy and our rule is that the main meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) must be eaten on the dining table. Our reasons for this are 1. We respect the food God has given and the work of who prepared it 2. We want him to enjoy the food and the conversations around the table 3. We want him to have a good appetite by removing distractions (no playing, no toys, no TV, or any gadget while eating) 4. We want to teach him that there’s a proper time for everything. Eating time is eating time. 5. We simply don’t want to chase him around to eat his food.
Now, it won’t be a success when it’s always being bent, or if the rules don’t seem to apply to everyone (no gadgets on the table means no gadgets even for the adults as well). Let your yes be yes and your no be no. It also helps when your rules are communicated with the rest of the people at home so they also know what to do whenever something comes up.
We’re not being tyrants or unreasonable when we do this to Tikoy because what we’re also building on the background is our integrity. We’d like him to trust us and grow up knowing that we’re true to our word. These concepts may be too steep for him to grasp, and that’s why we’re starting with the small things that lay down the work.*
“Letting them be” while they’re young (bata pa naman kasi yan!) will give you more headaches in the future when you’re trying to break down the bad habits that you allowed to form in place of the proper ones. So let’s build it while they’re malleable.
Later, we found that consistency also plays a critical role in teaching life skills. For instance, his potty training was a success because of the consistent response he gets whenever he needs to go.
Note: Why not chase him around if it’s the only way for him to eat? We think that our reluctance to follow him around isn’t being lazy, not teaching him to eat properly is.
*We’re definitely not saying that parents should be uptight. Just be firm with the important things.
Enjoy it while it lasts
I definitely don’t miss the sleepless nights and swollen feet but your baby will never be as small (as he is now) again.
Personally, I always catch myself reminiscing about his newborn baby smell and breath. Those times when he used to fit in one arm. His funny babble when he was only 6 months old. When “NO!” wasn’t in his vocabulary yet.
So hold on to the long cuddles, read that long book, crawl when you’re playing cat and dog. Your laundry that needs folding can wait.
Ultimately, it is all by grace
As challenging as motherhood is, it’s comforting to know that we can rest in His grace and strength, be sure of His provision of wisdom, that He fills our needs, and that He is the perfect parent we can always turn to.
Happy mothers day! Husbands, you’re in charge of the celebrations! Kids, wash the dishes!