Written By: Meghan Basinger
In 2004 I went off to college at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York. I traveled fifteen hours away from home, to the small campus nestled along the Allegheny River, hugged my parent’s goodbye and realized I didn’t know a single soul.
You’re probably wondering, what the heck this has to do with young motherhood. For all intents and purposes, I was a southern girl navigating life in a northern town and to avoid feeling completely lost, I held tightly to an identity that may or may not have been completely true. I played the “southern girl” role (stereotype alert!). I dated with marriage as the goal and talked about babies as if I was ready for them the moment I threw my graduation cap in the air.
Truth is: there wasn’t a single maternal bone in my body. Sure, they called me “mom” on our swim team because I was the one you called in a late-night bind. But beyond that, I had absolutely no clue how hard the life I longed for at 21 would be when I got it at 28.
At 31, I’m the proud mom of two beautiful girls. Girls that teach me about motherhood on a daily basis. Girls that show me grace on the days I completely fail at the job. Motherhood isn’t straight out of a movie like the one I watched behind closed-eye-lids in my 20-something-old dreams. It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s sometimes too much.
Later this month, my best friend will welcome her first-born. This October, my sister will give our family its first boy. This is a letter to them. And to all new moms, young and old. It’s not what you pictured in your teenage daydreams. It’s better.
First and foremost, remember you don’t have to be the best mom. You just have to be the best mom for them. Twenty-years from now they won’t remember their perfect unicorn birthday cake or their color-coordinated organic lunch. They’ll remember how you played with them. How you got down on the floor and set up imaginary worlds. The song you made up when they learned to use the potty on their own. How you put down your Bloody Mary and went down the slide with them at the pool.
Whether you’re a new mom, pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant – know this: there’s no perfect time to start a family. Maybe your little one is an “oops”..maybe he or she was perfectly planned. Regardless, life does what it wants, when it wants. We decided to try for Bauer a short six months into our marriage. Know how we decided? We put two dog treats across the room, 1. Have a Baby 2. Wait. Well, Dumbledore ran to “Have a Baby” and we ’re like GAMETIME. Do I think you should be in a loving relationship and financially secure? Absolutely. But if you’re waiting to feel ready – you might be waiting awhile. I wasn’t ready when the doctor said, “OK one last push and she’s here.” You just make it work one day at a time.
Trust your instinct. I’m Team Vaccinate. I’m also just straight-up Team Trust the Ph.D. But you’re their mom. And to an extent: you know what’s best for them. There’s only been one instance a couple years back when Bauer was a baby that I picked her up and marched her out of a doctor’s office. I didn’t jive with the physician. He wasn’t listening to me. And I didn’t trust his decision about what was best for my child. And you know what, I was right. And that’s coming from a gal that believes in the power of antibiotics. Trust your mommy’s gut.
Have confidence in your parenting choices. In one play date, you can meet no less than five moms with five different opinions. Playdates should tire out your mini, not send your head spinning into a parallel universe. Hold true to your convictions and don’t let a mom with a personal mission rock your boat – no matter how good her intentions.
Let your husband help. I hit the jackpot with Kelly. He’s as hands-on as they come with our girls. He encourages me to chase my passions, spend time with my friends and get away when I need to. He never makes me feel guilty for taking the time I need. I handle that all on my own. He’s happy taking on mom and dad duty for a few days, while I scoot off to Mexico with my friends. In my own warped-mom-mind, I beat myself up over leaving. I repeatedly thank him for doing bath time or driving Bauer to school – as if it’s my sole responsibility and he’s doing me this epic favor. It takes two to make a baby. Share the responsibility of raising one.
Tighten your circle. You can’t be everything to everyone. And at the end of the day, your babies need you most. Maybe you’ll lose friends in the process. Maybe you’ll get less and less social invites. Go easy those first couple years. Don’t overextend yourself. If you miss a birthday dinner for your BFF, you’ll catch it next year.
Smile and nod when someone tells you to “enjoy every minute.” Unless you’re high 24/7, there’s absolutely no way you will enjoy every minute. Heck, some days – just shoot for enjoying a really great hour. Motherhood isn’t about every second being happy-go-lucky. You will not enjoy public temper tantrums. You will not enjoy midnight bed wetters. You will not enjoy the first time you catch your eldest, punching your youngest in the face. Don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong if you aren’t enjoying even most of the minutes. Just know that granny in the grocery store would give anything to go back to those early years – and she just wants you to hold on to them dearly.
If you only take one thing away from this letter: play with them. Find your inner child. Get down on the floor. Crawl into their little beds with them and never say no to “one more book.”
Post originally appeared on meghanbasinger.com