In this article, we hear from Rachel Preston Broughton, who has two beautiful children and generously shares with us her reflections on motherhood so far. Enjoy reading about the things Rachel wishes she had known back when she first became a mother.
As a mum of a two-year-old and a four-year-old, I’ve learned a lot since my introduction to motherhood with my first baby. Not only do we mums learn practical things, such as how to take care of our babies, what they like, and how to soothe them, we also learn a whole lot of things about motherhood, and ourselves. When I think back to what I wish I had known when I first became a mum, a number of things come to mind, and most of them are things I wish I knew about myself, and how to support myself as a mother.
Let go of expectations and don’t worry if it’s not perfect
I have always been a career woman and aimed to excel in everything that I have done. When I was first a mother, I wanted to be the same. I read every parenting book I could get my hand on and knew everything that the books could teach me about looking after babies and children. I had read all about breastfeeding, starting solids, reading to babies, safe sleep, everything. I had the idea in my head that I would be able to do it all and be a perfect mother. I was also sure I would be able to keep my house spotless, keep up with my fitness, and have a great social life. I thought it would be all about planning and preparing, and I’d be able to do it all.
Unfortunately for me, life had other plans. I found it impossible to keep up with the unrealistic expectations I had set for myself. I couldn’t actually do it all, and staying home with a baby, while wonderful and lovely, didn’t actually allow me all the time in the world that I had thought it would. I had to force myself to let go of the unrealistic expectations I had for myself. I had to accept that some days I wouldn’t get through everything on my to-do list, and that was ok. Now four years later, my to-do list is much less cluttered. However, I still have to remind myself to be kind to myself and not expect too much of myself.
It’s ok to do things your own way and not listen to the books
Baby sleep was an area that I found particularly challenging. I’d read all about baby sleep, but it seemed my baby hadn’t read any of the books and wouldn’t follow any of the rules. I found it all incredibly stressful, and I found myself unable to sleep some nights because I was so stressed about when my baby was going to wake up and why she wasn’t sleeping through. I wanted to control her sleeping patterns like the books said I should be able to, but it just didn’t work.
It wasn’t until much later, and after finding a different style of baby sleep books, I started to realise that I didn’t actually have to listen to the books and that it was perfectly ok to find my own style. We co-slept, I relaxed about baby sleep, the stress went away and I was able to sleep again. I wish I had known that different things will work with different families and that it’s ok to do things differently from others.
Mothers’ needs are just as important as children’s
I am sure everyone has heard the old saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. When I became a mother, I came to truly understand what it means. To this day, I am always thinking about and anticipating my children’s needs. I am always making them food, doing activities with them, and making sure they get enough sleep. What I have forced myself to learn is that my needs are also important. I also need to make sure I get enough nutritious food, do activities I enjoy, and sleep enough. Some days this is very challenging, and my needs don’t always get met every day, but I have learned to prioritise my own needs as much as my children’s.
How to actually “enjoy” motherhood
This is something I continue to work on to this day. As a new mum, I had heard many people tell me to “enjoy every minute, it goes too quickly!” But actually enjoying it when you’re sleep deprived or have a screaming toddler is a challenge. When things are hard, someone telling you to “enjoy every moment”, isn’t actually very helpful at all. I wish I had known to find moments every day to enjoy, and also accept that not everything will be enjoyable. I find mindfulness, gratitude, and having some time to myself each day (or as much as possible when it can’t be every day) to be key in helping me to enjoy motherhood and enjoy being with my children. And I know that it isn’t achievable or realistic to enjoy every single moment.
Every child is different
This is a big one for new mums. All our babies are different, and what works for me might not work for others. Some babies cry a lot, and some babies don’t. It doesn’t mean that one mother is doing a better job than the other, it just means that babies have different personalities, needs, and temperaments. Both of my children were quite different as babies and continue to grow into their own individual personalities and I have learned not to compare the two of them.
Other people’s opinions don’t matter
Everyone seems to have opinions about parenting and what mums should be doing. There will always be people who will disagree with any parenting styles and choices you make. In the beginning, dealing with people’s opinions was a challenge for me. I always wanted everyone to approve of the choices I made, and the opinions of those close to me were important. I had to learn to let go of these opinions, and that other people, especially older people, don’t always approve of the way that we parent now. I wish I had known that it was ok if an older family member didn’t think I should use a dummy or thought we should start solids at 3 months, and to not worry if they give other outdated advice.
The final thing I wish I had known when I first became a mother is how much I would change and grow as a person, and how that is ok. I had been a little afraid of changing and losing my own identity, but instead, I got to gain a whole new identity as a mother, in addition to my old identity as an individual. I now get to be someone’s mother, as well as myself, which is a wonderful thing.
Rachel Preston Broughton is a mum of two beautiful children, and the owner of Baby and Mumma Gifts, a small business creating gifts for new mums during pregnancy and postpartum. Rachel is passionate about giving gifts that focus on the wellbeing of new mums and mums-to-be.