This post is for my little cousin, Bronwen, who’s at the one year mark of motherhood.

And it’s for you.

This post is for those days when “getting over yourself” is the last thing an exhausted, I-can’t-take-it-anymore, run down mother needs to hear.

Can I just take your sweet face between my hands and look into your tired eyes and tell you what you’re doing is exceptional?

Tell you that motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Period. And I’ve worked for the UN on counter human trafficking, for NGOs on the Aids and orphan crisis in South Africa, as well a corporate law firm.

And I still maintain that having the 24/7 responsibility of a child is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. By far.

Being at some else’s literal beck and call will lay you low. It will rob you of a sense of self that can take time and tears to rediscover in this new identity of mother. Give yourself grace to realize that and to mourn the loss of who you were, before you begin to embrace the who you’re becoming.

I remember when I was just a two-month-old mother and the baby would cry, looking over at my mom, an aunt, anyone else in the room and wondering why on earth they didn’t pick him up?

I couldn’t accept the daunting reality that his crying would be my forever responsibility.

There will be days when you just want to be done. When you want a pass. When you want to go back to your books and late afternoon naps and movie nights on the spur of the moment.

This doesn’t make you a bad mom.

This makes you a human being going through some of the profoundest growing pains ever designed.

I have some small suggestions for those moments. And I’m going to invite all you other wise moms who’ve travelled this road of motherhood much longer to please share in the comments. To please encourage. To please offer their advice for how to navigate the desperately alone moments of motherhood.

Bronwen, sweetheart, here is my advice to you:

1. Get more sleep STAT.

Each time I’ve had a baby, I’ve often found myself in irrational arguments with Peter during those first few months. And he knows enough now to call a time out and tell me to go and take a nap. This used to make me mad and I’d fight it all the way till I passed out in the bedroom. And emerge hours later filled with a renewed love for life and baby and husband.

You need a babysitter, mom, husband or friend who can gift you with time spent sleeping. Not cleaning, not watching TV, not grocery shopping. Just sleeping. It’s essential.

2. Take a time out.

It does not make you a bad mom if you need a break. It makes you a wise one who is taking care of herself so that she can keep taking care of her baby. Whether it’s a few hours at the mall, going to a movie or a weekend away. You will need this as much as you need sleep and oxygen if you are going to keep on keeping on. Make plans, sweetheart, right now.

3. Call a girlfriend

The daddy can’t be all things to you. He just can’t. Even if he wants to; even if he tries to. At some point you are going to need girlfriends who’ve been there, cried that and can offer a different kind of comfort. Surround yourself with them. Don’t let the baby cocoon leave you isolated.

Seek out your friends, your mom, the kind lady at church or the next-door-neighbor with twins. You need a woman to confide in. Regularly.

4. Eat what you love, not just what you’ve got time for

Moms are notorious for eating leftovers or crackers or food that’s cold, or fast to fix or forgetting to eat at all. Work in meals that you love, that you get to eat while still hot, and while someone else is holding the baby.

5. Chocolate

Enough said.

6. Get real with God

He’s a parent. He knows what it feels like. He designed the system. Go ahead, tell Him how you really feel about it. Vent. This is the most honest kind of prayer. Give Him all your frustrations, your exhaustion, your desperation and hear how He listens to you.

Then know this – when you collapse at the end of a day; when the baby finally sleeps for a few snatched hours; when you close your eyes with no thought but the desperate need for sleep – He stays up, dear cousin. He stays awake and sings over you. Sings! All through the night. Just for you.

God promises to love me all day,
sing songs all through the night!
~Psalm 42:5-7 (The Message)

7. Laugh & cry

Because there is so much of the ridiculous, the hard and the wonderful wrapped up in motherhood. Go ahead – let some steam off. Sometimes that takes tears and sometimes, especially with girlfriends who’ve been there, laughter will heal you best.

8. Know when it’s time to ask for deeper help

This list, it’s a beginning. But if it doesn’t help. If you don’t find your joy emerging from the fog. If you feel alone and isolated and desperate. Then you need to find a wise and professional counselor who can listen and give you the tools to help yourself.

This choice does not mean you are weak. It means you are strong.

I love you deep and wide and wish I lived close enough to come over with cookies or cake or celery if that’s your fancy. But know this, you are not alone. You walk a familiar road trodden by thousands of moms over the decades who have struggled to find the balance between the miracle of motherhood and the quiet desperation that sometimes arrives in it’s wake.

Just admitting that out loud – that may be the first step to starting to feel normal again.

So please pipe up in the comments – share your encouragement for moms who have a desperation simmering just below the surface of fine.

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{Related posts for additional encouragement}
Why motherhood shouldn’t be graded on a curve
When sleep deprivation is a good thing
Sometimes the only Monday morning list I can manage
The best ways *not* to help a new mom

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