I remember looking for first time mom tips when I was expecting my daughter for the first time.
Becoming a mom for the first time can be as overwhelming as exciting.
What if I were to tell you there is a correlation between how you parent yourself and how you will parent your child?
We can’t parent how we want if we don’t parent ourselves first.
That means responding to your shortcomings, expectations, and inevitable life’s shitstorms in a productive, compassionate, and healthy way.
The better you parent yourself, the better parent you will be to your child.
The modern American mom struggles and is more depressed than in previous generations.
Why is this?
Well, there are numerous variables, many of which we can’t control.
Such as lack of child care or familial support, record-high inflation levels ( previous generations could afford more and work less), unrealistic and toxic social media influences, and overwhelming amounts of contradictory content about what you should or shouldn’t do as a mother if you don’t want to royally fuck up your kid.
All of this can lead us to feel out of sorts, inept, and, quite frankly, neurotic.
However, the most significant change we have seen is the amount of self-contempt parenting that has emerged in the past generation.
Parents, mothers especially, have a more internal dialogue of self-contempt, bullying, and hostility toward themselves than ever before.
We believe, for some reason, our kid will inevitably become the next Jeffery Dahmer unless we are the perfect parent that responds perfectly to every imperfect parenting situation.
News Flash: It’s not true!
Moms nowadays have put themselves on a pedestal of parental perfection that doesn’t exist.
Then when we inevitably don’t meet it, we beat ourselves down with self-contempt and crippling mom guilt, believing we are destroying our child instead of acknowledging that we are human that will inevitably make mistakes and nurture ourselves with the same compassion and kindness we bestow onto our kids.
The Big Lie
Modern American parenting culture has beaten us over the head with the false idea that parenting is an endless pit of joy and happiness, that should contain very little, if any, stress or misery.
We should respond to every imperfect situation ideally, in a calm, cool and collected manner, every time.
In addition, if you don’t have a happy child all the time, feel the very everyday struggles of parenthood, or feel a shred of anything but pure bliss and happiness as a parent, that means you’re doing something wrong as a mother.
Guess what? It’s all a crock of 💩!
Life, this included parenting, is full of shit that goes wrong and hits the fan all the time.
You could be the proverbial perfect parent, and I promise, life will still inevitably throw you a parenting curveball that you desperately tried to avoid at all costs.
However, if we have ourselves on a pedestal of perfection, how can we respond healthily when we inevitably mess up?
American parenting culture believes you must sacrifice your well-being to serve your kids in every way.
So, more often than not, we respond with self-contempt, hostility, and lack of empathy for ourselves because we believe the parenting SNAFU shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
This has made us parent ourselves as drill sergeants.
Whenever we feel we aren’t measuring up to our unrealistically high expectations or make a human mistake, our overwhelming mom guilt bleeds into this kind of self-contempt talk and pattern in which we can drown in super easily if we aren’t careful.
Life isn’t perfect; this mainly includes parenting.
In You’re Not a Shitty Parent , Carla Naumburg says this:
” One of the most compassionate things we can do for ourselves is not getting sucked into the Big Lie.
You know the one I’m talking about-that parenting should be enjoyable and easy, our kids should always be healthy and happy, and we should be in control at all times.
But between all that advice and the highly curated and filtered images and situations on social media and reality TV, it’s hard not to believe the Big Lie-that parenting should be enjoyable and easy, our kids should be healthy and happy, and we should be in control.”
What happens is we have wildly unrealistic expectations of how parenting and the overall child-rearing experience should be.
We view parenting through this rose-colored lens of social media which is then glorified in our culture by influencers and celebrities who have vastly more resources than the average person.
We are left trying to emulate this nonexistent ideal then when we fail, our mom guilt consumes us with self-contempt.
When the reality is life and parenting aren’t ideal, which brings me to the first arrow of self-contempt.
The First Arrow
When you become a mom for the first time and are pregnant, the demands and societal expectations of motherhood already begin when your child is still developing in the womb.
It is a massive culture shock diving into the world of motherhood and parenting in America.
It’s pretty toxic.
The American parenting ideal is that everyone should always be happy and healthy, that you or your kids should never struggle or be sad – that parenting is strictly blissful, purposeful, and a mother goddess intuitive experience.
And if that isn’t your experience – you’re struggling with parenting or not enjoying being a parent- it means something is wrong with you, your parenting, or worse, your kid.
This is where the first arrow comes into play and the start of essential first-time mom tips to learn from.
What is the first arrow? It is life.
Life is the first arrow.
The first arrow is the inevitable shitstorm or chaos that ensues in our lives from time to time, and there is nothing we can do to stop it.
