Dear 25 (From 33, With Love)

Dear 25 (From 33, With Love)

I saw myself at the playground yesterday.

I’d taken my kids to the park to enjoy the first 80 degree day of the year, and was guiding my baby down the slide when my daughter sprinted over, panting, “Mommy, that girl looks like you!” and pointed across the playground. Don’t point! I whispered, but followed my daughter’s finger across the playground to the tall girl pushing the baby swing 50 yards away. She does look like me, I thought. Not exactly–more like a younger me.

20 minutes later–after my daughter tripped headlong over the stranger’s diaper bag–we struck up a conversation. She was still pushing her chubby baby in the baby swing. “He’s 9 months old,” she tells me, “and he loves these swings. This is his happy place.”

I nod. I understood what she meant–she could have been describing my own child, many years ago. Encouraged, she told me just how much she was struggling with motherhood: her baby was demanding and cranky, despite her best efforts. He was rarely happy unless he was swinging or nursing. He was a horrible sleeper. She felt like a rotten mother, and she was so very tired.

Whoa. This stranger was me–the younger me. She must have been 25 or 26. How well I remembered myself at that age, standing at that very playground, pushing my own baby boy in those same swings–his happy place. He loved those swings.

New motherhood knocked the wind out of me. The pregnancy was a surprise, and my firstborn was a textbook high-need baby. I tried every technique known to mankind to soothe that baby boy, and he was still unhappy most of the time.  Most mothers in my shoes would have spent every day counting the hours until bedtime…but what bedtime? He never slept. Neither did I. There was no respite, no time to recover. I felt like a rotten mother, I never got anything done, and I was so very tired.

And as this stranger asked me about my kids, saying does it get easier? I was overwhelmed with compassion for my own 25-year-old self that she was reflecting back to me: she was so clueless, so sincere, and so completely overwhelmed.

There’s so much I’d like to tell her, if I could.

First, I’d like to tell her she’s doing a good job. I know how hard it is, to love your baby so much–to work so hard to make him happy–and have so little to show for it. I’d tell her she’s not wasting her time, with all these hours she’s spending pushing the baby swing or pinned to the couch nursing. I would tell her it may not look like she’s getting anything done, but she’s doing so, so much for her baby.

Next, I would tell her to lose the guilt. I would tell her not to waste her time comparing herself to other mothers, or comparing her baby to their babies, or scrutinizing their routines for a glimpse of what she’s doing wrong. I would tell her she’s a good mother.

After that, I’d go on and tell her that it’s going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. I’d tell her she’s in the middle of some tough days, but there are more challenges ahead. I’d tell her she will be better for it. She will find strength she never knew she had, and those struggles will give her a depth she wouldn’t dream of giving back. I would tell her that though she thinks this stage might break her, it won’t. But it is making her strong.

I’d tell her it’s okay to want to punch those women who tell her babies grow up too fast. Or at least to stare daggers at them.

And I’d tell her she’ll get some sleep, eventually.

But for now, I’d tell her it’s okay to be right where she is.

What would you tell your younger self, if you could?

22 comments | Comment

22 comments

  1. Tracy says:

    I would tell the younger me that things will get worse, but what I learn along the way are precious gems, you are stronger than you realize, Gods going to be your strength and he has never left u even when u deserved it. All that u thought was importamt will become so trivial. Stop doing what ur doing, stop the damage now it will be alot easier for u if u do, but the lord will use all this to take u places u only dreamed of. Stop crying long enough to see that sweet blessing the lord gave you and be strong for him…

    I really want to yell and scream at the old me, but I realize without all that junk, bad decisions, and psin, I would not be who I am today and the lord would not be able to use me to encourage women who are going through it now. He has given my struggles purpose and my tired spirit strength to endure and prosper.

  2. From either further down the path ( hello mid-40’s!) I would say- Take care of your marriage. Do not forsake your husband and his feelings for that of a clean house or perfectly happy children. While caring for the needs of children is a very important task to do so at the expense of your marriage is foolhardy and leads to no good.

    A fussy baby can fuss with a competent sitter just as well as you for an evening – go on a date! Take time for your marriage

    A sink fully of dirty dishes will wait a bit longer .. if they children are asleep find yourself in bed with your man not curled up with Pinterest and Downton Abbey ( unless of course he also jazzes on such things)

    The family bed is divine unless it means you are not giving your husband the sort of “love” he needs. Remember the thrill of a quickie on the sofa or the washing machine.. wherever, but don’t make the way you choose to mother your children create a rift in your marriage.

    And while this may feel like it is all on you know that the attention you give your mate will come back to you again and again.. children soon grown up but with luck your husband is forever.

    • Anne says:

      THANK YOU Maddie for yet another perspective! Sometimes I wonder what the future me will want to tell my 33-year-old me, I think you’ve given me a good glimpse.

  3. Heather says:

    I’m 25 with a 10 month old. Some days I think I’ll break, especially when I remember that if I want more kids, and I do, I have to do this all *again*, only with toddlers in tow as well. I would type more but I don’t feel like crying now. Thank you for providing some perspective.

