Until I had a child, I had no idea how many versions of motherhood existed in the world. There are options for everything – from baby food to diapers to schools. And though I’m the oldest of six children with years of babysitting under my belt, I came into marriage with some bewilderment concerning what our future children would require of me.
Our culture is fiercely divided along the black and white lines of the mommy wars: cloth diapers versus disposable, homeschool versus public, attachment parenting versus BabyWise – the list goes on forever. If you’re a single woman, some of those terms sound foreign or even absurd. I know they did to me! Unfortunately a lack of exposure to young motherhood, coupled with the negativity of secular culture, has persuaded many young women to believe things about mommyhood that simply aren’t true – or don’t have to be true for everyone. Here are five things about motherhood I was relieved to find false when I became a mom.
You will never shower or sleep again.
I think seasoned parents find it entertaining to rattle new ones with this little adage. Isn’t the daily shower like, a basic human right? But here is the hopeful reality: showers and sleep will still happen – they will simply look different for a season. The first few weeks your baby is home she will be eating every two hours, whether nursing or by bottle. It will be tough, but that stage will pass, and you will sleep through the night once again! I started sleep training Adeline at four weeks, and by twelve weeks I was getting a good 7-8 hour night’s sleep. She regresses now and then (and will continue to), but I still get plenty of z’s – and so will you. It’s just a matter of time.
If you’re anything like me when you’re strapped for sleep, a morning shower is necessary. The blogs I read as a single made motherhood and showering sound mutually exclusive. I set out to test that theory. Much to my happiness, showering is possible – you just have to be creative.
During Adeline’s first nap of the day I squeeze in my beauty routine, and if she isn’t taking her normal nap that day, she sits in her bouncy and watches. I recently timed it: 22 minutes to shower, dress, put on my makeup and do my hair. I’ve tweaked the routine several times to make it happen (and will continue to tweak it as we have more kids) and you’ll find what works for you. But don’t believe the myth that you’re destined for a continuous existence of grunge and sleep deprivation. Everything has a season, and creativity goes a long way.
2. Sex will be awful and you won’t want it, which is a good thing, because you don’t have time for it anyway.
When I was pregnant, I think Google might have flagged me for all the searches I did about post-partum sex. Nobody talks about it, and only a few friends who went before me were kind enough to share the details. Since I’m not shy about this topic, I’ll spare you the fear I experienced: it isn’t that bad. Not only that, but I found many women who were excited to have “normal” (read: not hugely pregnant) sex with their husbands again. And I’m sure their husbands were just as thrilled after the six to eight week recovery time!
While every woman is different (and delivery will have an effect on this), post-partum sex is not awful. I have found it to be better than it was before! And since we’re on the bust-a-myth train, Josh and I do have time for it. We make time for it, even scheduling it into our calendar. The great thing about making time for intimacy is that it improves the overall quality of your marriage, which is extremely important when a baby arrives. It’s easy to lose ourselves in the role of “mother” at the expense of our roles as wives and partners to our husbands.
Romance is something we have to fight for and be intentional about in this new stage of life. There are times I might not be completely in the mood, but in those moments I abide by one of my guiding principles: “Act how you want to feel.” I’ve found that responding romantically makes me want intimacy more – and it’s always worthwhile!
3. You will wear nothing but workout clothes.
Frankly, stretchy pants and maxi dresses are a lifesaver when you’re bending, sitting, nursing, and otherwise serving a needy babe. I often wear leggings (when I’m at home), and they were great in the first few weeks when I was in recovery, breastfeeding at what felt like every hour of the night and day.
However, motherhood doesn’t mean your bubble necklaces and J. Crew shirts are relegated to the back of the closet forever. Though working moms are back in business casual after maternity leave, those of us who stay and/or work at home have to be a little more intentional. When I set out my clothes (as part of my evening routine), I take a cue from my career days: dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
I have the job I want – Assistant Director of Home Management – and I want to show that I appreciate it. But I also DO work from home as a writer and college counselor, and dressing for my work puts me in a productive mood. It’s one of the ways I accomplish everything in my daily routine. For me that means jeans, a cute shirt, and some jewelry, or sometimes a dress and some layers. Getting dressed and looking nice helps me face the day with intention, even if I’m not leaving the house.
4. Your body will be ruined.
There is so much negativity surrounding postpartum bodies. No matter how many times we stress the beauty of them, cultural expectations alter our acceptance of that fact. I’ve talked on this blog about stretch marks and inner beauty and why telling ourselves we’re beautiful isn’t enough. It breaks my heart that women might put off having children to preserve a body that is nothing more than a cultural icon of female sexuality.
Babies don’t ruin bodies. But they change them.
Bringing a baby into this world is no small feat. It takes an incredible toll on our bodies during and after pregnancy. But it is completely possible to return to a healthy weight and state. I’ll be sharing my fitness and eating habits on the blog in the future, but for now, just know this: time + discipline works wonders. It took nine months to put on the weight; give yourself nine months (or more!) to get it off.
I gained 45 pounds during my pregnancy. In my ninth month I finally got my stretch marks – worse than I ever expected! My body was changed forever, but it wasn’t “ruined”. After all – what is “ruined”? Ruined for what, a bikini? Our bodies’ value is not determined by how good we look with our clothes off (which I discuss in this post). To be ruined, my body would need to lose its value to my baby, my husband, and God, which has not happened. Instead, my body gave life to a child, gives nourishment to her daily, and is scarred with reminders of the sacrifices made to carry her. My husband thinks that is beautiful – and so does God. Birth made my body increase in value, and it will do the same for yours.
5. You will be a bad mom.
We all enter motherhood with our own sets of fears and matching baggage. Whether we had great moms or less-than-great moms, we take those experiences into our own parenthood and worry whether we will “mess up” our kids.
God gives grace for these fears. God is present with us in parenthood as the greatest Parent of all time, and the only perfect example. If we follow God’s principles for life, we won’t be “bad parents”. We will be human parents guided by a perfect Lord, and that’s the best we can offer.
Read more: Dear Girl, You Are Not Your Parents
Every woman will mother based on her priorities for her family. My own priorities – my relationship with God and husband, time with my family, an organized home and a healthy, fit lifestyle – inspire me to implement the necessary routines to bust these myths and live a life of peace and joy. I have found so much purpose by creatively making time for the things that matter to me – no matter how impossible I was told they’d be!
Too many single women get discouraged about motherhood before they even arrive there. Motherhood does not destroy your identity, nor does it take away from the life you lived as a single. Motherhood enriches your days, filling them with as many smiles and giggles as new tasks and responsibilities. Creatively implementing routines and cultivating flexibility now is the best way to prepare for motherhood, and even then, you can never be completely prepared! You’ll know what to do when you get there. I promise.