It took me a while to find my rhythm as a mom. Much more than a few weeks, which (if I’m being honest) was a bit longer than I expected. Babies don’t come into this world with operating instructions taped to their backs, and even if they did, I’m sure they’d be as unintelligible as the instructions that came with my ikea bookshelf.
You realize, during those first few weeks of parenthood, that the baby you brought home from the hospital is not some sort of blank canvas on which your parenting skills will hopefully paint the portrait of a decent human being. No, this little baby comes into the world a portrait already painted, and it’s your job to help her find a spot in the room where the sunlight from the window won’t make her colors fade. Her place, so to speak, in this world.
And that’s a hell of a lot of pressure. Especially when that beautiful portrait is red-faced and wailing at you from her crib.
(Don’t let these pictures fool you. Girl’s got some pipes.)
There are so many different voices that will tell you how to parent, which makes finding your own voice and rhythms as a mom difficult and overwhelming.
Olivia’s favorite book for the past few weeks has been Giraffe’s Can’t Dance, the story of poor Gerald the giraffe who, after being chastised for his inability to dance like the jungle’s other (surprisingly rhythmic) animals, is finally able to find joy and confidence in his own unique dance moves.
Children’s books have a funny way of revealing truths that both children and adults need to hear.
I’ve learned a few things about being a mom from Gerald and his quest to find his own rhythm:
- Sometimes it’s okay to stare at your feet, dumbfounded: As a first-time mom, I will readily confess that every new stage in Olivia’s development brings with it moments of I-have-no-idea-what-to-do-about-this anxiety. It’s okay to acknowledge that you’re not a baby expert. Learning more about who your baby is and who you are as a mom begins with first confessing that you don’t know anything, but you’re eager to learn.
- Not everyone will encourage you to dance: I’ve received a lot of unhelpful parenting advice. Some suggestions have actually been blatantly discouraging. But finding my own rhythm means taking steps to ignore the sounds and voices that are throwing off my groove. Instead, I’ve chosen to acknowledge and listen to those who have spoken words of encouragement and truth. Figuring out how to be a mom is hard. Surround yourself with voices who want to celebrate your unique rhythm rather than voices who would rather point out your missteps.
- Confidence can come from surprising places: Gerald found his confidence after a cricket, hiding on a leaf, encouraged him to dance. Sometimes it’s the little things—the little moments of triumph—that can help build confidence. I remember feeling so proud of myself after someone told me that Olivia looks like a “happy baby.” I had just decided on a nap schedule for our daily routine, and I knew that she was happier because she was getting the rest that she needed. Confidence can stem from a small compliment, a longer night of sleep, or even a day without having to change your shirt three times, Embrace those moments with pride.
- Start Moving: You’ll never discover the type of rhythm you have as a mom until you quit looking at your feet and just dance. Your relationship with your baby is unlike anything the world has ever seen. It’s yours. It’s unique. And while your rhythms may, at times, resemble another mom’s choreography, there is no other mom like you and there is no other baby like yours. So pick up your head with confidence, listen to the encouragement around you, and start moving.
So to all of you mommas, old and new, keep up the good and hard work. Celebrate the daily rhythms you’re discovering. And keep dancing.