Motherhood is messy
- Sometimes the answers to your questions and your worries come easy, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you’ll cry over spilled milk, sometimes you won’t. Sometimes your plans go smoothly, sometimes they can’t. Sometimes the house will be in complete disarray, sometimes it will be at least relatively clean. Sometimes your baby won’t get food all over the floor/walls/tables/mirror/clothes on your back, sometimes your best shirt will bear banana scars for the rest of its life. The bottom line is, parenting is never as predictable as one might plan for, hope for, dream for. It gets messy. But that’s okay. There is order, reason, laughter, and love in that chaos. Embrace it.
Your body is a wonderland
- Your body will never be exactly the same as it was pre-baby. Your hips will stay larger, you’ll have discolored skin in areas for some time, your breasts will be both bigger and flatter at the same time (depending on the day and how far along you are in the breast-feeding journey), and you may have even acquired new scars. But wear them with pride. Your body is a wonderland. It has carried a tiny human successfully for 40 weeks, and in some cases even squeezed said human out, or else bears scars of having brought that little beautiful creature into the world in one wondrous piece. Your body has accomplished much in very little time, and no matter what you think the mirror is saying, remind yourself that every stretch mark, every scar, every discoloration is a badge of honor earned from participating in the miracle of creation. By all means, work toward your fitness goals, be concsious, and be aware. But in all things, never sacrifice your health, your confidence, and your faith in yourself. Because carrying, and birthing a human is no small feat, and your body deserves to be loved, respected, and well-regarded for this and more.
It takes a village
- Especially as both a full-time corporate professional and full-time mom, I’ve found this old adage particularly true. I could not accomplish anything without my team of supporters, especially our nanny Asih, our pembantu Iroh, our parents (aka Super-Grandparents: Oma, Opa, Nonna, and “Lolo Jones”), our church group, and of course my partner-in-all (best-friend, husband extraordinaire): Jay. From 8am to 6pm Mondays to Fridays, Iroh and Asih help us keep our house clean, our son well-cared for, and our sanity in check. All hours outside of that + weekends, public holidays, public holi-months (like Lebaran), family trips, and more are all ours to keep each other in check. And we love it that way. Sure, while I’m at work I may be thinking often of our little one and how he is at home (thanks, technology, for CCTVs you can access remotely, and free messaging apps, and WiFi), but at least I know when I’m stuck in a meeting, he’s safe and well. And at the same time, at least we have our precious “us time” too. In a perfect world, I’d be 100% present at home more and for longer, but being honest, as far as life situations go, we’ve got it pretty great.
You need to be a good partner too
- There will be moments you expect much out of the “village” helping you raise your child. Especially if you have a partner/husband/wife who delivers support to the highest quality. In those moments, never forget to be grateful, and never forget to be a good partner too. It’s easy for us to withdraw, to be selfish, to count what we do against what those around us do, but this sort of behavior only makes us more unhappy. To maintain not only harmony, but satisfaction, in marriage and in co-parenthood, one must count every blessing and not every chore, and step up to the plate in every way that we wish our partner would step up to the plate too.
Faith does wonders
- There will be moments as a new mom when you wonder, am I cut out for this? Why was I given this challenge when it turns out I’m such a horrid excuse for a parent? Sometimes you’ll just want to rest, cry, decompress all by yourself. Especially as a mom, you’ll feel rushes of hormones from time to time and you will maybe even wonder, what is wrong with me? It’s okay. These moments do pass. What I’ve found has helped me is keeping faith, knowing that God has gifted us these experiences because he knows we are the exact right parent for this job, and we need only to keep choosing what we know best to do, and keep leaning into Him for rest, and restoration.
Rest and adventure are still of utmost importance! Do both and do them well.
