Now that I’m settling into my role as mama (or “mamamaaaaaaa” as my baby may or may not intentionally call me) and getting more sleep than I’ve had in the past 8 months, I’ve had a lot more time for rational thinking. I mean, if rational thinking still exists when on a sleep deficit and caring for another individual 24/7, then I’m as rational as it gets right now. Anyway, so a lot of my thinking has been reviewing how I’m caring for my son. Am I doing the right thing? Am I playing the right developmental games? Is he eating enough? Pooping enough? Has he tried enough solids? Endless unanswered questions build as we draw closer and closer to the Year 1 marker.
So all of these accumulate into one big question, “How does one win at motherhood?”
In the no-win game of self-comparison, I am the star forward. I compare myself to my mom friends, compare T to their babies, and compare myself to what I see other moms “doing” on blogs and Instagram. Some moms have strict schedules that lay out what baby does and when: naps, meals, and playtime are a regimented schedule that repeats daily. Other moms fly by the seat of their pants, and are completely flexible with their day to day activities: babies nap whenever, eat when they want, and play how they want. I think I fall somewhere in between (but is that the right thing to do?). I read apps and books that talk about appropriate age milestones less and less because there is a direct correlation to my worry level when I do. The less T matches the minute by minute developments, the more I freak out—unnecessarily, I might add, he always hits the milestones eventually.
And then there’s the endless conflicting advice. Pump right away to increase milk supply. Don’t pump or else you’ll end up with oversupply and mastitis. Pick them up when they cry. But don’t or else you’ll make them needy. Swaddle baby with a blanket. Don’t have loose blankets in the crib or else they’ll suffocate. Let them play in their crib to adjust to it, but don’t because then it’s associated with play and not sleep. Breastfeed to soothe baby to sleep. Don’t breastfeed to sleep. Let them play alone. Create structured play. Introduce solids at 6 months, but maybe not for fear of allergies. I got conflicting advice from every nurse, doctor, and lactation consultant I asked for months. Even the mom blogs and internet advice is in direct opposition with everyone else.
So, how do you win at motherhood? The short answer is: you don’t. The long answer is that you can’t win at motherhood, not because it is impossible, but because there is no one right way. Motherhood looks like different things to different people. It can even look different on different days. Some days, T gets three meals, three good naps, playtime, and we go run an errand or two. Sometimes just getting through the day means a lot more sitting around, a little extra tv for mom and a little more of the same ole’ toys for T, and wondering when the hell dad is getting home so there is an extra pair of hands on duty.
The bottom line is that we are all just doing the best that we can do. We are being the best moms that we can be. The new moms are figuring out how to mom. The second time around moms are figuring out how to do that, too, because now there’s two tiny humans instead of just one (but the same number of hands to “control” them with). As long as you feed, change, and be attentive to baby’s needs, you’re leagues ahead already. My best advice is don’t worry. I tell myself this often. Say it with me: I am doing just fine. My baby is just fine.
And when it comes to winning, I already feel like I’ve won the jackpot every time T looks at me with those beautiful eyes and smiles that big gummy grin. And you just can’t beat that feeling.