Parenting is a worrisome sport. Caring for a tiny human is stressful. Is he warm enough? Will he starve if I don’t set my alarm to wake him for that 2 a.m. feeding? (Please say no.) But in case those fears aren’t enough, a quick scroll online or a conversation at playgroup alerts you to all the other things you need to concern yourself with—keeping a Pinterest-worthy home, setting your wee one on the path to greatness, nurturing friendships, bonding with your partner, actually putting away the laundry. (That last one is the hardest, I think.)
How can we, as busy, tired moms, live up to these impossible standards? Well, we can’t. So it’s time to take some things off our plate. Through the baby days (and beyond!), you are hereby given permission to let the following things slide …
1. The dirty dishes in the sink.
Chores will have to be tackled at some point—I think we can all agree that bug problems stemming from unclean dishes are undesirable and, frankly, gross—but if you have to choose between a cooing conversation with baby and unloading the dishwasher, choose baby. If you have to choose between folding laundry and chatting with your friend who stopped by, choose your friend. (Heck, maybe you can even tackle those clothes together!)
Moms are allowed a grace period beyond the normal time frame in which chores are expected to be finished. Kitchens aren’t cleaned immediately after a meal; laundry cycles aren’t completed in a day; bathrooms aren’t scrubbed once a week. This will stay in effect for approximately the next 18 years. Life is busy, and it’s family first, tidy home second (or tenth).
2. Your “numbers.”
I hate numbers. Specifically, they are higher than I’d like them to be, both on the scale and inside my pants. (Let’s not get into the number of candles atop my most recent birthday cake.) So although I feel a little hypocritical saying this, it needs to be said: New moms have to let the digit fixation go. You’re just not going to lose the baby weight easily or immediately unless you’re some kind of sacred svelte goddess. (And if you are, I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends. You’re making the rest of us regular folks feel bad about ourselves.)
Your old pants might not fit for a year or more—or they might never fit again. Even if you reach your old number on the scale, carrying a baby changes your body, and things don’t always return to the same place. Do yourself a favor, and buy clothes that fit. Cut the tags out if you have to, but don’t worry about the number. Just find something comfortable and flattering, and wear the heck out of it.
3. Your neighbor’s child prodigy.
So little Jane rolled over at 2 weeks and started walking at 4 months—she probably came out of the womb talking, too, didn’t she? Don’t let your parent peers make you question why your little guy isn’t fill-in-the-blank-ing yet. Every baby progresses at his own pace, and odds are good your tot is right on track. Your pediatrician will let you know if not. (Also, odds are good that your neighbor is exaggerating a little bit. I’m just saying, if her kid rolled over at 2 weeks, that was probably a fluke thing. Let’s see if little Jane can do it again before we get all excited, you know?)
Find comfort in the fact that your tiny dude will probably school Jane at soccer in six years or so, or nab the solo in the summer theater production, or otherwise excel in his own way. Life is full of moments in which you’ll get to see your child shine, so don’t force them. All in good time.
4. Glares from fellow patrons.
Here’s a news flash for all the grouches out there: Babies cry—on airplanes, in Target, at restaurants. It’s the only way they have to communicate. If someone is giving you the stink-eye because your babe is wailing, offer up a big smile, and don’t worry for a second about what they’re thinking. You don’t have to stop living your life just because you had a baby. They can deal with it.
That said, it is nice to be considerate of others. Maybe don’t hit up a popular date night restaurant at 7 p.m. with a grumpy baby in tow—a lot of moms might be there looking to escape from crying for a bit. Do your part to be a good citizen, but don’t stress when others aren’t doing theirs.
5. Keeping up with the Joneses.
You’re going to look around you and see people who are doing it better, with ease, and darn it, they look flawless, too. Mostly you’ll see these people on Instagram, not in real life—because social media is not a girl’s best friend. It’s great for connecting with folks, sure, but it’s terrible for self-esteem. (Has there ever before existed a platform designed to make moms feel so inferior? I think not.)
In real life, we’re all a little more normal. At the playground, few moms look perfect. It’s messy buns (really messy, not artfully messy), very little makeup and stretched-thin leggings all around. But online, people always put their best face forward. Some of them even get compensated for it. You can’t compare your everyday to someone else’s very best. Ms. Jones probably deleted about 50 pictures that didn’t quite make the cut to get her one perfect shot—and if we could zoom out a bit, I’d be willing to bet there are plenty of messes right outside that tiny, tidy square, too.
6. All those things you haven’t done yet.
Unwritten thank-you notes, casserole dishes waiting to be reunited with their owners, borrowed maternity clothes that need to be returned … again with the grace period, mama. You’ll get to it eventually. And everyone (who is decent) understands that there may be a delay when you’re adjusting to life with a babe in the house.
I do, however, encourage you to take the opportunity to turn these chores into a “me” afternoon. Hand baby duty over to your partner or ask your mom to babysit, and climb in the car for a couple hours of listening to your favorite tunes, dancing like a fool and returning items. Bask in the glory of your aloneness. (Permission to drop and run with very little conversation granted. Time is precious right now.)
7. That stupid thing that stranger said.
From critiquing your parenting techniques to questioning your decision not to go back work, there’s no shortage of unhelpful comments waiting to be thrust upon new mothers when they venture back out into the world. Sometimes people don’t mean to be rude; other times, they do.
It can be tempting to argue a point with a stranger when you’re tired and hormonal and they are so clearly out of line (as if it’s any of their business why you aren’t breastfeeding), but it’s almost always better not to engage. A simple, “OK, thanks, I’ll keep that in mind,” should be enough to get you on your way. It isn’t easy to let rude remarks roll off your back, but it’s unfortunately a skill we all need to acquire.
And no matter what you do, don’t let a snarky comment stick with you. Life’s too short to second-guess yourself. You look great, you’re an awesome mom, and you’re going to nail this whole parenting thing—no matter what Granny Grumpy might have suggested in the checkout line.
8. The next 18 years.
When your baby arrives, you may have a moment of panic when you realize that your adorable bundle of joy will one day be an into-everything dirt-covered little boy or a highly hormonal teenage girl. Luckily, you don’t have to stress about these things right now. You’ll grow as your baby does, and when the time comes for these hurdles, you’ll be ready. For now, the only thing you need to know how to get through is today. All the other worries can wait.