As 2016 sneaks (plummets) it’s way into my life, I’ve made some time to reflect on this past year of my life as a stay-at-home-mom. Like most Millenials, or modern moms, I started with a basic social media search. Browsing Pinterest and Tumblr and scrolling through my Facebook feed, there are hundreds of positive memes proclaiming modern wisdom: “Today I will be the type of person I would like my children to become,” “Live in the moment and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering,” etc… I tend to treat these affirmations as seemingly obvious. I read them, I know them to be true, yet I ignore them as cliché and scroll on.
Thinking of the past year, one thing is prominent: It was substantially, all around easier for me than the last. The particular event which took place was that my youngest son turned one in March. So, for me, 2015 was mostly NOT the first year with a new baby. In 2015, I celebrated surviving my first year as a stay-at-home parent. I entered my second just a bit more gracefully, and I’m very proud of that. It seems that with every passing year, the parenting game doesn’t exactly get easier, but it does seem to run a little smoother. Time passes, I learn more about myself and feel more at ease with my character. As the kids grow older, so do I, and I can feel my bones relax as I watch them grow.
Reflections on the first year of motherhood
As a somewhat extreme introvert, I think the first year adjustment to being consistently and constantly available to a newborn, even your own beautiful, amazing little baby, is so intense, it wore me down emotionally and physically. That first year is just plain tough. During both of my boys’ first years, I excused my moodiness and exhaustion as postpartum hormones, knowing it would pass, and eventually it did. Yet, looking back, I regret allowing myself to be unhappy.
Having a new baby is life changing. This was true following the birth of both of my boys. We all hear it, but we never really understand until we experience it. Is this something that is equally hard for everyone else? Why don’t we talk about it more often? A quick Google search leads to dozens upon dozens of articles. I think my favorite explanation is that in present day Western culture, parents tend to try and handle the arrival of a new baby with next to no assistance, whereas others around the world rely on a network of support from family, friends, and neighbors, easing the transition to parenthood.
I see now that my downfall was my pride. Transitioning from a working parent of one, to a stay-at-home parent of two was hard. Even as a mutual decision between my husband and me, I felt a lot of guilt about not bringing in any income. I struggled to keep my house together while simultaneously taking care of my kids. I had always been independent, I wouldn’t cave now. Women did this all the time and so could I. I felt shame in asking for help, and I desperately needed it.
Mostly, I think I am self-aware enough to know what works for me. Striving for balance between the kids, my husband, and my peers makes me happy. Eating well makes me happy. Moving my body makes me happy. All of these simple, apparent things make me feel like I can be a better mother, partner, and friend. Although I am aware that balance isn’t always attainable, the act of being mindful about it makes me happy. As I grow older, I’m increasingly more aware of how fleeting life is, and I am aware that I want to make every moment count. Not all of my moments need to be shiny and happy, but I want my kids to know it’s okay to embrace all emotions because they’re all important. “Today I will be the type of person I would like my children to become.”
Alone time helps me clear my head. It helps me recharge and feel more human. Being alone is not lonely to me, and a short walk with only my dog when my husband comes home in the evening is the difference between a good mood and a bad one. Although I know this about myself, somehow this fact never ceases to surprise me. I’m still somewhat shocked when I feel better after eating my greens. It’s a pleasant surprise when I can accomplish more in a day if I wake a little earlier. I tend to let good habits be rarities. Why am I so good at ignoring things which so obviously benefit my physical and emotional health?
Resolutions for the new year
So here is my proposal for an obvious, realistic resolution in 2016. I want to embrace the cliches. I want to be the best version of myself, and if I have to follow a #mamatribe on Instagram, if only to help myself remember the obvious, so be it. I don’t want to let my life pass by, I don’t want let my rolling stone collect no moss, my life is a party; I don’t want to miss it.
In 2016, I challenge myself to step outside of the box, and let myself be just a little more selfish, to take care of myself and take no shame in reminding myself to do so. I’ll be reminding myself to look at my life and do more of what works for me, what makes me happy. I won’t be ashamed to ask for help. I’ll take time to recharge regularly. I’ll try to be the best version of myself and listen to those damn cliché memes on the internet. I’ll be the type of person I want my kids to become.