- A lot of people seem to stop going out, having fun, traveling when they have kids. To this I say: don’t. KEEP DOING WHAT YOU LOVE DOING. Take rests when you can, and don’t stop adventuring. Of course, be reasonable and mature (don’t take your 2 month old skydiving. Wait until they’re 6 months old. Just kidding), but don’t deprive yourselves of what “drives you” and “refreshes you” just because you have a baby now. Honestly, you should allow yourselves even more leeway to rest and enjoy life now that you have a family. For us, we no longer go scuba diving like we used to, but we still take our baby to the beach with us, in planes with us, on long haul flights to see his ailing great grandfather and the European side of the family, on shorter flights to surprise his grandmother and great-grandparents in the Philippines. We staycation on weekends, nanny stays late once a fortnight so we can movie date, and comes in on Saturdays every 2 months or so for us to have a few hours of alone time. We still make an effort to try new things and go new places – even if it just means trying a new restaurant. These things together help us keep a “freshness” to life that people can easily lose sight of in the first year. I know we are also uniquely privileged to have wonderful help we trust to care well for our little one, but even if it means just calling in your mother-in-law for the day to help out so you can catch some Z’s, see a new movie, or take a krav maga class, do it if it’s something you know you need to do to rest, refresh, and persevere. Do it to be a better you which helps you be a better mom.
Live beyond your fears
- As a new parent, you’ll encounter many “new fears” that you’d never personally considered before. This is also normal, and it’s okay to move beyond them. A lot of these fears are there for a reason (parental instinct telling you to double check the lock at night, or read the label on your household cleaning detergents twice to make sure if your kids get at it, it won’t cause certain death), and it’s good to acknowledge them. But don’t let them get the best of you. Which leads me to my next point:
Complete control is an illusion
- As I’ve said above, fears are good to acknowledge. But there’s no reason we should live by and within our fears. Many fears stem from a desire to control every situation (you want to control your baby’s chances of hitting his head when he falls), but the reality is that complete control is an illusion. You can never know exactly what might happen at every given moment, and you can only do your best to be well-equipped to deal with things as they come. So do baby proof your house (within reason), but don’t kill yourself if your baby slips and gets a bruise on his shin because you can’t foam pad your entire tiled living room. Deal with things as they come, and don’t fret too much over things you can’t control (which, you’ll quickly discover, is actually a lot of things: from the way other moms think of your parenting style, to your baby bumping his head a little while turning in his crib in his sleep).
- After having a child, I’ve learned even more deeply the importance of this Earth to our children and future generations. If we want to leave behind not just a world to live in but a better one (or at least a healthy one) at that, we need to start living more sustainably. What might that entail? Here are some tips I’ve got for you:
- First: Be responsible consumers by consuming less. I know that’s near impossible with another new person in the house. But the reality is: your baby doesn’t need the same size wardrobe as you. Your baby could wear the same outfits everyday and it wouldn’t matter. Plus, your baby will outgrow everything so quickly there’s no point in having so much of one size of anything. It’s a tough thing for many moms to resist, but try not to buy every cute outfit or pair of shoes on the shelf. Stick to the basic necessities and a few luxuries here and there and you’re already doing yourself a favor by churning out less waste (from the amount of water used to wash clothes, to the amount of garbage you throw out at year end when you want to get rid of old outfits and don’t think they’re good enough to hand down or give to charity)
- Second: Be conscious consumers by knowing what you buy, where you buy it from, and what processes its undergone to land in your hands. That is to say: are you fond of purchasing fast fashion that you’re only going to wear once and is manufactured by a brand you know has questionable business ethics? Don’t do it. Are you at the grocery and tempted to buy a bottle of Nutella but you check the label and it lists palm oil and you’re like, ugh what now? Don’t buy it.
- Third: Support local, grassroots industries, and things that will last. Instead of buying for trends, buy things to last. Instead of buying processed and pre-packaged, buy organic, farm-to-table, or at least pesticide free. Read the labels at the grocery, ask your local sales support questions about the origins of produce, and do what you can to support the small businesses (from artisans to farmers) in your area.
And finally: slow down
- If there’s one thing I’ve really taken to heart lately, it’s that time really does move so, so quickly. The moments may feel like they last forever, especially the rough ones, but the days really do fly by. You’ll be surprised how badly you want them to slow down as you watch that amazing bundle of joy go from tater tot to toddler in no time. Take time to enjoy your little one as much as you can, as often as you can, and never forget to count those blessings as you go along.