If you’re a new mom, you’ve probably heard that those first months of motherhood are hard. That you’ll be in survival mode until the baby is probably six months old. That you’ll cry a lot and sleep just a little. That your house will be dirty and laundry will never be done. During that time, you’re not only sleeping very little, but you’re also in a fog of uncertainty, plagued with nuanced questions that don’t necessarily have black-and-white answers: why is my baby crying again? Will he ever sleep more than two hour stretches? Why isn’t she latching? Should I treat this fever with meds? How do I get him to stop biting? The list goes on.
Determining what’s right for your specific child is hard. The mental weight of the uncertainty, second guessing your decisions, and struggling to maintain balance between everyday responsibilities and caring for an infant can be (almost) as exhausting as the lack of sleep.
For some of us, “survival mode” can last a lot longer than six months. My son is turning two this summer, and in some ways I am still in survival mode—the house is always dirty, the fridge is always empty, and there are piles of laundry everywhere I look. Today I sent him to daycare in a (clean) pajama top because we forgot to wash his t-shirts. My son slept hardly at all until 18 months, and even now he sleeps through the night just a few times a week. Between working full-time and attempting to be present for my toddler, there’s just not a lot of energy left over at the end of the day for anything not totally essential for survival. I still haven’t figured out how to balance a career with motherhood, but I’m hopeful that, eventually, it will click into place.
Despite being bad at the balancing act, I’ve noticed that in the last few months, the uncertainty piece of survival mode has quietly dissipated. I’m not sure when it happened, or why my confidence finally clicked into place, but somewhere along the line I have graduated from a timid, unsure new mom to a mom who makes decisions with confidence.
I think I realized this shift when my toddler started showing interest in the potty at an early age. Once his interest became apparent, I immediately began doing what I always do when a new parenting question presents itself: I started researching like crazy and reaching out to other moms in my parenting Facebook groups to get their take on the best potty training approach. But almost as soon as I began, I stopped. I realized that I didn’t care about the latest potty training methods or what worked for other parents, because I alone knew my son best. So, I did what felt right for my little guy: I bought a potty seat and encouraged him to use it without pushing or making it a “thing”—I just had it available for him whenever he wanted to try. This felt right to us and easily fell in step with our lifestyle. At 22 months, we are not potty trained yet, but it feels good knowing that I made the right call for my kid, and that he’ll transition when he’s ready.
This confidence has spilled over into other areas of parenting as well: medical decisions, parenting styles, nutrition choices, sleeping habits, etc. Of course, some of these topics do require diligent research—but both my husband and I are now at a place where, when faced with a choice, we do the research and make a decision, without constantly second-guessing ourselves afterwards. Does this mean we make the right decision every time? Of course not. But we do our best with the information we have and move forward, making pivots along the way if needed. We may still struggle to keep the dishes done and our toddler’s closet stocked with clean clothes, but this newfound confidence feels like a weight has been lifted.
Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, or somewhere in between—if you’re struggling under the burden of uncertainty, know that your time will come. It may take three weeks, three months or three years, but eventually you will find your groove. There is a confident, fearless mother under all that uneasiness—give her time, and she will surface.
Lauren French lives in in the Kansas City metro area with her husband Taylor, almost-2-year-old son Silas, and their three fur babies. Always struggling to balance work, life, and motherhood, Lauren’s survival strategy is to look for humor and joy amidst the chaos. Her best advice for relieving stress is to bake a batch of cookies (works every time).