Disclosure: Some articles on this site may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, The Empowered Mama may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Being a new mom is rough, there’s no doubt about that. But sometimes it feels like we can’t vent just how rough it is. We don’t want to seem like we’re ungrateful for being mothers, or we don’t want to come across like we are complaining, or we feel like we are just supposed to deal with it.
But when we don’t acknowledge how difficult things can be, we put ourselves at risk of feeling like we are alone, or like we aren’t doing this whole mom thing properly.
So let’s acknowledge the hard times, and celebrate the good ones. Cry when it’s tough and smile when your baby is so darn cute. Be honest with those who ask you ‘how are you’ and share your experience with others so they don’t feel alone either.
Because being a new mom is one tough gig, and you don’t have to do it alone, we’re sharing with you some of the hardest things about being a new mom that we’ve experienced and that we’ve seen other new mom’s experience too.
1 – It’s All Unknown Territory
I remember when I was first alone with my son after we bought him home from hospital, and looking at him thinking ‘ummm… so what do I do with you now?’ And that was after I’d already had nearly two months of getting to know him in NICU.
You can read all the books, talk to all the people, and prepare yourself as much as you can, but the reality is that it is all unknown territory. It’s not like being a parent is something you can practice until you feel like you’ve got it down pat and then go have a baby. You’re in it, 100%, and it’s all new.
For some people, this is the exciting part, but for others (like myself) it’s a trigger for anxiety when we feel like things are out of our control and we can’t plan for them. But I promise, it gets easier, and you quickly find your feet.
2 – The Absolute Exhaustion
It seems like I create children that just don’t like to sleep for long stretches at all. My son slept for one hour blocks during the night, for the first 6 months of his life. I thought I was doing all the things wrong and tried just about every trick in the book.
But not only are you recovering from a major physical and psychological event (giving birth), you also now have a tiny human that relies 100% on you for everything, and they don’t understand that sometimes Mama just wants a nap.
It always amazes me at how women can function so well on such little sleep, but we manage to do it.
The exhaustion is like nothing else, you feel it in your bones, your brain fogs and you try to reheat your coffee in the fridge (no? just me?).
For some new mom’s the exhaustion lasts a little longer than others, but I promise it does lift. Your babies will sleep longer when they are ready, and before you know it you’ll be sleeping during the nights again instead of trying to get a quick 15 minute powernap during The Wiggles.
3 – Other Peoples Expectations
You’ve probably experienced this a lot during your pregnancy, but it doesn’t stop once your baby is born. Everyone is different and everyone has different expectations of women who have children, whether they realise it or not. These expectations shape how they will talk to you.
From asking when you’ll be going back to work, to how long you plan on breastfeeding for, from asking if your baby is sleeping through the night yet, through to adding their opinions in on your sleeping arrangements, people project their expectations onto new mom’s and it can be rough.
Half the time you haven’t even figured these things out for yourself, and you have someone implying you should be doing something a certain way, or that you shouldn’t be doing something a certain way.
Arm yourself with a few standard responses like ‘we haven’t actually decided yet’ or ‘we’re going to see how it goes’ or ‘we’re doing what works for us’ and people will tend to move the conversation on.
4 – Your Own Expectations
One of the hardest things for me as a new mom was managing and dealing with my own expectations, even when I was a ‘new mom’ a second time around.
From a young age we imagine what it’s like to be a mom, what it would be like to have babies of our own, and we spend our pregnancies dreaming of what those first few moments, and weeks and years will be like.
But often the reality doesn’t match our imaginations. And this isn’t a bad thing, often the reality is far better than we ever could have imagined. But there are times when we don’t realise just how hard it can be.
When my daughter was born I was so excited to experience the newborn phase. My son had been in NICU for his first few months, so I felt like I never got to experience the true newborn moments. I knew I wanted to breastfeed her and I was confident in my ability to do so after breastfeeding my son until he was 15 months.
She arrived in the most amazing way and seemed to latch okay, even though it didn’t’ feel quite right to me.
A few days passed and she wasn’t latching properly at all, I was engorged, in pain, hormonal and my baby wasn’t getting enough milk, had jaundice and we were miserable. This isn’t what I expected from the newborn phase. I felt like I was broken and I was doing everything wrong.
Thankfully, with the right support we were back on track within a few days but during that time it was my own expectations that caused me the most trouble.
5 – There’s A Manual, But It’s Not For Your Model
Have you read all the parenting books only to find that none of it seems to apply for your child? Like, you’ve got the manual but it’s not for your model?
I’ve read all the sleep books I could get my hands on, but my kids just don’t sleep for long stretches. Then I realised I don’t either… I’m 31 and I still wake 2 – 3 times a night, so I can’t really expect them to sleep through.
But it’s not only sleep. My kids have never done anything by the manual, but you know what? They’re happy and healthy and hitting all their milestones early and they are loved and cared for and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I stopped looking for answers in the books and started looking to my children and just going with the flow and everything just started to feel so much calmer and I stopped stressing about the hours of sleep and just took each day as it came.
