10 Daily Meditations for New Mothers
I think of my children's birth -- carry them around with me every day of my life.
-- Joyce Maynard
Not many days ago, you were carefully breathing, timing contractions, and pushing with every ounce of strength and stamina to complete the marathon of a lifetime: the birth of your baby.
Now that the baby's here, your attention is focused elsewhere. Time goes by in a blur of sleepless nights and endless changing, feeding, and burping. Your baby's birth fades into the background. It begins to seem like a remote dreamscape (or awful nightmare, depending on how things went).
It's impossible to hold on to your birth experience and commit it to a special place in your memory. The same courage you summoned during childbirth will serve you well as you meet the staggering challenges of motherhood. Take a moment now to recall how it felt to give birth to your child. Remember your pain, your joy, your triumph.
Affirmation: I'll always remember what it took to give birth to my child.
Reprinted from Reflections for New Mothers: 365 Daily Meditations, by arrangement with Simon & Schuster. Copyright 2002 by Ellen Sue Stern. All rights reserved.
While you can quarrel with a grownup, how can you quarrel with a newborn baby who has stretched out his little arms for you to pick him up?
-- Maria von Trapp
You get up in the middle of the night to feed, diaper, and put the baby back to bed for the eighth time. When you're met with an instant encore of wails, it's tough to feel anything but despair. But all you can do is throw up your hands and laugh. Or cry.
These early days are a time of nonstop giving. And giving. And more giving. There are few tangible rewards. At times you feel resentful, and rightfully so. You feel like screaming, "Shut up and go to sleep!" but instead you reach down and pick up the baby again.
Eventually you're rewarded. One blissful morning you'll awake to sunshine and suddenly realize your baby has slept through the night, and you'll know you helped your baby reach an important milestone.
Affirmation: Life will get easier.
I know that somewhere there must be mothers who in one week go back to their regular clothes; who appear at their desks as if nothing happened, whistling.
-- Phyllis Chesler
This Supermom myth creates pressure, guilt, and a feeling of inadequacy. So does the myth that somewhere there are mothers who in one week slip into black dresses and throw lavish dinner parties, where they sip wine, pass around photos of their lovely babies, and catch up on the latest gossip.
Forget it. Those women don't exist. Or if they do, they have full-time live-in nannies. Most women are just like you: haggard, exhausted, overwhelmed, and determined to make motherhood work.
Don't make it harder by trying to live up to impossible ideals.
Affirmation: I won't believe the Supermom myths.
Parenthood is quite a long word. I expect it contains the rest of my life.
-- Karen Scott Boates
You're not born with the feelings or the skills that are necessary to be a good mother. You have years -- in fact, your whole lifetime -- to become a better, more effective parent.
You learn from your mistakes, from reading and talking to other parents, and mostly from spending time getting to know your child. As you come to know your child -- what each cry means, her likes and dislikes, her idiosyncrasies -- you get better and better at giving her what she needs.
And as your skills grow, so does your love. With each passing year your child becomes dearer and dearer to you, and you become more confident in your ability to nurture and guide.
You're already a better parent than you were two weeks ago. And you'll be a better parent two months from now and two years from now. But that's only if you're willing to grow on the job.
Affirmation: I have the rest of my life to become the parent I want to be.
My mother wanted me to be her wings, to fly as she never quite had the courage to do.
-- Erica Jong
You must live your own life fully, rather than living through your child.
When you fail to fulfill your own aspirations, you consciously or unconsciously expect your child to realize your lost dreams and thwarted ambitions. The race you never ran, the book you never wrote, the acting career you never tried -- these disappointments carry over to the next generation, and you hope your child will do everything you wanted to do.
Even as you begin mothering, you must recommit to follow your own dreams so your child can follow his own.
Affirmation: I won't live through my child.
Your responsibility as a parent is not as great as you might imagine. You need not supply the world with the next conqueror of disease or major motion picture star.
-- Fran Lebowitz
Although you insist you simply want your child to be healthy and happy (which of course you do!), the truth is, you often wish for much more.
Sometimes you hope for amazing greatness. What mother hasn't fantasized her child writing the great American novel? Winning an Olympic gold medal? Discovering the cure for cancer?
Other times you think you "see" potential in your child from the day he was born. Mothers constantly say, "Look at those fingers! When Josh grows up, he's going to be a concert pianist!" or "You can tell how smart Hannah is. She's going to be a doctor or a lawyer!"
It's great to want your child to excel, as long as you love your child exactly as he is. No matter how your child turns out tomorrow and the next day and the next, you need to completely accept him today.
Affirmation: I'll accept my child exactly as he is.
Telling lies and showing off to get attention are the mistakes I made that I don't want my kids to make.
-- Jane Fonda
It takes courage to admit your errors. But it's impossible to guarantee that your child won't follow in your footsteps and make the same mistakes.
You can commit today to be a positive role model, but it won't ensure that your child will avoid repeating your mistakes. Your child has her own path to follow; the mistakes she'll make will be powerful, necessary life lessons, even if they're the exact same lessons you've learned over the years.
You can share what you've learned from your mistakes, point out of the pitfalls. But you don't have the power to prevent your child from making mistakes.
Affirmation: I can't keep my child from making mistakes -- even the same mistakes I made -- but I can try.
We want our children to have picture-perfect lives.
-- Harriet Hodgson
All parents start out with the dream that their children will have perfect lives. Their children will never suffer bruises, endure disappointments, or face failure -- at least not if they can help it.
Gradually, parents come to their senses. They accept -- even embrace -- the fact that perfection is a fantasy and not necessarily the goal. The healthiest families are those in which children are exposed to reality and given tools for coping with hard times.
It's better for your child to have a rich, full life -- including the inevitable ups and downs -- and to develop the strength to learn from whatever comes her way.
Affirmation: I'll give up my illusions of a perfect life for my child.
We give our children the privilege of struggling.
-- Mary Susan Miller
You grit your teeth, watching your child learn to walk. He falls down, gets hurt, and then gets up again. You clench your fists in frustration, watching your child trying to master a spoon. You wish fervently you could somehow short-circuit his struggle.
Yet it's the only way he can learn.
Think of your own struggles. The hardest times often yield the greatest lessons. The same is true for your child. Even though it's difficult, sometimes he can only grow stronger the hard way.
What you can do is be there for your child with open, sympathetic arms and a reassurance that you'll do everything in your power to help.
Affirmation: Struggling teaches my child inner strength.
I praise loudly; I blame softly.
-- Catherine II
Excellent advice, but too often you do exactly the opposite. You forget to praise your child in front of others, taking his good behavior for granted. Instead, you reprimand your child when he falls short of the mark so you can show others that you're a good mother who corrects misbehavior.
Shouting "Great Job!" loud enough for all to hear tells your child that you're proud of his efforts. Taking your child aside and whispering, "This isn't the way to behave" tells him what you expect without robbing him of his dignity.
Affirmation: I'll praise loudly, reprimand softly.