My Biggest Mistake As a New Mom

I spent a long time trying to decide what my biggest mistake was as a new mom. I’ve made plenty, but I’m not one to dwell on mistakes. I’m more of the “change course and never think about it again” type, which overall has come in handy as a new mom. It’s pretty useful to be able to correct and move on quickly because there are so many plans and strategies that you’re trying to pull off, and they require constant reevaluation.

I didn’t think I struggled with much mom guilt, at least not in the way I’ve heard others describe it.

But when I really zoomed out and thought about where negativity, guilt, shame and stress were coming from in my life, I realized I had a story I needed and wanted to tell.

My biggest mistake in my first year of being a mom was expecting myself to be all the best parts of who I am (or who I’ve been in the past), PLUS be an amazing mom on top of that. I didn’t make room to let some things go. In other words, I thought I could do it all. And anytime I realized I wasn’t living up to those impossible standards, I felt stress or shame.

In hindsight, I can see that everything has a season, but it’s not possible to be all those things at once. Have you ever heard the quote, “Nobody gets to have it all at once?” That so accurately describes my struggles in this season of my life.

In my first year of being a mom, I do think I was a great mom, which is a huge win and I’m so grateful to be able to honestly feel like I did a good job at something so scary and so new.

But I was also juggling guilt for not being my healthiest self, pressure to be more social (even though I straight up did not want to be social for a long time, I still let myself feel bad about it constantly). I felt that I had one of my better years in business as far as productivity, but even though I created a schedule where I could take off early when I needed and wanted to (I begin work an hour earlier than I used to and I almost always work through my lunch to compensate), I still felt enormous guilt anytime I left work early.

I was experiencing my own version of “mom guilt” for all the things I couldn’t pull off even though the hours in the day, the energy or even the desire to focus on those things was not there.

It took me more than a year to realize it and begin to do something about it.

Once I realized that I was living with a weight that I could simply let go of, I began to take steps toward letting go. I practiced being more honest when my friends invited me for happy hour or weekend lunch. I realized my friends were very accepting of my limited schedule if I just explained it to them rather than putting off meeting up over and over.

I worked at becoming more honest in my emails. I get a lot of requests to collaborate—many of them totally outside of the scope of what I do for business. During this season in my life, there’s just is not time for side projects like this, and as I began to be more honest about it, I realized that most people understood and supported my reasons for saying no.

As far as being healthy, I did make some changes I really wanted to make. But I also let a lot of my self-given pressures go. It was a combination of changing my goals (basically lowering my bar) and being more consistent that helped me get to a place where I am happy with my health. Most importantly, I know I am trying and that I have nothing to feel ashamed of.

A huge moment of clarity for me was realizing that my evenings (after Nova is in bed) are my ONLY alone time with my husband most weeks. Once I realized that, I didn’t feel so bad about protecting them. They are our special time.

I feel the same way about weekends. Weekends are our family time, where the three of us get to go out and do fun things or stay home—whichever we’re in the mood for. It’s the time we get to spend a lot of quality time, just the three of us. So if someone invites me to a party or event (where my family isn’t invited) on the weekend, I probably won’t go, and I now realize I don’t need to feel bad for that. It just does not work with my current schedule and this season of life won’t last forever. It’s just a season!

Going into our second adoption, I feel ready to be more proactive. I already started to say “no” more because I know that I need to protect those little bits of flexibility that I have during the new baby months. I’m ready to be more logical when I start to feel random guilty feelings this time around. I’m also ready to give myself a pep talk in those tough moments.

The biggest change this time around is that I see more clearly that this season is short, and that it isn’t permanent. Anything I feel like I’m missing out or feel guilt for not doing I’ll be able to do again someday soon. But these temporary sacrifices are necessary for my sanity, for my marriage and for our kiddos.

I feel really resolved to be a guilt-free mom. I wish all moms could let go of the guilt that is weighing them down. Let’s keep spreading this message and encouraging new moms that they can’t and don’t need to be their personal best at everything, all at once. Some things can be saved for later, some things can be let go forever. Being a mom is hard work. So let’s encourage each other to let go of some of that weight, stress and guilt and make room for self-care, whatever that looks like for you in your season.