6 – Your Body Just Feels Strange
There’s no other way to describe it, your body just feels strange. You look in the mirror and it’s hard to see where you are underneath all of the ‘new’ body that is reflected back at you.
You may have just given birth, but you still look like you’re 6 months pregnant, you’re leaking from anywhere that can leak, you’re stretched, bruised and stitched.
Then there are all the things you can’t see, like the surges in hormones, the internal ‘wound’ that is where your placenta was attached, the contractions of your uterus that still occur in the days after you’ve given birth (and why didn’t I know these would hurt so much??).
Everything feels foreign and strange and no matter how many people tell you how amazing you look, it just doesn’t feel right.
7 – You Feel Like You’re Doing Everything Wrong
No matter how confident you are in your choices as a new mom, you’re going to feel like you’re doing things wrong at some point (or like me, always).
It’s not easy, up until now you’ve been making decisions for yourself and that’s about it. Now the decisions you make affect another life, and not just anyone, your child.
Even now as my older son is getting ready to go to school I battle with myself over whether or not keeping him back a year was the right thing, whether sending him to school is better for him than homeschooling, which school is best… and don’t even get me started on school lunches.
But what I’ve learned is that the mere fact that you’re worried about whether or not you’re making the right choices, goes to show that you’re a wonderful mother.
And you know what? Most of the time, your choices are far more important in your mind than what they are in real life. And all children end up eating bugs at some point anyway.
8 – Time Goes So Slow And So Fast
Something super strange happens to time when you become a new mom. It both slows down and speeds up at the same time.
The days can feel so, so long and the nights feel like they will go forever. Especially when that 4 month sleep regression kicks in, or when your baby is cutting their first tooth. You just wish for that time to pass so things can settle down again, but it just drags on.
And then you wake up and it’s their first birthday and you swear you were in labour yesterday and you’re not quite sure where that last year went.
You feel guilty for wishing the time to go quickly when things are rough, and then it does and you feel like you shouldn’t have wished it away so fast. It messes with your mind!
9 – You’re A New Kind Of You
When I became a new mom I didn’t feel like me anymore. I felt like I had lost everything that made me ‘me’. My career wasn’t the same, I couldn’t go to the gym and exercise like I had loved to do, all the things I loved seemed to just be put to the side and I had this whole new life that I didn’t feel quite fit.
I didn’t really know how to do this whole ‘mom’ thing, and the idea of refilling my own cup just didn’t exist.
But slowly I realised I was still me, all the things that I valued and loved were still within me, I was just a different kind of me.
Instead of fighting to get the old me back, and feeling like I was missing out because I didn’t have her anymore, I started embracing this new me and working out how the things I loved about the old me would fit into this new kind of ‘me’ that was here.
Don’t expect this to happen quickly. It took me about two years before I felt confident in who I was again, but be kind to yourself and give yourself time.
10 – You’ll Miss Your Husband
He’s there with me every day, he sleeps next to me in bed at night, we talk and we chat… but my gosh I miss my husband so much.
Throughout a relationship your dynamic changes, you have different seasons and sometimes these seasons work in the favor of your relationship and you’ll spend more time together, and sometimes they don’t. Having a newborn is one of those times when you don’t get to be with each other as much.
While seeing him as a father will make you fall in love with him in totally different ways (and there’s nothing quite as sexy as him saying “it’s okay honey, I’ll get the baby”) your relationship of two changes and you have to take some time to find yourselves again as mother/wife and father/husband instead of just wife and husband.
Making your relationship is a priority and it’s hard work. It’s so easy to just push it aside and spend all of your time in this new mom role, but nurturing your relationship now will pay off big time in the future.
Whether it’s holding hands while you watch Netflix, or stopping in the hallway for a quick cuddle and kiss, or sending a text simply telling them that you love them and appreciate them, take the time to connect with each other.
Because Mama, it’s hard, but you’re in this together.
11 – You Cannot Ever Switch Off
This is one of the things that kind of still blows my mind about motherhood. You cannot switch off… ever.
As someone who craves time alone, there have been times when I have said to my husband that I just need to get out, on my own, and just spend some time not being touched, cried at, carrying someone or something and just drink a coffee while it’s still hot.
But here’s the thing… as soon as I leave the house, the first few minutes are great… but then I miss my kids!! And there are times when I just go home because I miss them so much (there are other times when I spend the whole 4 hours out of the house missing them, but still enjoying my time alone too).
You don’t get to switch off. You don’t get to just take time out and not be a mom for a few days… it’s daunting and overwhelming and beautiful all at once.
So while all of these things sound horrible when written out like this (and they are, for me they were a real struggle) there are so many amazing things too. And this passes, all of it. It comes and it goes and new challenges present themselves and motherhood is this constantly changing and evolving beautiful mess.
Be kind to yourself, be kind to those you love and take a deep breath and enjoy that beautiful baby in front of you. You’ve got this.