Adjusting to motherhood can be challenging, making you feel stuck and miserable. Learn how to get used to life with a baby with these tips.
When is this going to get easier? I said to myself at two in the morning holding a crying baby.
The early weeks of the newborn stage, however challenging, seemed more forgivable. I was fresh into motherhood and understood that babies need us the most during that time.
It’s when the weeks and months go by that seem worse. When we’ve been through so much and expect some things to feel normal, or at least easier. Never mind that household chores and “real life” challenges haven’t gone away.
I even reminded myself that life with a new baby may be the most challenging experience I’ll come across, and that getting used to it can take time.
But logic still didn’t erase the difficulty I was finding in parenthood. I still resented the lack of freedom to go anywhere, anytime. I felt stuck to endless naps, feedings, and being home early enough for bedtime.
Adjusting to motherhood
After three kids, I’ve learned that adjusting to being a new mom does take time, but that you can also change your mindset and actions to make life easier. Motherhood changes you, but it doesn’t always have to be difficult.
You can reclaim your sanity with these small but major changes and reminders. You can find a clearer, more forgiving view of motherhood while also seeking ways to have a more “normal” life.
Here’s how to cope with adjusting to motherhood and life with a baby:
1. Go for small wins
Adjusting to motherhood can be difficult when our pre-kids lives seemed only a few short months ago. We remember the times we were able to stay up late, sleep whenever we wanted, or eat however long it took. Reconciling that life with our new one can seem all but impossible.
Instead, go for the small wins. Find simple but attainable ways to incorporate your old life into your new one with a baby.
Don’t be afraid to take her with you to run an errand, no matter how short the time window may be—at least you did it. Pour yourself a cup of tea during her nap, savoring each sip, even if you know you’ll need to tend to her in a few minutes.
You’ll notice that these small wins will grow longer or more frequent over time. Short errands will lend themselves to longer outings, and your quick tea time will become an afternoon ritual.
But it has to start with the small wins to remind yourself that your old life doesn’t completely end—it only changes by the season.
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2. Make exceptions
Frequent feedings and strict bedtime rules can make you feel stifled with new responsibilities.
So, once in a while, give yourself permission to break from routine. Don’t feel like you’re confined to your schedule when you’re just as free to make exceptions to them.
Maybe you want to stay up past the baby’s bedtime for a family party, or you’d rather have someone else feed her to give yourself a break. Making exceptions allows you to take a breather and realize that life goes on even when you veer away from routine.
The trick is to remember two things: The first is to follow a routine in your everyday life so that deviating from it becomes easier. Seems ironic, but the more routine you have, the more likely you and your baby can see changes as exciting, rather than anxiety-ridden.
And second, expect that exceptions can be challenging. Know the downsides to deviating from routine, and accept them. Staying up past the baby’s bedtime will give you social and emotional support from family, but understand that she might be cranky come nighttime.
3. Challenge yourself
How is it that some moms seem to be able to get so much done with the baby all on their own while others don’t? They went out and did it.
You see, we feel competent when we get out of our comfort zones. If taking the baby out seems all but impossible, it’ll continue to feel that way if you never take her out to begin with.
After I had the twins, I felt like we’d never be able to do the fun things we did with our eldest. But one day, we decided to go to the museum, despite the short time frame between the twins’ frequent naps. They cried and fussed, but they were also calm and curious.
More important, I came home feeling proud of ourselves that we did something hard. And it was only through making the commitment to just do it.
The trick is to start small, but to start. Challenge yourself one notch above your current comfort zone so that you finish thinking, Wow, that was hard—but I did it.
That feeling of accomplishment will not only make you feel more confident, but will help you with adjusting to life after having a baby.
Learn why you should have a life beyond kids.
4. Accept, don’t resist, the season you’re in
It seemed like I was trying to rush every minute of life with a baby. I had been finding motherhood difficult, and figured that the best way out of these real-life struggles was to speed things up as much as I could.
I kept looking forward, wishing that he would sleep through the night already. Or I’d tell myself it’ll get easier once he reached a certain milestone. But with each milestone met, I was still stuck wishing for the next best thing, thinking that would be my ticket out of my difficulty.
A few years later, I had twins, and I realized that they would be my last kids and that the madness of this stage actually does end. Those two factors allowed me to accept the season I was in. I didn’t resist or wish it away. I accepted and—once in a while—even cherished the madness.
As I say in my book, You Are Enough:
“You don’t have to cherish sleep deprivation, but you can focus on the warm feeling of your little baby over your shoulder as you burp him, even in the middle of the night.
So much so that it’s not about cherishing the moment, but accepting it as the season you’re in. And like all seasons, this challenging moment is temporary, and will come and go.”
That simple change in mindset can be all you need to relax. You’ll know that life will go back to normal, and you can cherish the moments because they’re temporary.
5. You’re in the 24th mile
Adjusting to motherhood is like running a marathon. You spend months preparing for the event. The initial race has you pumped and challenges you beyond the familiar. And you’re hanging on, despite how much you want it to end.
All is fine until you hit the last few miles, and this is when you begin to feel discouraged. You’ve already gone through so many miles, and while you know the end is near, it’s hard to imagine ever crossing the finish line with how tired you are.
This is why we break down not near the beginning of the newborn stage, but toward the end. Around the three- to four-month mark, we’ve gone through months with lack of sleep. Staying positive is hard when we feel broken, even if we’re so close to reaching new milestones that can make life easier.
Hang in there, mama. That 24th mile is hard. Your patience is waning, and nothing seems to improve. But it will, even if you don’t see it right now.
Read 6 reasons motherhood is hard.
There’s no other lifestyle change like having a baby, don’t you think? You see parents with older kids and wonder if they ever had it hard too. When did they stop feeling stifled, and start feeling like life was normal again?
It’s often a matter of time, but logic can be hard to imagine when you’re in the thick of the madness.
Instead, shift your mindset and go for the small wins that provided glimpses of normalcy. Challenge yourself a notch above your comfort zone, and make exceptions so you don’t feel tied to routine.
Accepting the season you’re in, rather than resisting it, allows you to relax and actually enjoy motherhood. And remind yourself that the last leg of the race is often the most difficult—but to persevere nonetheless.
Rest assured, you will adjust to motherhood and life with a baby. No, it won’t be exactly like how it was in your pre-kids life. Even now, I still wake up at 5:30 in the morning, without an alarm clock.
But life feels normal again—a new kind of normal—and one I wouldn’t trade anything for.
Get more tips:
- On Rediscovering Yourself After Motherhood
- Top 7 Tips to Keep Your Sanity as a Mom
- What I Wish People Told Me About Being a New Mom
- How to Be a Happy Mom
- Practical Advice for First Time Moms
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