    • Katie says:

      Your comment speaks to me as I sit here listening to my 3 little ones enjoy their breakfast. 5yo daughter is entertaining the baby, who is giggling, and 3yo son is chucking the random cherrio looking for attention from 5yo. In a moment we’ll all read a short story on faith, loyalty, friendship or the like, get dressed, brush teeth, and head outside to play and refill the birdbath. I tell you this because 5 years ago, I felt like you. I felt as if I couldn’t take another day. I was so tired. All the time. And now?? I am often STILL so tired all the time:) But the thing that has changed is perspective. I’ve watched my firstborn grow into this imaginative, bright, loving big sister and daughter and friend. And now, with another 10-month-old in tow I see that someday HE will be the grown-up 5yo and i’ll wonder how he was ever so small…So I bask in his neediness and TRY to enjoy those midnight wakings where I get to lie with him, JUST him, to nurse in silence with no other children needing my attention. It doesn’t necessarily get easier, but it does get easier to find more joy in it all.

  4. Jennifer Haddow says:

    I don’t know. I’m not saying everything went exactly the way I planned, but for me the tough times are like childbirth – I don’t REALLY remember the bad stuff, except in an abstract way.

  5. Rebecca says:

    An achingly beautiful post. Thank you.

    From 40 (pre-teens and teens) to 25. . .

    *Start taking a 24 hour spiritual retreat every 3-6 months. No cell, ipods, tv, etc. . .just you and God. (Learned this at 35)

    *Show your kids early and often that Dad comes first. He gets the first brownie, and the last piece of pie. He gets to hold your hand and sit next to you on the couch. You will be left early and often with grammy or a sitter. “Because I love Daddy THE MOST”. (Did this one right thanks to godly advice before I ever got pregnant)

    * Not all your kids will be as high maintenance as that first one 😉 and its corollary, you are not responsible to entertain your child every waking moment. They can and should learn independent play early on.

    *The person you become through the sacrifice of the baby and toddler years is worth every tear. Don’t fight to keep your 20-something identity. In losing your “young” self, you will gain something far greater. (Didn’t learn that until 37 or 38)

    *You will have “baby” friends that you will probably lose touch with once your children are school aged. Don’t feel guilty, be grateful God placed them into your life during a difficult time.

    • Anne says:

      Rebecca, I can see the wisdom of all of these, but the last–“you will have ‘baby’ friends that you will probably lose touch with…” is the one I’m currently in the middle of. It seems so natural, and yet it hurts. THANK YOU for writing it here; it does help a little.

  6. Katie says:

    From 28 to my teenage-early 20s self

    God does have a plan for you. Don’t push things and make mistakes you will regret later. Never forget God’s love for you and His good gifts that He has for you. In a few years He will bring that wonderful man into your life and give you the desire of your heart.

    Here I am a few years down the road with a wonderful man and a 5 month old baby girl. I love my life right now.

    Thank you everyone for your advice on here to “yourself”. I am trying to enjoy the stages of my baby and remember that my wonderful man is gonna be around long after M leaves home if I take care of him like I should.

  7. Aubry Smith says:

    This is so reassuring. I’m 25 with two young babies. My first baby was so easy, which made me think, “I’m awesome at this mom thing! I have so much figured out! Let’s have more babies!!” Ha. So then came my colicky baby, just in time for baby #1 to hit the terrible two’s. Once colic was over, then began potty training (maybe a bad idea on my part). And I realized that I knew absolutely nothing and had a major crisis. 🙂

    Um, and yes, I may have stared daggers at a few people who told me to make sure I enjoy them because they grow up so fast. What I want to tell other young mothers my age?

    1) Ain’t no such thing as “Potty training in 3 days” that’s gonna actually work in 3 days. They might have super helpful guidelines, but your kid will NOT be fully potty trained in 3 days. And it isn’t your fault. They are people and it takes people some time to learn new skills. (We are on month 7 of the “Three Day Potty Training Method.” He still can’t make it through the night, half and half on naps, and that poop is gonna be in his underwear every.single.day.)

    2) How your child acts at 24 months is not an indication of your parenting failure. If by 7, they still aren’t listening to you and are acting like monsters and throwing public tantrums all the time, then maybe some things might need re-evaluating. Give them time to learn to control their emotions and learn to speak.

    3) Parenting is not about YOU and your ego, it’s about training up a child. Stop aiming for perfect behavior that will reflect well on you, and focus on teaching your child in ways that make sense to him/her.

    4) Let go of all sense of dignity in public, and you’ll be fine. 🙂

    Great post, Anne!

  8. You will not receive Olympic gold for natural childbirth (though you deserve it).

    Don’t get rid of those baby girl clothes. You think you’re done, but you’re not.

    It’s OK to use a video for a babysitter now and then — just don’t overdo it.

    To a child, the most beautiful thing in the world is her laughing mama.

    You will not need half the stuff you put on your baby-shower registry.

    Trick or Treat and Santa Claus will not diminish their faith in God.

    You say you’ll never put them in public school: never say never.

    Use the nursery at the gym. Really. They’ll be fine.

    You’ll still be a good mother if you get an epidural.

    Don’t underestimate the power of prayer.

    Buy a king-size mattress.

    Babies love fat.

  9. Annie says:

    Sleep as much as possible. Forget about the house. The only thing I keep clean is the floors since my 13 month old is still crawling. When you are well rested, motherhood does not seem so bad.

    When I was on maternity leave, I felt guilty about handing the baby to daddy so I can take a nap before dinner. But after my husband realizes how my mood improves significantly with a nap, he insists I take one. Even now that I am backing working, the first thing I do when I get home with the baby is to take a 30 minute power nap with her.

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