Letter to a Tired New Mom
To a weary woman—
Does your time to read blog posts feel expensive right now? Maybe you’re reading this with a bottle in your hand and/or a baby sling on your shoulder, maybe in a room where you’re taking the luxury to ignore the mess for a few minutes while you sit down. Or it could be late at night: The baby is finally asleep. I would love to do something right now that I want to do — just me.
Granted, we all handle differently the shocking stress of having a newborn. But the four times I’ve been in that haze of sleeplessness with an infant who just wants to be held, a messy house with no energy or time to clean it, and a tummy that, to me, still looked like there was a little person living in it, my spare time felt precious and bone-weary. Aside from my first trimester, never had I craved rest so ravenously. I wanted to shower badly; I knew that babies were supposed to recognize their mother’s scent, and I remember wailing to my husband, “My scent is gonna be B.O.!”
According to my calculations, in breastfeeding I logged the equivalent of a full-time job. But truthfully, full-time employees in my culture would rarely be expected to get up repeatedly during the night to work, or to work during meals (and meal prep, and housecleaning) without some pretty nice compensation.
I read this lately on salary.com:
Salary.com determined that the time mothers spend performing 10 typical job functions would equate to an annual salary of $117,867 for a stay-at-home mom. A working mother’s ‘at-home’ salary is $71,868 in 2010; this is in addition to the salary they earn in the workplace.
In fact, you can calculate your “mom salary” on their calculator! But you may not have a real paycheck that says “For a job well done!” to you or a cluster of accolades. You may only have shirt with spit-up, a pile of laundry that never really shrinks, baby furniture that sprawls out all over the house in places you used to walk, and a sink full of dishes that seems to take so much effort to clean without the aid of a good REM cycle. You may be in that stage before your newborn smiles — that time when you only know when your baby is unhappy, and your body still aches from producing this child that you’re not sure likes you anyway. You may be thinking, Well, the baby shower is definitely over. Here I am, just me and the baby. I brought this upon myself, not having a clue. (Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be this hard?) And the days are so long.
You might think like I did, I can’t believe I love you this much! I can’t believe how amazing you are! But I can’t believe how hard this is. I can’t believe the human race continues to propagate, considering there have been other women doing this around the world since the beginning of time.
Sometimes I watch people sit and talk on movies, doing whatever they want. I think things like, Look at those people who have the time just to walk around — by themselves! Or, I used to think I was really busy, but I had no idea the spare time I had.
Being a new mom can feel faceless. It can feel like an endless list of to-do’s that you’re incapable of conquering. It can feel lonely and unappreciated, even among those sweet and beautiful moments with your baby — your baby — and witnessing a miracle blossom before your eyes.
Only marriage has rivaled childbearing in causing me to die to myself.
But that’s one of the most beautiful parts about what you’re doing. From the very beginning, even en utero, our babies do little more than take from us: our rest, our peaceful digestion, our ability to get comfortable, our dignity (You want me to get on a scale?! And then give you a sample, then take off my clothes?), our figure, our time, our cash. But our babies also offer an exquisite peek into God’s love for us.
Day by day, children exchange our selfishness for servanthood, our own needs for another.
Mary, Jesus’ mother, did what you’re doing. She’s not mentioned a great deal in Scripture, but she nursed Him, changed Him, woke up in the middle of the night when He cried. Her gentle, continuous care paved the way for her son to save the world. Your baby is not Jesus, but day by day, dirty onesie by dirty onesie, wet wipe by wet wipe, you are building your legacy — something that will outlast your life.
As a mom you are loving someone well, and in the process, loving God well. I struggle to think of a better use of your time.
Tim Kimmel has said that in this stage of your life, the days are long but the years are short. Remember God’s words to Joshua: I have given you this territory;
I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and very courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
There’s a reason that people continue to have children and end up loving it. This won’t last forever… for better, or for worse. Try to get a nap today. And be strong and of good courage.
With a big hug,
A sympathetic mom
Great, true words, Janel!
Most honest blog I've read about being a new mom. Thought I was the only one who felt this way when my son was born. Is it ok that I still feel like this sometimes, and he's 2.5?
Ha! Only if it's okay that I still feel that and I have one that's six. 🙂 And I was inspired to write this by talking to another exhausted new mom, so I know that you and I aren't the only ones, Mandi…!
Thanks for your encouraging words. My babies are 15 mo apart and I'm headed for a nap after I send this reply. I know what it means to know your life is counting for others. Cont. to share your experiences! was fun to see that another mom with her named spelled "right" 😉 was sharing in a blog too. May you also get a nap in and find the strength to take your next breath today. No matter what you may face, Jesus is by your side. He's training your kids with you and caring for you gently too.