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Elsie Larson. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
Note: This post is pre-scheduled. I am currently on my maternity leave with baby Marigold (!!!!!!!), so if I don’t respond to your comment, don’t worry, someone else on our team will. I am so grateful for the opportunity to take a little time to bond with our new baby. But I left a bunch of posts in the drafts for you to enjoy while I’m away. See you on the other side! xx
  • This post resonates with me! I own my own business, work from home, and have baby twins. Thank you for sharing this reflection!

  • As a mom of a soon-to-be 2 year old, I recently had a similar revelation. Before motherhood, I thought that I could be a mom and still do everything as much and as well as before, and the truth of the matter is that time is limited and you can only fit in so much! Learning to prioritize and say no, and be ok with not doing it all as been both a challenge and a relief. Thank you for sharing and best of luck as you expand your family!

  • I’m in a similar season with a toddler son and me in my early 30’s. This just resonated so much with me. The desire to be the same person I was before becoming a mother, but also being a new version who is a superstar mom, I think, is natural. I’ve also had to pick and choose my priorities to stay sane. I’ve had the same takeaway after the last few years, too — it’s all temporary. Every phase, good or bad, moves into a new one eventually and so I’m just trying to enjoy this one.

  • Such a sweet post. You are such an amazing person and mother. I am not a mom, but I don’t think there is anything as a perfect mom. You are a ‘perfect mom’ for just doing the best you can! 🙂

    -Kate
    https://daysofkate.com/

  • This is such an interesting post and discussion. Elsie, I too, appreciate your honesty. Thank you.

    I think experience is a key word not mentioned yet. My kids are 4 and 2, and for the last two years, we have been less social. Now that we are more experienced in the juggle of parenting (and kiddos are sleeping better), we are starting to make more plans. In that regard, I do see these last two years as a season. It’s not about easy or less busy, it’s about experience.

    That said, I so appreciate the experienced moms chiming in and reminding that parenting is forever. I AM hoping that things will be easier when the toddler/ preschool stage passes. This is partly bc I think I will be so comfortable with school-age children, but partly that I just hope it will be easier (joke’s on me!). Thanks for your wisdom. It seems I can benefit from a mental shift too.

    • Life is easier the older they get–you are right. It’s easier because you have more experience, and because few things are more challenging than children under age 5. 🙂 School age kids in my experience are wonderful and really, we just have so much fun. It’s just not less busy, and I think in some ways I have less time for myself than I ever have. We are so wrapped up in their lives and activities, and the fun things we do as a family. That alone time I used to take for granted and crave is rare. But I’m enjoying being with them. My oldest is about to turn 13 and I can see him starting to pull away from the family and hang out more with his friends now, and although I know it’s totally normal it’s very bittersweet. However…it does mean that at some point all of my kids will be there and then I’ll probably have some alone time again! 🙂 Parenting is an adventure.

  • Sweetie,you are going to make lots of mistakes but in the end, you will be a great mom you loved them. My kids are grown and gone now but they love me so I know with all my mistakes, they don’t matter, they love me back. I lost one along the way and he’s the one I had more guilt for but some of his last words to me were I love you mom. Relax, you are doing just fine, in fact great .

  • I want you to know that I am loving these prewritten, maternity leave essays you’ve written! You wrote about how you brainstormed and batch wrote a lot, and I think the process went well for you. They are a fun break from DIYs and posts that tempt me to buy something, and it reminds me of old school blogging. Thanks for keeping my feed delightful!