The unpredictable nature of life can often leave us with nothing more than a can of worms that we have to work through, and no matter how perfect you try to be, life isn’t, so that first arrow will shoot through despite your most vigorous efforts to prevent it.
It is one of the most essential first-time mom tips I learned during my daughter’s first year. You can read more about it here.
” These are fractured arms, ailing parents, cancelled plans, busted refridgeraters, empty gas tanks, kids who spike fevers on the days we absolutely have to be at work-unexpected bills we cant cover, school bullies and global pandemics. “
Speaking of pandemics, since then, I have seen increasingly more mothers complaining about how they and everyone they know are vaccinated/triple boosted and are extremely careful about who they let around their kid, but get upset when, despite their best efforts and doing ‘everything right,’ their kid still gets sick.
Then they take it as some personal attack against them and their kid, when getting sick is just a part of life; that first arrow, not a personal attack against you and your family.
The first arrow of life does not discriminate because that’s life, and we cannot control the first arrow of life.
We cannot control whether or not our kids get sick.
For instance, my daughter is prone to ear infections, so I am always trying my best to use infant ear cleaner 2x a week, and ear infection prevention drops as often as possible.
She still gets them. Not as bad, but it still happens despite my best efforts to avoid them.
Because that’s the first arrow.
Ironically enough, while writing this piece, it was Christmas Eve, and I was sure our daughter had an ear infection.
We spent our evening in urgent care, waiting for antibiotics to become available at our local CVS for treatment.
When you become a parent, you are not only going to experience your life arrows but also the inevitable life arrows that will hit your children; that is what makes parenting so challenging- managing someone else’s life arrows in addition to your own and your partner’s if applicable.
That is a lot of damn arrows coming your way!
” So we’re left chasing rainbows, with no freaking clue about what to do when the sky opens up and we’re left standing in the pouring rain shouting at the storm. “
How we respond to life’s first arrow brings us to the second arrow.
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The Second Arrow
When you become a mom for the first time, the most helpful first-time mom tip you will receive is to accept the nature of the first arrows of life.
Understanding the nature of the first arrow of life is one of the most critical self compassion exercises you will learn and teach your kids.
Accept that despite your best efforts, life’s arrow will sometimes shoot you at the most inopportune time.
Shit will hit the fan; I can guarantee it.
Teaching yourself and your kids this will be one of the most crucial life skills worth learning.
It will help you and your kids learn not to crumble in fragile defeat anytime that first arrow of life inevitably mucks everything up.
How we respond to these mom struggles dramatically affects our overall parenting experience.
We can either respond with resilience and grit or flounder in self-defeat and prolong the suffering by punishing ourselves over the first arrow of life happening in the first place.
The difference between life’s first and second arrows is this time, we have a choice.
Mom’s guilt and suffering are not inevitable but a choice in how we respond to life’s shitstorms.
Knowing this fact is empowering as mothers; it means we have the power to choose.
” Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”
However, given the social climate on social media, it makes the first arrow sting much more.
The Toxic Mom Climate on Social Media
Many moms make the unfortunate mistake of venting or sharing on social media their truest feelings about their mom struggles or struggling with parenthood because the first arrows of life are splattered left and right in a parent’s life.
Hence, it is reasonable to have these feelings or thoughts.
So then, when you are vulnerable and express your honest feelings about your experience on Facebook or an anonymous mom forum, you are met with a judgemental, critical, and unsympathetic response, probably and ironically, by a mom that deems herself some gentle parenting advocate and how you should be ashamed that you and your child are struggling.
Your child is the ultimate victim of your horrible, horrible parenting.
Clearly, It’s all your fault!
So how the hell are we supposed to treat ourselves with less contempt when we are met by other mothers who know nothing about your parenting plight yet speak so righteously as if they do and throw contempt at you?
Instead of hyper-focusing on our mistakes or the backlash we receive on social media from self-righteous or judgemental mothers, you understand that you are human that will, without a doubt, make mistakes, and that’s okay, as long as you learn from them and take the time to work through it yourself and heal.
” When our thinking devolves from ‘ Whelp, that was a major SNAFU’ to ‘ I’m a terrible parent and I’m totally screwing up my kids.’
When we do that, we are judging ourselves and comparing ourselves to others and thinking about all the ways we’re getting it wrong and all the ways a ‘better parent’ would be doing things differently”
Where do we compare ourselves the most? Social media.
Social media is a cesspool of this toxic “You’re parenting wrong, I’m parenting better, you shouldn’t be doing this, I didn’t do that, how could you do that, your poor child!” yadda yadda yadda mentality that fuels this self-fulfilling prophecy of contempt and self-contempt in mothers.
