When you become a new mom, of course, your heart and actions have your baby's best interest in mind. At times, it seems that everyone else has an opinion on how you should be raising your newborn.
It's hard enough being a new mom, often suffering with little to no sleep, without feeling as if you need to defend your position in mothering.
Sticks and Stones
Sometimes, the opinions and advice from others can be helpful, especially if coming from wisdom learned by experience. Yet, other times, the same suggestion by a friend or family member spoken, messaged or emailed as a seemingly loving comment can become critical.
Words can be hurtful, even if they have been spoken with baby's best interest at heart. And hurtful words can sting like a dagger right to your heart, especially when you're stretched thin and running on empty.
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Overwhelmed as a New Mom
I vividly remember an overwhelming time when my first son, now a teenager, was only a few months old. Not only did I feel I was battling criticism, often from those closest to me, I was then battling voices in my head and questioning the choices my husband and I had made together.
We had chosen some non-conventional methods of parenting, including home-birthing, baby wearing, and even non-vaccinating.
I felt tired.
I felt unsure.
I felt alone.
I Want to Fly Away
One warm fall Las Vegas evening, I quickly handed baby off to my husband when he walked in the door from work and went off on an escape drive: convertible top down, hair blowing in the wind, tears streaming down my cheeks. I was clueless as to where I was going or how to quiet the voices in my head and the mental and physical exhaustion. I just wanted to drive. I wanted to fly away.
We lived not too far from the Las Vegas International Airport and on the road near my home was a parking lot overlooking the runway. I turned in to stop, breathe and watch the planes soar and land. I was running, hoping I could get away from these emotions, or maybe, just come back down from how I was feeling.
Tears for Help
I parked, turned off the car, covered my eyes with my hands and wept, praying for a miracle, not really knowing what to ask. I was hoping for a tangible sign, some direction, maybe even instructions on how to move forward from this horribly stuck feeling and place.
A few minutes later, the roar of a jet engine caused me to glance upward and the literal posted sign in front of me was one of the most profound pieces of wisdom, for parenting or for life, I'd ever received. It was my miracle, as if the sign had been fastened to the chain link fence by God Himself.
The simple, white, reflective sign read:
Don't Feed the Birds: Flight Hazard.
I know, you're probably thinking, "How does a sign warning not to feed the birds because of a flight hazard have anything to do with parenting advice?" Or, maybe you get where I'm coming from and are "picking up what I'm putting down," as my teen would say.
It wasn't as much about seeing the sign as it was hearing the voice in my heart, quieting the noise in my head and bringing peace to my overwhelmed, heavy soul with its gentle whisper:
"Don't listen to what others are speaking to you in a negative way. Birds are beautiful, but don't let them peck at you. It hurts. Don't give the birds food, fuel, to hinder you by letting what they say trouble you. Don't take it personally. They're saying what they think is best. Don't let the pecking of the birds hinder your ability to soar as the woman and mother you are becoming. Stay true to the path, which is uniquely your own as a mom and as a family."
Listen to My Wisdom, From Experience
I wish I had known then what I know now. It's why I'm sharing this story with you, mama. Only you can fly the path of motherhood you are traveling. It's an adventurous, and at times, overwhelming journey. But don't feed the birds. They're a flight hazard.
5 Ways to Win the Battle of Criticism
I wish I had understood the power of prayer more in my time as a new mom. Nothing can calm a heart and give you "peace that surpasses all understanding" as quickly and thoroughly as giving your cares to God. After all, (I once heard a wise friend say,) He's up all night anyway.
2. Don't Compare
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "comparison is the thief of joy." Especially today in a social media-laden society full of seemingly perfect stories, lives, and snaps on Instagram or Pinterest. There's not a Pinterest post which will compare to the joy you'll find in contentment, right where you are.
3. Consider It All Joy
Don't let the birds peck away at your motherhood. Consider it all joy, every trial, every word, every moment you have as a mom. Even the ones full of trouble, spills, pain and dirty diapers.
We were recently in Paris, and in front of the Notre Dame are hundreds of pigeons, waiting to swarm and peck for scraps of food. They won't leave you alone, and they are hard to get rid of if you're feeding them. Without food, they'll just leave you alone.
Don't give energy and thought to words of others, instead, remember the words God has spoken to your heart. And if He hasn't, start by asking Him to through the Bible.
4. Be Open to Hearing Others and Accepting Help
One of the hardest things to do as a mom is to take advice and to not take it personally. Practice listening and being grateful for others sharing some of their stories and wisdom with you. Ask questions from grandmas, moms, and friends. Remember, it's always OK to ask for help, and to take it!
If you are raising baby differently, whether as a Babywise mom or a "crunchy" mom, or even later as a homeschool mom, help those closest to you understand your different choices in parenting. Encourage them to see how you based your decisions, and certainly that you have baby's best interest at heart.
5. Stay True to Your Mothering Style by Not Conforming
It's hard sometimes to stand your ground in your choices as a new mom against the critics and even the clock. Perseverance is a trait not readily seen in today's overly busy, fast-paced society. Just remember, stay focused on your target: raising your baby well. Go easy on yourself, you're new to this. Even if you have other babies, this one is unique, just like you. Be quick to forgive others and even quicker to forgive yourself.
This mom thing, it's a high calling. One only you can fulfill for your child. Slow and steady wins the race. Every time.
"I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 3:14
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