Wow, Janel (love the name!)…15 mos. apart makes me tired thinking about it, but I bet they'll love it. Mine are about 18 mos. apart, and although it was/occasionally still is very difficult at points, the advantages of having them grow up together have far outweighed the exhaustion :). It's amazing to me how God grows *us* up through this marathon of motherhood in the midst of real blessings. I love that Scripture in Isaiah that says that "He gently leads those who have young." Hope you got your nap today…I got mine. 🙂
Ha! I sat here reading this while holding my newborn (2 weeks old) as my 6 year old and 3 year old finish up their supper and bop around the living room. I, of course, haven't eaten yet…
I laughed as I read some of this to my husband–it was as though you had just been to my house this very afternoon and described my life in detail! It's just nice being reminded that I'm not the only one who has ever felt this way…especially because of that tendency to be so hard on myself for not getting more done. Even though this is a challenging time, I realize how temporary it is, because it is also such a precious time. I try to cherish these sweet moments rather than get overwhelmed by all the chores that seem to be calling my name… Thanks so much for taking the time to write this, Janel, it was very encouraging!
By the way, we'll be in Little Rock for Ministry Preview in a couple of weeks (with sweet little Kiera too!), not sure of the schedule exactly, but I'd love to meet you if there's an opportunity. 🙂 God bless you, Janel–thanks again for the encouragement!!
Too funny! There are just some uncanny similarities about new motherhood :). I'd love to connect with you Rebecca!.Thank you for *your* encouragement! I keep remembering Galatians 6:9 in moments like the one you just described–"let us not become weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Love your positive attitude. Keep going, friend.
My two girls are 13 months apart – the babe being 2 months old now. I can't even imagine having four to take of like you do! 🙂 I never had the intention of being a stay-at-home mom, but due to a recent layoff, that is where I am now. I definitely agree that it is hard! But it is so rewarding, too! I feel like I missed a lot of firsts with our oldest since I went back to work when she was 12 weeks old. So I am excited to be able to experience those with our youngest.
As I sit here typing with one hand and feeding the baby with the other, I pray for two things: the end of middle of the night feedings, and that leaving the house with two children gets easier as they get older! (I feel like I ran a marathon after I finish a shopping trip with a 1 year old and a newborn!)
I read this during a 3 a.m. feeding with my three week old, both of us crying. Thank you for such an honest, encouraging post.
Oh, Sarah, I have been there so many times. I am praying for you right now, for your strength, perseverance, and sleep in these early months–even for some good smiles in not too long (that's also tough–no feedback except crying or not crying right now!). May God give you special grace in these next few weeks. Hugs, Janel
[…] what to do with that kid. The faith that filling sippy cups and wiping—hmm, everything—has eternal significance. You know what faith is like in motherhood. You’ve been […]
I so needed this right now.
Thank you for being God’s voice to my heart…a tired, weary-to-the-bone, single, working, adoptive momma’s heart. You wrote this post almost 2 years ago and I found it when I googled “encouragement for tired moms.” I cherish my son (almost 3 months old) and love most of my time with him (not the screaming – I don’t love the screaming). He is happy most of the time and gives me the best smiles. I’m pretty sure he laughed for the first time this morning – it sounded like a cross between a grunt and a coo but I needed it to be a laugh in order to get through another day of being so tired I ache. God is still using your words to strengthen tired mommas – thanks again!
Jennifer, thank you so much for your candidness in what sounds like an exhausting season for you even as I read about it. I have so much admiration for your enduring love for that little guy and your gratitude for who he is, even when it’s so incredibly draining. I’m praying for your strength, wisdom, and courage right now–and an unexpected moment of rest.
What a sweet post! My first just turned three months this past weekend and I lay here reading this with her sleeping on my chest. I should be up getting ready for work, but I’m just so tired. I know this is only a season, and despite being so tired and worn out I can barely see straight or make a complete sentence, I secretly pray this moment never ends. I’ll take the endless sleep depravity to get to hold my sweet baby girl as she sleeps and cries and eats and, yes, even as she poops. My husband doesn’t understand it fully, and I guess that’s what most drives me crazy about him. He cherishes his time with her, but he definitely loves him his sleep! Anyway, thank you for the post. It encouraged me in a way I haven’t been encouraged in a while. My brother is coming into town today and I know he won’t fully appreciate the dirty house like a mother would. Thank you for sharing.