No One Told Me What a Wild, Emotional Ride Motherhood Can Be
The range of emotions I experience each day as a new mom is not something that anyone adequately conveyed to me before I became a mom. Dealing with all of these emotions can be quite tricky as well, especially when it comes to naptimes or toddler tantrums. I have read my share of advice articles online. I have learned a few useful tips here and there, such as reducing stimulation prior to naptime, establishing a routine that signals to my child that naptime is on its way, and setting firm and consistent boundaries for acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.
Sometimes, though, reading parenting advice online makes me feel inadequate, wrong, guilty, and frustrated. I tend to compare myself and my experiences to other mothers and their experiences. This is inadvisable and yet hard to avoid. No one child is the same, and by the same token, no one mother is, either. We may have similar experiences that can serve to inform one another, but my experience is just that — mine.
My husband's cousin, who is a registered nurse and lactation coach, came to stay with us for a few days after I gave birth to my first son. She helped me with latching issues, showed me how to express breastmilk with a manual pump (which I actually preferred to an electric pump, oddly enough), and advised me to drink Mother's Milk tea and eat lactation cookies to stimulate milk production. She also demonstrated the most effective swaddling method, which I still use.
Several sensitive issues arose in conversations with other family members while she was around, including circumcision and cosleeping. She could tell that my emotional and physical exhaustion were making these conversations difficult for me, so she gave me one of the best pieces of advice that I will always hold onto, both as a parent and as a woman. She told me that while these conversations were perfectly fine if I wanted to have them, it was also OK to table them by saying, "I understand and appreciate your opinion, but this topic is not up for discussion at this time." This was so empowering to me, and it gave me the tools I needed to get through some of those sensitive discussions and table others.
As mothers, we have to do what feels right, appropriate, safe, and healthy for ourselves and our children based on our own intuition and the most reliable information available to us. As hard as it may be, I try not to compare myself to other mothers, and I try even harder not to feel guilty or inadequate if and when someone gives me parenting advice. The emotions I experience each day as a mom make parenthood unique and precious, and I wouldn't have it any other way.