Yes. I have figured it out. The “thing” that all new mothers really need (besides sleep).
A box. An empty box. It’s that simple. It can be a cute box if you like, or even a drawer, but it should start empty.
While I have baby boxes for baby firsts—teeth and curls and pacis and what not, what I wish I’d been better about when I had my first baby was getting a mommy box. Because all mamas need a mother box and I’ll tell you why.
Mothers have a hard job. No two children are alike. And even if the first one is “so easy!” according to all your mommy friends, the first one is still the hardest. The learning curve is the highest and you have yet to prove to yourself that you can care well enough for a baby to keep it eating, sleeping, growing, etc. You have to figure out how to be a family with kids for the very first time. You have to figure out how to make parents into grandparents. (This seems like it’s obvious and easy, but seriously, there’s transition everywhere.) Okay, so not to overwhelm, but parenting is hard even if you love that little being with all your whole entire heart. And some days, some days, you will need encouragement.
That’s where the box comes in. I have a makeshift one because I didn’t start it soon enough. At one of my showers, people wrote prayers for me and also words of encouragement, things about my character that they thought would make me a good mother. Some saw things in me I had yet to see for myself. I kept those cards. They are now in my box. I reread them on harder days. When my husband gives me a note telling me all about why I am a good mom, it belongs in that box. When my kids got older and gave me handmade cards on Mother’s Day telling me why I was a good mommy or what they loved about me, well…you get the picture. Feel free to ask your people to send you notes for your box. I’d be honored to ever get such a request! Write some of your favorite encouraging verses down and put them in the box. They don’t have to be fancy, they just have to be accessible.
Speaking of pictures, I realize not everyone has a wordy family like me. So for those types of families, have someone take a picture of you on a really good mom day. Like one where you are showered and maybe even have on makeup, everyone is happy, has eaten, and you are some place in the world outside your house like a zoo or a park. Have someone take a picture of that moment and then put it in your box. Actually print the picture out. And then, when you have a bad day, you can look at that picture and think, “Wow. It is possible to have really good days. I’ve actually had some great days.” A picture of a good day can bring hope to a bad day, if you ask me. One bad day will try to erase a hundred good days, so you have to be ready to bring those good days back to the front of your mind.
There will be days when the laundry seems unending, the dishes multiply, the cries reach that deathly place in your ear plus for whatever reason the baby won’t sleep, eat, or stick to any afore-agreed-to schedule, and then the house opens the door to let in some kind of tornado that spews your stuff everywhere. Maybe work keeps bugging you because they think you are bored while you are on maternity leave. Ah. You’ll be so tired. You’ll spill the milk, stub your toe, snap at your spouse, burn something in the kitchen and maybe cry. Okay, definitely cry. (I can cry having only accomplished one or two of those things on the list.)
And that is all normal. And that’s when you get your box. And you sit in a teeny tiny clear space of floor or you snuggle on your unmade, cozy bed and you read the words from others telling you that you have what it takes, that you are enough, that you are just right for your family, that God is holding you in the palm of his hands and he won’t ever let go. Not ever. And you will make it through this day, and the baby will get bigger. And one day Baby will even feed and clothe himself, though it seems impossible to think of that now.
Yes, your baby will grow. There will be days when peers at school say they don’t want to be friends with your kid anymore. There will be days your little angel hurts someone else’s little angel. You will have days when not a single one of your kids does anything you say and you wonder, “Where did I go wrong?” because you absolutely know you’ve taught them about obedience and respect and somehow, on this day, they’ve forgotten it all. Or they have too much wax in their ears. (You are really hoping for the ear wax thing.) They will cry with you about heart-hurts when they begin to learn of the evil in the world. They will pour their hardest emotion out on you because they need someone to be able to take it and they don’t know where else to pour it. And you will love your baby through all of it. And on the hard days, when you wonder if you’ve done it all right, if you’ve made good choices, you can sit down and look through your box. It will have grown by then, and will likely have the words of your children inside, or maybe a hand drawn picture of you and your baby picking flowers together, back from when he was only five and you were his whole world.
Let yourself be encouraged. No one knows your flaws like you do, but that doesn’t mean others are wrong when they see the goodhearted mother in you.
Looking through your box, you will remember God has been there from the very beginning, leading, loving, carrying, forgiving, healing, embracing, strengthening, teaching, comforting…both you and your child. He put your family together for a purpose, and made you the mother of that baby for a reason, and in Him, you can rest and smile and give thanks. Because even on the bad days, there is still love. Every child in the world was brought up in an imperfect home. But be encouraged, sweet new mama. Love is always enough—to carry your baby, and to carry you, too.
This post is written in honor of my sweet sister-friend who is letting me be an auntie to her first-born baby son who is new to this world and oh so precious! You know who you are and how much I love you and your family. And I think you are already an awesome Mama!