15 Things I’ve Learned in the First Year of Motherhood

While many women dream about a joyful first year of motherhood—sometimes, the reality is much harder. Here, a mother explores what those initial 12 months taught her as she grew alongside her daughter.
In this essay, a mom explore the realities of the first year of motherhood, detailing her experience—from the good to the bad.

On Wednesday, my daughter will turn one. 

I’ve felt emotional leading up to this milestone—thinking about how much she has grown from that baby burrito we took home from the hospital. And how much I’ve changed—and also grown—since becoming a mother.

My identity will forever be transformed, since now, part of my heart and soul lives outside of my body.

As I reflect on this lap around the sun, I feel gentler. More compassionate. More understanding. More patient. While my 30s have been a practice in grace, this year particularly, forced me to slow down, reflect and accept.

If you are pregnant, about to become a parent, or in those fuzzy few months of postpartum, I hope some of my lessons will give you comfort. Hearing from other moms was the reassurance I needed in difficult times.

1: You are not alone.

Your feelings are valid. Your thoughts may feel crazy, but you are okay. It’s A LOT and it’s a significant lifestyle shift.
It is so, so, so, so HARD.

You’re doing a great job.

And remember: you are a good mom.

2: You can dislike pregnancy and be a good mom.

You can dislike the newborn stage and be a good mom.
You can dislike the baby stage and be a good mom.
You can dislike following your baby around all day to ensure they don’t fall and hurt themselves and be bored out of your mind and be a good mom.

You don’t have to like every stage (or every minute or every hour) to be a good mom.

And remember: You are a good mom.

3: You will mourn your old life.

And more to the point: you have to mourn your former lifestyle.

Your old body.

Your relationship pre-baby.

You’re old everything.

It’s okay to love and be grateful for your child but also dream about days when you had more freedom, energy, time and spontaneity.

And remember: you are a good mom.

4: Fed is best.

Fed is best.
One more time: FED IS BEST.

Not breastfeeding because you can’t is okay. Not breastfeeding because you feel existential dread each time you pump is okay. Not breastfeeding for your mental health is okay. Not breastfeeding because you are a better mom without it is okay.

Not breastfeeding because you simply don’t want to is okay.
And remember: you are a good mom.

5: There is no magical way to raise a child.

You don’t have to be crunchy, silky, gentle, authoritarian, helicopter-y, tiger-y or a French-style parent.

You can follow a schedule or not, sleep train or co-sleep, bottle feed or nurse. Allow screens or limit them. Serve purées or do baby-led weaning.

You can do a mixture of it all, too.

There is no magical way to raise a child.

A lot of parenting is testing, trial and error, learn as you go, make mistakes and figure out solutions.

And remember: you are a good mom.

6: Every single baby is an individual human being.

What works for one won’t work for another. Advice is generally well-intended and kind-hearted—but take it as a nice gesture, not gospel.

You probably won’t agree with everything or everyone, and it’s okay to pick and choose what works for your family.

And remember: you are a good mom.

7: Your baby’s milestones are not a direct result of your parenting.

You didn’t and you haven’t messed anything up. No, they probably wouldn’t have crawled faster if you spend two extra minutes a day doing tummy time. No, scrolling through Instagram at 6 a.m. for 20 minutes while they watch Ms. Rachel because you are exhausted won’t make them less attached to you.

You don’t have to have perfectly curated afternoons with developmental activities and matching outfits for every holiday. You don’t have to home cook every single meal. (Sometimes teething crackers are a godsend!)

Babies are on their own timeline and as long as their basic needs are met, you’re giving them all you can as a parent.

And remember: you are a good mom.

8: You can be absolutely enthralled with your baby—and also love your career.

You can miss them but also look forward to getting a break. You can look at photos of them after they go to sleep—but still be grateful they are asleep in their crib.

You can struggle with wanting to work and not wanting to be a stay-at-home mom and also not wanting to log as many hours as you once did. Your ambition might slow down—and that’s okay.

You can drop them off at daycare and they may not cry hysterically each time—and they still love you. You’re still their favorite person.

And remember: you are a good mom.

9: Talking to your friends becomes your lifeline.

Tell them how you feel. Join mom Facebook groups. Try not to take anything personally. Ask for advice or for a safe place to vent. Lean in to your partner and community, and ask for help.
It’s true: raising a child takes a village. If you have one, let them embrace you. Mothers need to be held, too.

And remember: you are a good mom.

10: Your marriage comes first. Your kids come second.

Without a strong foundation, you can’t build a healthy and happy family. Make time for one another. Lift each other up. Be co-parents and try to split the household duties as much as you can.

Communicate when you’re struggling. Listen to your partner when they are drowning, too. Make time for dates—even in pajamas drinking wine when the baby is asleep. Make decisions as a team.

Love, respect and encourage each other. Give one another space to still be individuals. Let your kids see what a partnership should be like.

And remember: you are a good mom.

11: Your baby loves you.

They really, really do. Even if they aren’t clingy. Even if they don’t need to be rocked to sleep.

Even if they want to explore on their own.

Your body is their first home—whether it was your womb or your arms. They love you.

And remember: you are a good mom.

12: ‘No’ is a full sentence.

You will say it a lot more as a parent. Your time is precious and limited and the people who you surround yourself with have a significant impact on your mental state. You can decline an invite because it’s during your baby’s nap time. Or if it would interfere with the bedtime routine and sleep.

You don’t have to apologize for taking two days to respond to a text.

You will find people who understand and who are flexible. It’s also okay if friendships drift apart. You may find your way back to one another—or not. But life is different—your little family is now the center of your world.

And remember: you are a good mom.

13: If you gave birth, your body may never be the same again.

And while you may want to be body positive and you do celebrate bodies of all sizes and shapes—it may take time to learn your new postpartum body.

It’s okay to want to lose weight—but not pass on body issue struggles to your child. It’s okay if you want to eat healthy and make time to exercise because it makes you feel better and is a form of self-care.

It’s okay if part of your health goals is living a long life for your kids—and because you want to comfortably wear jeans that make you feel good.

It’s also okay if you’re too overwhelmed with parenting to even think about those things.

And remember: you are a good mom.

14: You may feel hopeless. Anxious. In way over your head.

Like life will never be exciting or enjoyable again.
Like you’ll never feel well-rested.
Like you’ll never feel like yourself again.
Like you’ll never like being a parent.
Like your child deserves more.
Like you can’t do it.
Like you’re failing.
Like you’re not very good at this thing you wanted so badly…

But it will pass. It will get better. Day by day, week by week and month by month. And if it doesn’t, there is no shame in asking for help.

Please seek help.

And remember: you are a good mom.

15: Above all things.

Please remember:


  • Lindsay Tigar

    Lindsay Tigar is the co-founder of Mila & Jo Media, an award-winning journalist, two-time entrepreneur and mama to Josefine. She's also a parental leave certified executive coach. She's a frequent-flier, Peloton addict, and a coffee and champagne snob. Her friends are her family and her lifeline. Lindsay calls Asheville, NC home but spends much time in Denmark, her husband's home country.  Follow Lindsay on Instagram. and visit her website.

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