A First-Time Mom's Experience Joining a Mom Group and How They Became a Second Family

Name: Rachel Martin
Location: Tiburon, CA
Occupation: Former director of digital marketing and now a stay-at-home mom.
Family situation: Married with one 17-month-old boy and I have a baby girl due in March 2019. I have a nanny once a week on Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for my sanity and also to get errands done. We love her and didn’t want to lose her when I stopped working but we couldn’t afford to keep her on for more than one day. My mom lives 10 minutes away and watches my son on Tuesday mornings so I can get a workout in. She will also watch him if my husband and I need a date night or want to go out together alone.
Parenting philosophy: Make sure you get out of the house every morning for a kid-related activity. It makes everyone happier. In a nutshell, do whatever it takes to survive.

What was your journey to having the family life you have today?
For my husband and me, once we got married, we didn’t want to put pressure on each other about having kids. My husband was convinced that I was going to be the first one to bring it up but within our first year of marriage, he was the one to say he was ready for kids. I wanted to be married for at least a year but he would tell me all the time that he wanted kids and he didn’t want to be an old dad. He was ready but I wasn’t. It took me almost three years to get to that place where I felt like, Okay, my career is in a good position, I’ve done what I need to do, and I’m not looking to go out all the time. My girlfriend and I had a big joint 30th birthday party and once I got that out of my system I was like, “All right, let’s do it.” Then, it all happened really quickly. I was like, “Whoa, I guess we’re in this.”

It’s been great, but then my husband really wanted our future kids to be close in age. His friends who had kids [farther] apart said they felt like, “Oh my gosh, we already got out of this stage and now we’re back in it.” So we took their advice and planned on having ours pretty much back to back. Our daughter is due in March and it’s going to be a whirlwind. I’m terrified.

How did your upbringing influence your parenting style?
Both my parents were extremely hands-on. My dad was able to come home from his job at 3:00 p.m. and he would always take us to the park, coach our sports events, have dinner, do everything with us. I knew that I wanted a partner that was going to be equal in this whole parenting thing, was going to come home, be hands on, not somebody that kind of saw it like “the mom does everything.” Luckily for me, that’s exactly how my husband also saw it. For the first two weeks after we had my son, I never changed one diaper. He did every single one of them. He would say, “It’s the least I can do.”

For me, raising my family after how my parents raised me was one of the reasons why I decided in October, when I was about 11 weeks pregnant with my son, that it was time to be done with work. I really appreciated that my mom was always there during the day doing stuff with us [growing up]. I know we had a nanny a couple of days a week, but I barely remember that. What I remember is that my mom and my dad did everything with us, and while financially it’s a little more of a struggle, it’s important to me to be present because my upbringing was so great and full of love.

What’s your favorite thing about parenting?
My son Wolf really knows how to win me back. Some days when he’s really whiny, I’ll get frustrated and think the day is going horribly but then he’ll come over and give me a hug. He’ll grab my face and push it towards him, and then he’ll give me a huge smile and this open mouth kiss and hug. I just melt.

The first couple of months you feel like you’re giving, giving, giving, and you’re not getting anything back. You’re so tired. Then they learn how to smile and they start looking at you and interacting with you and you’re just like, “Oh my God, this is amazing.” Watching him learn things that I taught him, mimicking what I do, and seeing him smile really big when he sees me is my favorite. Every time my husband comes home, he’ll run to the front door and get so excited. That to me makes it all worth it.

What’s the hardest part?
The hardest parts are the really the bad days. It’s those really fussy days when he’s frustrated and crying. He doesn’t talk yet so I’m trying to guess what he wants and how to make him feel better and I can’t always do that. It’s almost like a missing communication link: “I know you’re upset and I’m your mom so I want to fix it but I can’t because I don’t know what you want.” I’m still trying to figure it out but it’s just so hard.

Sometimes I’ll say, “Can you point to what you want?” Or, I’ll try to distract him. Distraction is always a good thing. I’ll go, “Do you want some milk? Do you want to snack? Do you want to sit on the couch with Mommy? Do you want a hug?” Sometimes that works. Other times, I have to let him lay on the ground and cry it out. I’ll say to him, “Okay, mommy will be right here when you’re done,” and I’ll just sit down and I’ll wait for him. Then, usually, he’ll pick up a book and come over and sit in my lap and that’s that.

How do you find time for yourself?
It’s been harder than I thought. Honestly, with my maternity leave, I thought it would be like I had this little accessory that I brought with me everywhere. I thought I was going to be doing my thing, shopping, working out, going to lunch, and Wolf would just come along. That was not the case at all. You are really on their schedule and kind of at their mercy. He’s still very young so I like being with him, but my mom will watch him when my husband and I need a break.

What’s the best advice you can share with new parents?
Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing because there’s no “one size fits all” to parenting. You have to figure out what works for your family. If your kid sleeps better in the car then drive him around. If your kid needs to have a pacifier then give him a pacifier. Do what makes your family function because your sanity is important for you to be the best mom you can be.

The most helpful thing that I’ve ever done was join a mom group. It’s been the most amazing experience of my life for my son. You can join in groups of three month increments so all the kids are born within a month or two of each other. That way, we’re all going through the same experiences at the same time. In my group, we’re all first-time or second-time moms. We would have meet-ups once a week and we have a text chain that we talk in all the time. We ask each other things like, “Is this normal? Is your kid doing this? How did you get your kid off the pacifier? How’d you get your kid off the bottle?” We also, of course, vent to each other. We all help and lean on each other for everything and I could not have done this without them. My maternity leave would have been horrible.

My whole experience would have been a lot rougher because I was so anxious of being with my son in public. I kept thinking, “Oh my God, what if he cries? Is everyone going to stare at me? How do I breastfeed in public? Is this normal? Is this embarrassing?” A lot of the moms in the group were like, “It’s all good. If you need to stop on your walk because you need to breastfeed, no one’s going to judge you.” They just made me feel so much more comfortable and supported. They even threw me a little surprise baby shower for baby No. 2. They’re basically my second family.

How do you embrace the most unpredictable moments of parenthood?
It’s been really hard for me in particular because I’m a huge, huge germaphobe, clean freak. It’s to a point where if my husband comes home and he’s been on public transportation and he doesn’t change his clothes right away, I will make him sit on towels so his clothes don’t touch the couch. I can’t handle germs at all but when you have a young kid, you have to try to let some of that go. I’ve learned to say, You know what, if he wants to jump into a puddle, I’ll change his clothes! If he gets dirty, I’ll stick him in the bath! I’ve had to really rewire myself to be like, Things happen and kids will barf on you. I’m trying to be better at going with the flow and realizing that I cannot control every single thing that I want to. Life is messy in general. Having kids is double messy and now I’m realizing when I have two, it’s really going to get unpredictable. But that’s what makes it fun, right?

What would you want your kids to say about you as a parent?
I would want them to say they grew up in a happy home. I think for any parent, that’s all you want. You want them to be happy and successful in whatever they want to do.

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