Dear new mum,
Congratulations and welcome to the next chapter of your life! Motherhood will change you in ways you could never have predicted. It will challenge, reward and amaze you. It will exhaust, confront and enlighten you. It will stir up emotions within you that have a new origin. And it will most certainly be the greatest accomplishment of your life.
As you navigate the sometimes rocky path of motherhood, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. Listen to your heart and learn to ignore the critics. Try not to concern yourself with what others may be doing. Instead, focus on what works for you. Follow your internal cues and be strong in your resolve.
When troubles assail you, as they often will, try to focus on what you are doing right rather than what is going wrong. In this way you will learn to ride out the parental storms and emerge a stronger, wiser mother.
Try not to worry too much about “losing” your identity. While you may shed layers of your former self, you are creating a new existence. Adapting to your new life can be lonely in the early months, but know that nothing is forever. Your old self might rest dormant for a while, but it will burst into new life, as you become a more evolved version of yourself.
You will receive advice from well-meaning friends and from complete strangers. Do not be burdened by their intrusions. Learnt to insulate yourself from the “noise” that pervades the parental landscape. Do not let the judgement of others have a place in your mothering story. You are the protagonist of this story and you will find your own path.
Try to find a new way of parenting. Adopt the best parts from your own childhood experience and create a new way forward. Allow your partner to help shape the future of your growing family. Parental love is not only a revision of family love; it is also an investigation of self-love.
Don’t let guilt overwhelm you. There is no benefit in self-blame. Make the best decisions you can based on your unique set of circumstances and be sensitive to other parents’ decisions. Just as no two children are the same, no two mothering journeys are the same. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t measure your happiness against what you think you see. Avoid comparisons; they are never helpful. Move to your own mothering rhythm.
Through motherhood you will experience many complex emotions. At times you will laugh so hard you will cry, other times you will shed tears that sting with pain. You will experience the force and discomfort of raw emotion. There will be times of sheer frustration and times of pure, unadulterated joy. Don’t be frightened by these emotions – rather embrace them. They are an essential part of your journey.
Give your baby the best of you, but also give yourself the same care. Be gentle to yourself. Find moments for solitude and reflection. Reserve a part of yourself that isn’t for sharing and nourish that side. Prioritise time just for you and it will pay dividends for the whole family.
There will be times when “good enough” parenting is all you can do to survive, and then there will be times when you thrive. Know that every stage will pass, and often all too quickly. The days can be long, but the years pass fast.
Try to maintain a sense of humour in the midst of the chaos. Laugh often and laugh lots, and surround yourself with happy, helpful people who will form part of your village.
Yes, it’s true life will never be the same. But if you had wanted your life to stay the same, you wouldn’t have had children. As you feed, shape and nourish your child, know that you are on an important path of self-discovery. It’s a wonderful privilege and the best thing you will ever do.
Finally, while it’s impossible to enjoy every minute of mothering, grab hold of the moments that are joyful with a firm grip. There is no app to freeze time but your rich experiences are like deposits into your family’s memory bank.
You are on the most significant journey of your life. Cherish the ‘firsts’, savour the ‘lasts’ and love your children intensely.
How was your transition to motherhood? Was it smooth or challenging? With the benefit of experience what are some other pieces of advice that you would give to a new mum?