There is no shortage of advice given to first-time mothers. Some are practical. Like, do not spend too much on children’s clothing. They will outgrow them quickly. Others are heartwarming. The adage “the days are long, but the years are short” is repeated often.
Becoming a parent opens up a large community willing to share their experiences. They will talk about exclusive breastfeeding. They will try to convince you of the virtues of the Montessori method on young children. A small, but very passionate, group will talk about the value of essential oils for getting children to sleep through the night.
But, there is one thing that young mothers almost never hear: trust yourself.
It seems obvious, but mothers need to hear it. Raising a baby is not a joke. It is physically and emotionally demanding, so it is easy to second-guess yourself.
But, the truth is that nobody knows your baby more than you. On that point alone, you are the expert. More experienced parents might have been doing the parenting thing longer, but they do not have your qualifications. You are the one who carried your baby to term. You were there when he or she came out into the world. You have been training for this moment for 40 weeks, more or less. Holding the baby in your arms means that you passed the interview and you now hold the job. Other people can try to sway you with their experiences, but this is your turf.
Parenting is a maze of questions with few definite answers. It is easy for first-time mothers to get lost. What breast pump should I use? Should I use formula? Will attachment parenting encourage my child to excel or turn him or her into an emotionally fragile wuss? On some nights — fine, most nights — you might stand in the middle of the room, trying to console an inconsolable baby and think, “I don’t know what I’m doing!”
It might seem impossible at the time, but trust yourself.
The details of parenting will work themselves out. People always talk about maternal instincts, but that doesn’t always happen instantly. Sometimes, it takes time. As you and your baby get to know each other. you will be able to tell if your baby needs milk or just wants to be cuddled. You have to be kind to yourself and give yourself time to learn the ropes. Nobody is born knowing how to run. The first, unsteady steps are part of the process.
Parenting in this day and age is harder because there is too much information out there. Sometimes, they are even conflicting. It is a double-edged sword. On one side, it’s great to be plugged into so much knowledge. If you don’t know something, Google it. You can even hop on to a forum and ask a question. People will answer.
But, the downside is that it is easy to doubt yourself and compare your performance with others. Also, some parents can be pretty intense. Do you want some proof? Go to a parenting website, type “vaccine”, and watch the comments section explode.
When there is too much coming at you, what should you do? You are the only one who can answer that. Parenting is a deeply personal experience and what works for one family does not necessarily work for another. Information is there to help. Other parents can support you. Or they may not. But, it does not really matter.
You are the only one making decisions as a mother. Sometimes, your choice might be the unpopular one; but, stand firm. Whether it is standing up against an internet troll or setting boundaries with your mother-in-law, you need to believe in your judgment.
It would be nice if motherhood came with an instruction manual. But, that is not the case. In fact, it is bound to get confusing for a while. By the time you are an expert on infants, your infant has turned into a toddler intent to say no to everything. When you finally understand the mindset of a toddler, you have a preschooler trying to test limits. Of course, let us not forget about puberty.
No one is really an expert at parenting. But, there are steadfast ones. Years pass by throwing all sorts of curveballs, but strong parents are unfazed. Why? Because they trust themselves. Why shouldn’t they? When you are motivated by the love for your child, you are bound to make the correct decisions. Every choice is examined and all the consequences are considered. You cannot help but want what is best for your offspring. That is the nature of parenting, whether a first-timer or not.
So to you, the first-time mom who might feel tired and overwhelmed and a little unsure of what to do: trust yourself. You got this.