You’re in love. You make love. You get pregnant. Oh yeah, and you’ve got a pep rally in the gym tomorrow. So what do you do next? If you decide to raise the kid, you’re now officially a mom, but unfortunately, there’s no fifth-period elective on rearing children.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, you’re at a great starting point. But do yourself and your baby a favor: take a deep breath, settle down and grab your Sharpie and Post-It notes. The first thing to remember is that being a mother is all about mindset. If your focus is off, your parenting decisions will be too. If your decisions are off, it will only makes things harder on yourself and your baby.
Don’t worry so much about skills yet; those will start to appear as you begin and continue to make the right choices. Those choices are what you do right now, step-by-step as you live life. Get ready to start making them.
- Forget About Yourself. That’s right. It’s a tough pill to swallow and you don’t want to do it–for good reason. Life in America is all about reaching your potential, fulfilling your dreams and becoming your own person. You can still do those things, you just have to do them differently now. Your life is not over; it’s just being redefined. It’s true. Go ask your mom, your grandma, that lady down the street who can somehow manage to push a double stroller in a straight line and walk her Great Dane simultaneously. Being a parent is all about the child–her needs, her wants, her safety and comfort and overall well-being. You can’t stay up all night watching movies with your BFF because you have to walk the halls at 2 a.m. when your son won’t stop crying. You can’t go to your boyfriend’s football games every Friday night because you have to catch up on your homework while your daughter is finally sleeping. You can’t buy that new Katy Perry CD because you’re almost out of Desitin and your baby has a rash. Repeat this to yourself: It’s NOT about me. It’s ALL about my child.
- Ask for Help. This may seem like a no-brainer. You may even want to go a step further and let someone else take over altogether, but that won’t do you any more good than trying to do it all yourself. The truth is that you don’t know everything and that’s OK. Even grown-up moms don’t know everything, but chances are they know than you do at this point. If you have younger siblings, you might think you’re already prepared. That might have helped, but it stil isn’t the same as having your own child. Ask your mom which diaper brand to buy and how to mix formula. Ask your aunts and grandmas how much baby powder is too much and how to safely bathe your infant. If your teachers have kids, ask them how to properly burp them. Mothers contain a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. They’ll teach you things you can’t find in books. There are also people you should NOT ask advice of, namely your peers. Have they had to make the decisions you’ve had to make? No? Then they have no real advice for you. If they are mothers, ask yourself honestly: are they good ones? Do they complain about it constantly, or say things like, “No, I didn’t put ear muffs on my baby when we went to the monster truck rally.” Here’s your sign.
- Read, Read, Read. Yes, you have three chapters to read for world history and Lord of the Flies for English class, not to mention all the studying you need to do for next week’s biology exam. But reading the right information is likely to mean the difference between a big mistake and a small one, or a small mistake and no mistake. Do not Google. Unless you’re using the search engine to find CREDIBLE sources such as a pediatrician or other qualified children’s professional, do not Google. Don’t take advice from reality TV shows like Teen Mom. They may be nice for entertainment, but that’s all they are. If they were educational programming, they would be syndicated to PBS. Read books like What to Expect the First Year. Read Parenting Magazine. Go to iMom.com. There is so much out there to help you. Another great thing to read is labels, particularly those on toys, food, cleaning products, clothing and everything else your child will come into contact with. Read the label. There may be information you need to know, such as “Not intended for children under three months.”
- Last but not least, Stay Encouraged. Being a mom is hard; being a teen mom will probably be harder. It helps if you have a strong support system, but if you don’t, raising a child will be one of the most difficult things in life you will ever do. Then again, that goes for any parent. There’s so much to learn, so much to do and you’ll never do it completely right. It’s okay. You may not be able to all the things you used to, but there are new things you can do now. You can scrapbook (or Pintrest/Instagram), play with your kid, sing and dance all over the house. You now have the perfect excuse to go to parks and carousels. You can still shop, you’ll just be in different stores. You can hang out with other moms. They won’t be exactly like your non-mom friends, but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable to be around. Remember, it’s all about mindset, so set your mind to be happy and find the good in every situation. It may take more effort in certain situations, like when your baby’s diaper load finally starts to smell bad and you think you’re going to throw up, but it could be worse. It might have happened on your family’s road trip in the middle of some corn field where there’s no can throw the diaper in for the next 40 miles.
Stay positive, stay calm and mom on.