Becoming Mom: Find Support in Your Community!
From first seeing the little lines on the stick telling us baby is on the way, to modifying our diet and habits and feeling the kicks and then the gut rearranging pangs, our physical life as a mom can impact us. We often spend a lot of time, thought and preparation when birth planning. Sometimes we read articles and books about the different approaches to feeding babies, sleep training babies, and understanding babies’ developmental milestones—all before we meet our new human. Then, in a few fast months, delivery is here and usually within a day, baby is here. And we are Mom. And we wonder: Where is the manual?
The wildest, most unique, ever-changing and heart-filling role we will ever have is Mom. Becoming Mom doesn’t happen in that moment when the baby is placed in our arms, though. In my experience of raising babies and helping new moms launch into raising theirs, we are always becoming Mom. And that is a good thing. Motherhood isn’t a stagnant journey. It does not have an end destination. It can, however, be a launching point for self-discovery, personal development, and some of the most meaningful relationships we will ever have. When you’re first finding your way as a mom, learning to let go of doing too much, redefining who you are, and finding support in the community are key to helping you have a positive start to your journey.
Let go of doing it all
The amount of external support available to new parents varies. Our response to accepting help and going with the flow can also vary. Sometimes we feel the need to prove that we can do everything we were doing before the household dynamic shifted or we feel awkward accepting help. But if we learn in the first few months to use that support, we also help ourselves learn that it is always going to be okay to seek out and accept help. There is no point in a parenting journey where it will be realistic to be doing everything ourselves. Sometimes we need to say no. Other times, we can outsource. And then there are times when we need to lower our expectations. Discuss priorities and responsibilities with your partner, hire or barter for outside help, and simplify routines.
Redefine who you are
When you start your parenting journey, you shift off the path of being an individual, defined predominantly by your career or your relationship.
It can be hard to anticipate how you will feel about this. And those feelings may evolve over time. Since you will always be Mom, it’s important to seek out ways to be Mom AND You. Move through this identity shift knowing that there will be seasons in parenting when you can integrate your interests and skills into your day-to-day life. You may also find new interests along the way. The goal is not balancing work, relationships, parenting and hobbies but integrating them. Finding small ways to overlap your interests and responsibilities while you connect with your partner, parent your children and work outside of the home can help. Some weeks this will feel more doable. And during the weeks it doesn’t, remember to let go of doing it all and trying to be it all.
Find support in your community
Life as a new mom can feel less overwhelming when you know that you are not the only one going through challenges and finding your way through them one day at a time. Connecting with other moms in similar stages of parenting is very beneficial. We aren’t meant to parent alone. Although our world is no longer composed of small villages, community connection is available.
Look for opportunities in-person or virtually that foster support and provide encouragement to new parents. These can be in community organizations, such as churches or places of worship, community centers and mommy and me activities. Finding a safe space to ask your questions, move through developmental changes, and discuss the transitions helps us feel less isolated and overwhelmed.
Prioritize your mental health
Our mental health needs as a mom can often be the last piece of preparation that we consider when we are expecting. Sometimes we forget that it’s also not resolved after that six-week check-up with our doctor or midwife. Open conversations with other parents can help us know that hard feelings are normal and that you can feel both good and not-so-great along this journey. Community also helps us connect to additional resources for ourselves and our families when needs arise.
It is tempting to romanticize new motherhood. It’s also hard to talk about the challenges that can emerge on this journey. Motherhood is not all sunshine and roses or all doom and gloom. There are many complicated areas in between. It is a space where you can feel both, and you can move forward into this journey knowing that becoming Mom doesn’t happen in any one moment. It is what happens in the subtle shifts through all the stages, in each challenge you handle, in each adventure you savor. You are always becoming the mom you were meant to be. Some days you do it with more grace than others. But each day that you let go of unrealistic expectations, appreciate your individual journey, and seek the support of others will help you on this path.
Megan Shane has been a mental/ behavioral health/art therapist working with kids and families for twenty-one years, a mom for thirteen years, and she has supported new moms in community organizations for six years. She started Empowering Moms as a resource to help have real conversations and get lasting support during motherhood. In 2020, Empowering Moms became an official non-profit program through Parents in Toto Community Resource Center. Since perfect doesn’t exist, we empower Moms to be present and at peace.