How to be a PERFECT Mom

First things first, Imma say all the words inside my head,
I'm fired up and tired of the way that things have been.
-Imagine Dragons
-Anndee Fonnesbeck

Oh, ooh. But really.

One of my best friends just had a baby. She is a lot like me, and spent the last 9 months researching everything from what car seats are best, to how to best organize your infant's closet. She has wanted a baby for a long time, and spent what I'm sure felt like an eternity trying to get pregnant. She, like most of us (let's go ahead and blame the hormones) cried like a baby when she finally saw that big blue plus sign.

She went through nine months of pregnancy, and then gave birth to a perfect, healthy little boy. But after their first night at home, she called me in tears. "I didn't realize this was going to be so hard! I love him so much, but he won't sleep! He won't stop crying! I feel like the worst mom and I don't know what to do for my baby!"

This completely broke my heart for my cute friend. I have been in the background the last nine months, excitedly waiting with her for this cute baby to make his appearance. I have fielded every birth and parenting question I could, and watched her excitedly prepare to become a mother. But within days, it knocked her down.

And I realized, I completely forgot about this part.

Dayen will be two this month, which means it was only two short years ago I was in this same boat. But when I think of having a newborn again, all I can think about is how tiny they are, and how huge my adorable two year old is. I think about how he would fall asleep in my arms, and all the cute clothes he outgrew ages ago. (Not to mention the newborn clothes he never fit into, stinkin' 9 pounder that he was.)

Just like everyone told me I would, I forgot almost completely about the sleep deprivation. I forgot about the insane amount of stress that comes from a baby who won't stop crying. I forgot how hard it is to heal from childbirth, learn to breastfeed, and be solely responsible for the care of another human all at once. Now that we've had two years to find our footing, I forgot that for awhile there, our world was turned completely upside down.

I think the craziness is to be expected. I think crying about it to your friends and family is totally normal. I don't think there is any amount of researching you can do that will really prepare you for parenthood.

And it must work out, right? Because if I really search my mind, I know those rough nights were there. I know there were plenty of times I felt stressed beyond what I could handle. But now, I look back and all I remember are those sweet, chubby cheeks, how I could stare at him while he slept and just soak it all in, and how every single second was worth it.
I would do it all over again, absolutely.

All of it is normal. We can't control the hormones or stop babies from just crying for no reason sometimes. But one thing that sticks with me still, one thing that has been nearly impossible to shake, is wondering whether I am a good enough mother.

Now, I realize this has probably been a problem for a lot of mothers since the dawn of time. But I don't think I'm mistaken in saying that, emotionally at least, this has got to be one of the hardest times to try to mother in.

As my friend talked to me, her voice shaking, she told me, "I caved and finally gave him a binky. The nurse at the hospital told me to never give him a binky or he wouldn't latch, but I just had to get him to stop crying! And it worked, he went right to sleep after that."

The problem with trying to parent today is that we are constantly bombarded with information about what is the best for everyone's baby, all the time. Combine that with our need to judge everyone's lives over social media, and you've got a recipe for a stressed out new mom who is feeling actual, real-life guilt over something people used to do easily, like give her child a binky.

I gave her the best advice I can think of, "Listen to the advice people give you. But when it comes to actually parenting your child, you make the decisions. You are the only person who knows this baby this closely. You are his mother. You know what is best for him, and you are going to make every single decision in his best interest. You are enough for him."

The problem is, we all know it takes a village. And I am so grateful for the seasoned, experienced moms (and dads) who gave us advice along the way. Without a friendship made in church, I never would have discovered the gas drops that saved our lives a few months in. But there were things no one could help us with, like the fact that Dayen spit up all day, every day for the first year of his life. Every time it happened, I felt like a failure. One person told me to give up dairy, while another told me to take him to a specialist. No matter what we tried, nothing helped. But yet, he was healthy. He grew. My baby was always comfortable, happy, and taken care of, because his well being has been on my mind every second of every day since the moment I found out I was pregnant.

And as his parents, I know that Caleb and I are enough for him. We are doing enough. We are trying enough. We are good parents.

It kills me, but it's something I have found I have to remind myself of constantly. Every time I see another article on Facebook telling me I've been doing something wrong (Kids need constant milk! No milk! Broccoli will rot their teeth! Air conditioning stunts their growth!) I have to remind myself that this easy, constant access to "knowledge" is not always a blessing.

No matter what you do as a mother, you are failing in the eyes of someone. Do you vaccinate or don't you? Do you cosleep or not? When do you start potty training? Or giving time outs? Am I a horrible parent for letting him cry it out, or is that the exact perfect way to sleep train?

It is so incredibly overwhelming trying to please everyone and be a perfect parent, because it's impossible. You're fighting a losing battle. And yet, that other mom on Facebook has it all together, so it must be possible if only you try harder!

We beat ourselves up about every little failure or shortcoming in parenting because it's the one job we really, really want to be perfect at.

My two brief years in parenting have taught me a lot. Don't ever leave your child unattended without a diaper on, even for ten seconds. Don't compare them to anyone else's kid, because they are all so different. I think I have even decided I am a great mom. But there are some things I had to do to get here.

1) Stop reading scary articles
Whether your friends post them on Facebook, or you can't help it and you look them up yourself, stop reading all those rare, worst-case-scenario stories. Bad things happen all the time. For the most part, that kind of stuff is unavoidable, and only serves to make you crazy. Just don't read it. Next time you see an article about something horrible happening to a child because her mother used bargain brand laundry detergent, click that handy button that says "Show less posts like this" and guess what? You will start seeing less posts like that.

2)Base your decisions off your child
The answer to basically any question you've ever had? It's out there. Either on the internet, or from some handy friend who knew a friend of a friend who had something similar happen. It's ok to ask questions, and it's ok to learn. If you don't know something, look it up. Ask for opinions. But don't base your decisions off what anyone else tells you happened to their kid, or what they wish they had done differently. Base your decisions off YOUR child and their needs. If you always make your decision the best one you can for your kid, then those voices telling you you're wrong slowly start to fade away. (Or, you go deaf to it.)

3) Lovingly ignore your Village
It sounds great to repeat the mantra, "I am my child's parent, I know what's best for them." day in and day out, and it's certainly easier to ignore the strangers who try to give you advice, but it doesn't always work that way. The fact is, besides it's parents, any child has at least a small number of people around it who love it too, and often feel at least somewhat entitled to a slice of the decision making. These are usually the people telling you you're doing something wrong, and you'll know you respect their opinion when it makes you want to punch a wall whenever they have the slightest criticism. These are usually the people who have had more kids, or had kids sooner, or who just read a lot more books than you. These are the people that I still find myself thinking, "Well, they probably know better than I do," and I almost always end up regretting it.

I've learned to love and respect these people. I love that they love my baby. I love that I have help and guidance when I need it. But I've also learned to trust my gut. I've learned to say no, and stand by it. I've learned that someone else could have raised eleven perfect, well-behaved children into adulthood, but they still don't know what's best for my child the way I do.

So to my sweet, new mom friend, who gets to spend her days alternating between dirty diapers and sobbing in wonder and love at the little baby she just met, I want you to know you are enough for him. You don't need years of experience. You can't earn a degree in motherhood. You won't be perfect. But from the minute he was made, you were absolutely, completely, 100% perfect for him.

You two were quite literally made for each other.

You've got this.