Whether you’re a hopeful, new, or veteran mom, life after a baby comes with a whole slew of thoughts, ideas, and worries. There are plenty of books and experts helping you along the way with answers and guidance to common questions and concerns. But, all too often, an overload of information can place expectations on you that can sometimes be unnecessary.
Here are 10 expectations to think about letting go of to make your motherhood journey a bit easier.
Expectation: You’ll make a plan and stick to it.
Reality: Make a plan and hold it loosely.
Having an agenda or plan for your days and weeks helps create a bit of structure in an otherwise wild experience. But, your baby has no idea that you have a plan. And so, while it may help you to have one, know that the plan can be blown up for a number of different reasons. Whether your child is fussy, hungry, or just had yet another blowout, letting go of being rigid around your plans and allowing some fluidity into your day will make it go a lot smoother.
Expectation: You’ll know most of the answers to your child’s problems.
Reality: You’ll be guessing and making a lot up as you go.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: most moms have no idea what we’re doing. Sure, we have an idea of what we’d like, want, or wish, but knowing the exact steps to take to make that come true isn’t as clear. Guilt and shame can set in quickly when we believe we should know it all when it comes to our babies. Learn to be okay with not having all the answers and be committed to figuring it out as you go.
Expectation: You can do it all by yourself.
Reality: You’ll need to ask for help way more than you think.
One of the biggest misconceptions many moms have is that they can and should do it all by themselves. It doesn’t matter if you have one child or many children, we all need help to keep our sanity and for things to run smoothly. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak or incapable of being a mother. It means you’re wanting the best for yourself and your family and to do that you need an extra set of hands in the mix. Take a look at your week and find a few places where you can ask your partner, in-law, friend, or family member to come in and help you. Remember, a little can go a very long way.
Expectation: You’ll jump right back into old routines.
Reality: You may need to remix your routines to make them fit your new life.
Before you had children, you might have had a standing appointment for weekly dinner dates with friends, the yoga studio, or with your hairstylist. And you may feel that keeping these activities is important to have a healthy self-care routine. While we are pro-self-care, know that it might look a little different for you as you navigate the road through motherhood. Maybe instead of yoga on Wednesday evenings, you opt for the Saturday morning class during your baby’s nap. Or, instead of dinner with friends, you meet for a happy hour a little earlier so you can make it home for bathtime. See if making small adjustments to your favorite activities can create a happy medium for everyone.
Expectation: You’ll sleep more soon.
Reality: You’ll go through waves of sleeping more and sleeping less for awhile.
We all know having children comes with late-night crying and early morning feedings. But what is often unexpected is how much our sleep schedules fluctuate as our children continue to grow older. Sleep is important and necessary to be our best selves every day, and when we lack sleep it can create a lot of frustration and tension. When it comes to how much sleep you’ll get and when, you know that it will continuously ebb and flow for quite a while. Setting your expectations appropriately helps so that you’re not shocked during the highs or lows of sleep schedules.
Expectation: You’ll have all home-cooked meals for your family.
Reality: You may rely on takeout or meal kits and that’s OK.
Feeding your family healthy food is important to you whether you are the chef of the house or not. But no one says that every meal has to be gourmet style. Look into getting some help for mealtimes by checking out meal kit services like HelloFresh or BlueApron. Or, feel no shame by pulling out the takeout menus and take the night off from cooking altogether. Make cooking easier by thinking outside of the box for family mealtime.
Expectation: Your house will be consistently clean and organized.
Reality: You’ll need to be okay with a little mess and disorganization.
Before you became a mother, you probably had a lot more time and energy to keep your home neat and tidy most times. Post-baby, there is a little less energy and a lot more toys and books. Learning to live with a few toys out of place, letting the laundry pile up a bit, or scrubbing the kitchen top to bottom a little less often will help you feel less stressed overall.
Expectation: You’ll be ready for sex when you’re cleared by the doctor.
Reality: You’ll be ready for sex on your own timeline.
In many cases, your doctor will clear you for sex 6-8 weeks after you give birth. But, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be ready to resume intimate activities by that appointment. Feeling as though you should get back to rolling in the hay with your partner sooner than you feel ready will only create moments of uncertainty and nervousness. No matter what you’re thinking, make sure to have open lines of communication with your partner about how you’re feeling in regards to your body and having sex again. This will likely create understanding and bring you closer together.
Expectation: You and your baby will hit every milestone on time.
Reality: Your milestones timeline is unique and should not be compared to anyone else’s.
Whether you’re wondering when you’ll get the hang of breastfeeding or curious when your baby will start rolling over, do your best to not compare your progress to that of others. Remembering that your journeys are unique will help you enjoy each moment as it comes rather than worrying about what hasn’t arrived yet.
Expectation: You need to take care of everyone else before yourself.
Reality: You can’t pour from an empty cup, so you must take care of yourself so that you can help those around you.
As mothers, taking care of others is something we pride ourselves on — but all too often that can lead to stress or burnout. Find little moments of joy each day that are just for you. Try things like taking a 20-minute uninterrupted bubble bath once a week, enjoying a glass of wine after the baby goes to sleep, or hiring a babysitter for a date night with your spouse. Enjoying these moments from time to time will help you feel relaxed and recharged so that you can continue being a great mother.
Life after a baby is a wild journey that is filled with excitement, wonder, and curiosity. And while we want the best for our little ones, expecting too much from them or ourselves can make motherhood feel harder than necessary. Try your best to enjoy the phase in front of you and know they all pass quickly — even the hard ones. And remember that at the end of the day, you really are an amazing mom!