American parenting culture has bought into the BS that your children’s needs always precede your needs, aka martyr parenting.
So then, of course, you’re judged or attacked when you’re not sacrificing your entire life and well-being for your child.
They especially get mad when you choose not to suffer through the parenting pain they choose to prolong and suffer through.
Parenting in America has become wildly imbalanced, presenting itself through the most unhappy parenting generation to date.
Don’t entertain it; it’s straight-up toxic.
” People who present themselves as and their parenting experience as clean, and easy and/or judge us for mega mess, it becomes far to easy that everyone else is nailing this parenting gig and we are the only ones being flattened by it. “
When you become a mom for the first time and learn how to be kind to yourself, your mothering experience will change, as you will be mothering yourself with kindness and compassion and your child as well.
The greatest gift you can teach yourself and your child in this generation of depression, anxiety, and suicide, is how to parent themselves with kindness, compassion, and love.
The Third Arrow
Denial and Distraction
When the inevitable first arrow of life hits, we don’t respond to the second arrow with compassion and kindness; we bury our sorrows and pain with unhealthy distractions.
Addiction is highly prevalent in our culture, and society encourages it!
It’s like a Brave New World where their pleasures and gluttony have enslaved society.
Life has always been difficult and painful; people died from influenza before they were teenagers 200 years ago.
However, now we have unlimited pleasures for when life shits the bed.
These easily accessible pleasures can prevent us from addressing our problems and internal hurt/turmoil by drowning ourselves in pleasure so we can feel better, even if just for a short moment.
That is why we have a prevalent Mommy Wine Culture on our hands, where mothers drink to cope with mom guilt and mom struggles and where husbands and fathers have turned to porn or video games to escape and distract from the pressures of life.
Alcoholism and porn addiction are very real thorns in many families and marriages.
Those are just a couple of examples, however.
The point is all this does distracts us from the pain of the first and second arrows.
We don’t heal; we distract and plow on. Does that sound like a healthy and sustainable parenting plan?
What sucks about these pleasures, though, is they give us a short, extremely high dopamine spike by artificially pulling all of your feel-good chemicals at once.
Then once that high is gone, so are your feel-good rations. So you are then depleted of the natural chemicals you need to feel balanced and happy, then you feel worse.
So when life’s first arrow comes back at you, you don’t respond the best you could because you aren’t feeling your best, then that second arrow of contempt rears its ugly head telling you how awful you are, then go back to that vice that helps you feel better temporarily, wash, rinse, repeat.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and a miserable existence for any parent or non-parent.
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The Second and Third Arrow
How it Affects Our Kids
It’s common knowledge now that our kids learn through what we model.
It’s less about these obsessive/strict “parenting styles” and more about how you live your life as a human being.
How you respond to things, not just your kids; how you treat yourself, not just your kids; how you treat others, not just your kids; your work ethic, your attitude, your boundaries/lack of boundaries, all of these are what we model to our kids.
If we are always filled with contempt, that is what we will model to our kids.
When life’s first arrows come blazing through, and we respond with contempt by shutting down, stressing out, or checking out, our children could develop these exact unhealthy coping mechanisms and internal self-contempt dialogue.
If you don’t want your kids to suffer the same self-contempt you do, start parenting yourself with compassion and kindness, and they will learn those same healthy coping habits.
Thus, the whole family benefits and learns to cope with life’s first arrows healthily and productively, not just bullying themselves and drowning their sorrows with addiction.
Why Compassion is Important
There is very little of it in modern society.
As technology becomes more prevalent, it has made us more disconnected, un-empathic, and cold to each other than ever before.
Kindness, compassion, and love make us human, not machines.
If we lose compassion, we are nothing more than a robot.
“Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost…”— Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator
People don’t feel seen or heard anymore because we often don’t see or listen to ourselves, so how can we translate that to others?
The kinder and more compassionate we are to ourselves, the more kind and compassionate we will treat others.
Treat yourself with the humanity and love you deserve, and watch it translate into your parenting and how you treat other people.
Becoming a mom for the first time will be one of the most challenging, complex, and growth-oriented experiences ever.
If there is one thing you take away from this piece if you are about to become a first time mom and dad, parent yourselves with the kindness and compassion you deserve and watch your children blossom into the beautiful humans they are born to be.
The concepts in this piece were derived from You Are Not a Shitty Parent.
If you are about to be a first time mom and dad, learning how to be more compassionate and being kind to yourself will make a world of difference in your parenting experience.
You Are Not a Shitty Parent is one of the best books for new parents or first-time parents.