Or, to put it a tad less poetically, a short list of Don’ts and Do’s for handling the first years of motherhood:
1. DON’T assume everyone’s doing life/marriage/kids better than you. Absolutely untrue! Think about your own life behind closed doors, then think how cute you look if you ever make it to Starbucks? Well, everyone else is faking it too.
2. DON’T accept every piece of advice you’re given – even when it comes from a sensible source. They’re your children, it’s your house and your marriage. If the advice fits, terrific! Let the rest quietly drift on by. If motherhood teaches you nothing else, it does teach you that the entire world has an opinion about how you should raise your baby and handle your marriage.
3. DON’T buy into the cultural schtick about parenthood and babydom. Remember we’re talking about a TRILLION DOLLAR industry here. Their job is to make you think you need everything, and they’re fantastic at it. As a wise counselor said when I was about to give birth to my firstborn, “Remember they used to put babies in the bottom drawer. What a baby really needs? You and a blanket.”
4. DON’T forget who you are. Just read an excellent article about maternal identity theft in the Huffington Post. If you feel like you’re drowning in diapers, keep a visual clue nearby to remind you of who you also are (not once were). I decided to hang my Yale Graduate Degree above the washing machine. Obvious choice.
1. DO keep perspective. Of course it doesn’t seem like it now, but babyhood is a finite season. The days are long but the years are short. I look back now (my kids are 11 and 9) and all I can remember is how unbelievably cute they were.
2. DO see God in the everyday. Breathe Him in. Those years when you were single and enjoyed two hour quiet times? HAHAHAHA. No. Forget it. Time with God comes closest when you are grateful.
3. DO add grace liberally and daily. Both to yourself and others. If you can’t extend grace to yourself, how’s everyone else going to fare?
4. DO keep community. Even when you don’t feel you can, get out and meet with other moms. Who cares if you showered? It takes a village and in these years the women in that village will be the ones who save your life and maintain your sanity. Which leads me to…
5. DO keep a sense of humor. This is breathtakingly crucial. It’s your friends who will enable you to see a ridiculously stretching moment as a hilarious one. We take ourselves far too seriously when left alone.
6. DO keep the Sabbath. There is a Sabbath rest for the people of God, so grab it! Enjoy your kids! Eat whatever can be found! Look above the dirt! Wear what you like! Do nothing! In the words of the song that rings through every household, “Let it GOOOOOO.” (And, let’s be honest, everyone does enjoy us so much more when we do?)
7. And, finally, DO give your husband/partner a break. They can’t handle the changes in you and their lifestyle? Send them out for a drink with a mate and let them moan there. Remember, who is the baby anyway?
Follow all these and Kipling would be proud of you. And what’s more?
You’ll be a Mum, my chum.