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You’re a Good Momma: An Open Letter from A Veteran Mom to First Time Moms

 

 

 

 

Dear New Momma,

When I first titled this post, I wanted to use another word – something other than…veteran. Pft. It implies so much more than it actually is. I prefer the term seasoned or experienced. As I checked out synonyms on Thesaurus.com I saw a lot of words that better described my experience of motherhood over the past 17 years and counting. I read: been around the block, knows one’s stuff, adept, been around, disciplined, not born yesterday, of the old school, battle-scarred, pro, proficient, skilled, weathered…WAIT. Go back! Battle scarred.

BATTLE-SCARRED!!!

This is the right word to describe me. I have taken a beating over the years in my experience as a mother. We all have – and one thing us “older” mommas want to prevent you newer ones from is making the same mistakes we did. Except this time I am giving advice about something I have never experienced. One thing I did not endure online is something I witnessfrequently in the blogging world, and the Internet in general. Mommy Wars. Back in my day online, message boards did not exist in the same manner they do now. Sure, there was chatter about parenting and whatnot, but the constant measure against those IRL {in real life} or on message boards simply did not exist with the same intensity that it does now. And from that, it has created for some of you, this unachievable standard for parenting. I wish I could tell you to relax, chill, don’t worry what others are doing because it will create unnecessary worry and stress in your life. I wish I could tell you that it’s not normal to compare ourselves to others…but it isn’t. I was the same way once upon a time, but the difference is the communication style online back in 1996 was not set up for me to compare myself to countless others on birth boards, forums, chat rooms, etc. I also didn’t have a strong sense of what the Faith meant then either, so I wasn’t comparing my faith walk alongside my parenting style in the same context. I was anxious simply because I was a new mom. I wanted to nurse {but failed miserably} because I felt it was the right feeding choice for my daughter. I wasn’t blessed with being able to talk to other moms my age who breastfed who could be my motivation {mostly because I was a very young first time mom}…so I gave up. I felt internalized guilt y nada más. I moved on. Formula worked just fine and life went on as planned. Back to college to finish college and earn my degree. It was also pretty common for babies then to be fed solids much younger than today’s current recommendations. My oldest had cereal at one month, fruits at two months, veggies at three months, straight juice at six months and cow’s milk at eight months. This was all pretty normal. I completely vax’d, top to bottom because doctors were to be trusted without question. Why not? And don’t get me started on the car seat standards then compared to now. Apples to oranges, folks. Then I had another kid in 2001, 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2012. If you asked me now if I would parent the way I did in 1996 with my current little one, recalling that by this point, I would soon be introducing straight juice and that our little guy would now already have eaten cereal, fruit, and veggies, I would recoil at the thought. My parenting has morphed and changed over the years…formula gave way to breastfeeding again, I started to read up on vaccinations and asked questions to my own childhood pediatrician with a discriminating eye this time around.

I have come SO far in 17 years of parenting {I count pregnancy as my first parenting role}

With all the support in modern day message boards, forums, and groups comes the double edged sword of {wrongly} comparing ourselves to others. Wrong in the sense that new mommas may use others’ “highlight” reel to compare to their list of deficiencies {you didn’t get out of your jammies today, laundry wasn’t washed, dinner? what dinner?}. Deficiencies which do not define you as parents. I have to say it may well have been a blessing in disguise that I never knew about the root of all Mommy Wars or, parenting styles. Much like the Church teaches Dogma and Doctrine, we can embrace parenting in the same way, recognizing basic human needs that must be met {“dogma” and “doctrine”} and also realizing that how those needs are met is what makes our parenting choices uniquely ours.

In order to live we must

  • have food,
  • have shelter,
  • and be loved and know love through our parents or guardians and especially understand the scandalously particular love God has for each of us.

I am always wary of taking any belief system to extremes*, particularly parenting. After having a chat with our pediatrician recently I came to realize that it’s not a parenting method that we should buy into, checking off boxes and setting us up for impossible-to-live-up-to standards. We both agreed that parenting comes in different forms and varieties for each kiddo and even different styles throughout the day. Parenting is quite fluid and how tos won’t be found within the pages of any one particular book.

My advice to you young mommas?