  • Thank you for this!! I think it is really hard and brave for someone with a public online presence as yourself to be so open about this and I really appreciate it!! The feelings you are describing I had pretty strongly for the first 3 or 4 years of my son’s life. I felt pressure (internal and external) to be everything (a full time working mom with 12 hour days and do all the “extra” fun activities that stay at home parent can do, and keep up our house cleaning to the same standard as before). My husband is a stay at home dad (a great one and really supportive!), and while I was thrilled he stayed home with our son, I also struggled with some jealously that he had more time with our young son than I did. This all accumulated to a lot of stress, guilt and putting immense pressure on myself to be “perfect in all things” that is just not possible! I realized that when I did have quality time with my son on the weekend, I was still not really present because I was constantly thinking about all the “to-do’s”. My son is now 9 and over the years I have learned to let go of some of these feelings and guilt and make sacrifices (like sometimes a messier house) so I can make time to have quality family time on the weekend. Now that he is older we do a lot of family cleaning, which helps a lot too as we are still spending time together. And I also started finding moments to myself and with friends that have really helped. I certainly don’t have it all figured out and I do still feel guilt on occasion, but not nearly as much as I used to. Thank you for sharing your journey with this, I am sure many of us relate so much, I know I do!

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! I have been really struggling with similar issues since becoming a new mom. I still want to be the best employee, the most creative, the most social version of myself and these things just aren’t possible on top of being a new mom. It’s still a navigation for me, but letting go has been so valuable to me too.

  • So, I have three kids, ages 12, 10 and 7, and I have a little different perspective on this then you. I think what you wrote about what you experienced as a new mom is absolutely right and universal. It’s a huge change in your life, and you have to make changes. You change yourself! The things that were most important to you before are maybe not as important, because your children come first.

    But it isn’t really a temporary season. Yes, babies and toddlers are a temporary season, but parenting is not, and the same issues you vocalized–balancing work, friends, time for yourself and time with your husband with raising a family–those issues will continue to be issues throughout the time your kids are home with you. I actually think balancing all of it gets harder the older they get! Now your kids go along with whatever you want to do, and the activities are planned by you. Just wait until you have multiple sports or dance or music lessons that you have to leave work early for…plus playdates, sleepovers, practices, school events…my life absolutely is busier now than it was when the kids were under 5.

    Your life is just different now that you have children and your priorities are probably different as well. I do remember how difficult that change can be, and it takes some time to fully understand that this is your life now. It’s different, but it is wonderful too. But you don’t go back to what it was before–you can’t. Anyway, yes, I am 100% on board with letting go of any mom guilt. You just do the best you can and it will be enough.

    • As a mom with young adult kids, I very much agree with Kristin. The teen years were far busier, more exhausting and full than the under five age. I was fortunate because my own Mom warned me about that, and encouraged me to think more long term about parenting and priorities.

      Yes each season of parenting has unique joys and difficulties, but taking the “long road” approach actually reduced stress and guilt. Some friends that constantly “looked forward” to their kids getting to an “easier age” had a much tougher time coping with the fact that there really is no such thing. Parenting, in all its wonderful facets…is forever. There are things I miss about every single season of raising children. Congratulations, you have much joy ahead!

    • I 100% agree. My kids are 7 and 10 now, and I’ve finally learned that the change ISN’T temporary. It does change as their ages change, but it’s always different than it was before, I am always working to find balance.

  • I love this. Thank you for being so honest and open! I don’t have kids yet but I will one day and this is great advice. Also just great life advice in general ❤️ enjoy your maternity leave

  • Elsie, you are such a strong and amazing woman. The fact that you are sharing your inner struggles is super brave! Not everyone feels like they can be open about that inner guilt that we all feel! I’m not a mom, but struggle with that inner guilt about not getting enough done, about not being social etc etc.

    What helped me is the book “Only Love Today” by Rachel Macy Stafford. This book contains short 1-2 page stories filed with inspiration and lessons- mainly about being in the moment, letting go of feeling like you have to do everything, and living with gratitude!

    Reading this post- I think you may enjoy it! Here is the amazon link below!

    https://www.amazon.com/Only-Love-Today-Reminders-Breathe/dp/0310349494/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

    I know you are on maternity leave, but I hope this gets to you one way or another.

    <3

  • “They can’t and don’t need to be their personal best at everything, all at once.”

    This quote reminded me sooo much of the Bible, the Proverbs 31 woman. People often talk about her as perfection, or an unobtainable standard, and that isn’t true…it is just what you said: you can be your personal best at everything, just not all at once. We have to set goals and priorities for each season of life, and embrace where we are today.

    Thank you for sharing! As one mom who sometimes struggles with similar feelings of guilt, I appreciate the encouragement.

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