I knew I was in trouble when I was in labor with my first daughter. I tried to go the med-free route, but it didn’t take long for me to realize the pain management technique I was using was a joke. I ordered anesthesia. That’s right. I said it. I rejected “natural” childbirth and took full advantage of one of mankind’s greatest discoveries, the epidural. Some moms judged me harshly, but I didn’t care. I loved that epidural. I almost named my firstborn, Epidural. Hail to the epidural!

The most difficult season of motherhood for me was the baby phase. I didn’t suffer from post-partum depression. My babies were healthy and great sleepers. My marriage didn’t suffer as a result of having children. I simply found the baby years to be tough. I was stressed out, insecure and exhausted. I looked at other moms who seemed to have it all together, and I paled in comparison. I was lucky if I remembered to take a shower.

Motherhood did not come naturally to me. I only nursed for four months. I poured generic formula into a bottle now believed to contain a toxic plastic. I stopped sterilizing baby bottle nipples in boiling water after almost burning the house down. I thought cloth diapers were hideous, and used off-brand disposable ones instead. I fed my babies store-bought baby food instead of making my own. I refused to baby-proof every square inch of my house. That’s right, no bumper pads on my tables, no gates on my stairs, no locks on my toilets. I baby-proofed outlets and a few cabinets only and called it a day. I bought my highchair because it matched my kitchen and was completely unaware if it had a recall on it or not. I didn’t do baby sign language, baby yoga, baby swimming or baby music classes. I thought homework for preschoolers was ridiculous. I rewarded my kids with chocolate instead of organic treats when they tee-teed or poopied on the potty. Sometimes I even let them run with scissors. The list goes on; my best season as a mom was not the baby years.

If you too are finding the baby years to be tough, you are not alone. Below are a few survival skills I discovered along the way:

The girls night out ban against baby talk.

Desperate for adult interaction, I planned dinners out with friends in hopes to talk about life, adventure, spirituality, shopping, politics, sex . . . heck, anything other than babies. Girls night out is a time for moms to take a break, but all my friends ever wanted to talk about was their babies’ newest triumphs, labor war-stories or lactation mishaps. Their obsession with baby products, educational toys and potty training techniques bored me, and for that I felt guilty. As a result, the baby talk ban was created: Talking about motherhood-related stories, dilemmas, strategies, successes and/or failures is strictly prohibited at girl’s night out events. Noncompliance will result in the guilty party buying dessert for the whole group.

Find a babysitter.

If you are married, your kids need you to prioritize your marriage. Too many couples fall into the trap of becoming super parents at the expense of their marriage. For more on being great parents but lousy lovers, read Ted Cunningham’s book, Trophy Child: Saving Parents from Performance : Preparing Children for Something Greater than Themselves.

Embrace your mommy style.

What’s my style? I’m a slacker mom. If I bake cupcakes, I’m not going to grind my own wheat berries — ever. I’m a cake mix, or in a pinch, a store-bought cupcake kind of girl, and proud of it. I’m not perfect. My kids aren’t perfect. So if your best friend serves tofu for dinner while you order pizza delivery, I pray you both can accept your differing mommy styles and support each other. No more complaining. No more competing. No more comparing. Live out your unique calling to your family with grace and tenderness, and expect a few spills along the way.

Focus on the good stuff.

The baby years weren’t all bad. My babies and I sang lots of songs, watched lots of kid-friendly TV, ate lots of sugar, took lots of pictures, read lots of books, played in lots of parks, swam in lots of pools, and talked lots about unicorns, butterflies, lizards, Jesus and poop. Perspective is a choice. We can choose to focus on the good or the bad. Focusing on the good isn’t always easy, but it is always life-giving.

My girls aren’t babies anymore. There is a tiny part of me that misses some of those giddy, sleep-deprived days, but there is a ginormous part of me that is glad those days are OVER! Long gone are the days of dirty diapers, pacifiers and tantrums. I haven’t carried a diaper bag in seven years!

There will come a day when your babies will be able to tie their shoes, bathe themselves, potty on their own, and fix you breakfast. There will come a day when you will talk about homecoming instead of poop, dating instead of play dates, and bands instead of lullabies. And let me tell you, girls, those days are GREAT!

In the meantime, kiss those feet while they are still cute and chubby, because before you know it, those same feet will be pushing the accelerator of your minivan.

How do you keep your eyes on the positive of a not-so-easy season of life?

Tasha Levert, Ph.D., is a licensed professional counselor in New Orleans who provides face-to-face and online care. She is a conference speaker, worship leader and the author of Stories of Hope for the Sleep Deprived.Tasha and her husband Tim (Pastor with Students at the Vineyard Church of New Orleans) have three beautiful daughters and a lazy schnauzer named Gumbo.
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