  1. There is no perfect answer on how to parent. Read books and learn, anyway. Talk with friends and acquaintances, anyway. Input and guidance from those sources won’t be a substitute for your parenting style, your family style, your children’s temperaments, your marriage or your good judgement. Expect to do a lot of test driving in your parenting days and the sooner you stop caring what method is best or how these other women appear to be doing it perfectly, the sooner you will rightfully regain your confidence to parent the way God intends.
  2. Be confident in your ability to parent your child the way God wants you to, new momma. Do your best to not look to others to validate your choices. Do not look at their highlight reels on Facebook and wish you could be as organized, productive, happy, involved, etc. as “so and so” is. Anyone can look busy on paper. Anyone.
  3. Don’t let veteran moms make you feel inadequate because you don’t quite have it all together. Seasoned moms, myself included, still have no idea what they’re doing on any given day, any given time. Remember, many of us still have our oldest at home and they are still paving the way for the littles. We have days {many of them!} where we just want to get them through the day without resorting to alcohol before noon – I kid…somewhat. The witching hour does not care how many children you have.
  4. Pray without ceasing. Sounds kinda obvious, but there will be many days where you will need God’s good graces to sustain you through the day. Surrender it to Him before your feet hit the floor each day.
  5. Be kind to yourself when you fail. If you totally bombed today, that’s ok. God forgives you, now forgive yourself, resolve to do your best, and when you fail {because you will fail}, get up and keep going.

*I should clarify that extremes that are bothersome to me are the ones whereby someone has chosen that their brand of belief system {parenting style, feeding choice, cloth diaper vs. sposies, organic vs. processed, etc.} should be applied to everyone. If you feel extremes work for you and are a healthy way to parent in your home, go for it! But the expectation that your interpretation of any extreme parenting style should be applied to everyone else, including you, is unfair and an unhealthy view of that parenting style.

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About Martina Kreitzer

Martina is a cradle Catholic, wife to Neil, and mother to seven kiddos here {and three in heaven}– 4/96-1/17. She decided to homeschool the kiddos in 2010 after many years in public schools and is currently transitioning out of homeschooling. She is the creator of Catholic Sistas which focuses on a feminine perspective of the Catholic Faith. The website was the result of an existing camaraderie by the contributors in a Catholic women’s group she created. She is also a Seal of Approval evaluator for the Catholic Writers Guild. Lest you think she spends all her time online, Martina has enjoyed getting out into the community by serving on the Pastoral Council from 2010-2013. She is constantly on the lookout to make her parish as welcoming as the small town she grew up in East Texas. This task is not easy given that St. William is the largest parish in the Austin diocese, serving well over twenty thousand parishioners. She loves Jesus, coffee, bacon, chocolate, photography, more bacon, evangelizing, and the company of those unafraid to use their sense of humor.

  • Misty - Spot on! Sharing this one EVERYWHERE.November 9, 2012 – 12:15 pmReplyCancel

  • mom to 4 - It is nice to see the seasoned parents admit to failures, like breastfeeding your first. Same thing here, then I was successful with the last three, so much so, I was fighting them off. AS for having it together, I couldn’t even bring myself to vacuum the floors for probably a year after the 1st one. Maybe twice a year with the second child. I know, disgusting. Finally, at 4 children, I do vacuum regularly and with the grace of God now feel as if my life is slowly starting to make sense. But, I would never give up any of the moments I have with my children for a spotless house!!November 10, 2012 – 2:10 amReplyCancel

  • Tammy - I feel really old reading this as my “baby” was born the very month your oldest was born (to this day I see that as one of the most precious times of my life, so its cool that we share it).

    I agree with everything you said and I too am probably blessed that there seemed less pressure then…intensity on mothers seems to have increased steadily and I really worry for those who may not see this unhealthy pressure for the foolishness it is and take it all to heart.

    I think what fuels this madness is that deep fear each of us carry inside that the hard decisions we made at the various maternal forks-in-the-road were wrong. Fear makes people mean & the very ones who most dont want to look mean are the ones who are often the meanest. The worst element in our fear is likely that we wont know if we were “right” about any given thing until it is too late to have made a different decision.

    The only solution for the fear/mean situation is to promise yourself that you will remember that whatever decision you made, you did the best you could with the info you had in front of you at the time. Beating yourself up over a bad outcome is pointless destruction and we need to do our best to forgive ourselves.November 10, 2012 – 6:08 amReplyCancel

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