How My Mother Helped Me Let Go Of My Mom Guilt and Parenting Expectations
I had all these plans and goals before I gave birth to my daughter. And I felt so guilty that I couldn't fulfill them. I'm thankful my mom stepped in and helped me let go of expectations that were preventing me from being the parent I truly wanted to be.
Before my daughter, Ayla, arrived just over a year ago, I spent months planning everything I was going to do during what I imagined would be a very productive maternity leave. I had all these projects worthy of Instagram in mind: personalized ornaments filled with mementos, hand-drawn chalkboard signs to mark the baby’s milestones, paintings that mimicked Picasso’s strokes. I even organized my art supplies in a central spot in the living room so I could tackle crafts while she napped and played (yes, my newborn was going to enjoy hours of playtime). As a natural-born planner, I already felt a sense of accomplishment scrolling through my carefully curated Pinterest inspiration boards.
And then, the unexpected happened. Three weeks ahead of my due date, I was induced because of some unforeseen complications. Of course I was confused and scared. But the organizer in me was also stressed by my unfinished to-do list. The nursery still needed a coat of paint. Piles of unwashed baby clothes sat all around my apartment. There were no prepped meals in the freezer. And, worse of all, my mom was away on vacation.
Knowing full well what lay ahead for me, she cut her trip short and immediately came to my rescue, armed with a gallon of Dominican avena. “You should never breastfeed on an empty stomach,” she’d say as she served me the warm (oatmeal) drink in my favorite mug, much the same way she did when I was a kid. She stayed with us for that crucial first week and stopped by every few days after that for the next month.
While my husband, Ian, and I got used to life with a new baby, my mom sprang into action: She tackled laundry, made dozens of nourishing meals, and signed up for early-morning shifts with Ayla so that we could recover lost sleep. Yet, as dead-tired as I was during those first weeks, I still found the energy to feel guilty about all the things I wasn’t doing. Even the thank-you cards I had conveniently set up next to my breast pump were taunting me.
My mom, a woman who has always been the perfect mix of accomplished and intentional, constantly reminded me that caring for myself and the baby was the only thing that truly mattered. Everything else could wait. Her advice helped me come to terms with the fact that the goals I had set for myself pre-baby were no longer realistic. Cuddling my little baby girl while binge-watching Friends was as productive as I was going to be, and that was OK.
So I put the craft supplies back in my bedroom closet and watched as the spot they vacated quickly filled with diaper boxes and other baby stuff. Looking around at my cluttered apartment, I took in all the ways my world had been turned upside down. And at the center of it all was this tiny human I was determined to care for as best as I could, and that was plenty for now.
This article originally appeared in Parents Latina's August/September 2020 issue as “Finding Calm in the Chaos."