Dear Aprille-who-is-trying-to-be-a-perfect-mommy:

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Hi. This is me, your future self. I wish I really could travel back in time to tell you this stuff. But, I know you probably wouldn’t listen to me even if I did. So I’m just going to write this stuff down, in hopes that maybe some other new mom will be smarter than you and take heed to my advice.

1) Go give your baby a kiss and a hug. Right now.

2) Now, set him down. On the floor. If he’s crawling, put him in the crib, or something. Just put him down. If he cries, he will be okay. I promise. This won’t take very long. Come back here when you’ve done it.

3) Okay. You are back. Good. Relax. And I mean it. I want you to stop right now and take at least three super long deep breaths. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

4) I know your mind is racing a million miles a minute. You are thinking about that article you just saw on Facebook. You know the one about wearing your baby? The one about breastfeeding? The one about starting solids and how baby food is pretty much horrible? The one about the horrors of rice cereal? The one about how putting your children in strollers and car seats can cause them damage to the development of their skulls? The one about how crying releases cortisol into their brains and could cause them to be depressed later in life? Yes. That one.

I want you to go to the Facebook page that posted it and unlike it. Right now. There you go.

Right now all of that stuff is making you feel guilty and stressed. You don’t need that. You have enough on your plate.

You are a good mom Aprille. But you aren’t a good mommy because your baby has on a cloth diaper right now. Or because you took him to the store in the Moby. Or because you let him sleep in your bed last night. Or because you nurse him every hour.

You are a good mom because you smiled at him when he smiled at you. Because you hugged him. Because you kissed his forehead. Because you told him about his daddy. Because you changed his diaper when he was wet. That’s why you are a good mom.

All that other stuff is going to fade away as early as two years from now. That’s a promise. Filling your head with all of this information is just going to overwhelm you.

5) Now, you know those “friends” that you have who are constantly posting that kind of stuff? Let me tell you a few things about them. A lot of them are only your friends because you agree with them and repost their stuff. When you question them or their ideals, they are going to attack you. They are going to say horrible things and accuse you of putting your baby’s life in danger over the littlest of things. They are going to gang up on you when you disagree with them. Your true friends are the ones who are balanced…even the ones who do things differently then what you think is right. (The ones who right now are probably feeling bad about their parenting because of the articles that you shared this morning.) A year from now, your “perfect” friends who parent their children “perfectly” will be out of your life, and the ones that remain (even the ones whose feelings you hurt because of your judgmental attitude) will be more precious than ever, because they will stay with you when your perfect ideals of parenting fall apart into pieces at your feet.

4) Now, if it’s before May of 2011, you need to get your butt down to parent central and get Ezra registered into the CDC. I know it’s cold and Ezra is sick and you don’t want to drag him out. But I don’t care. You need to do this, right now. (If it’s after May of 2011, well, then you deserve a huge pat on the back. Because you just made one of the best decisions you will ever make.)

I know that you think it’s horrible institutionalized Army daycare. I know that those little red carts that they push babies around in make you want to throw up. But let me tell you this: those people will take care of your baby. They will teach him things that you can’t. They will come to look forward to him being there. They will love on him. You can trust them. And your son will love going. A year or two from now he’ll be running in there as fast as his little legs can carry him.

Now that he is registered, you call and make a reservation. Umhum…here is the number. xxx-xxx-xxxx. Call. Right now. There you go. Call and make a reservation for tomorrow. I know Ezra nurses quite frequently. I know you can’t leave him for very long. So just make it for an hour. Then tomorrow I want you to drop him off and walk away. Go to the Java Cafe or something. Call up one of your friends to meet you for an hour. Or just go and be by yourself. Work on your blog. Read a book. Or just close your eyes and be quiet.

Aprille, you get 16 hours free childcare per month. If you aren’t using all 16 hours, then you are a daggone fool. Your husband is going come home from war and is going to need a lot of you. More than you will be able to give. And your son is going to be far more loud and energetic than you can imagine. You will be far more tired and exhausted then you can even imagine. You HAVE to fill yourself up  NOW. You need to rest NOW. You need time away from Ezra NOW. Because a year from now when you are wiser and actually schedule those breaks, they won’t be enough. You are letting a good thing go to waste and you are going to regret it if you don’t start using it.

5) You need to call Behavioral Health and go see Jan. I know you haven’t seen her in forever. And I know you think you don’t need to talk to anyone. But you do. Trust me, you do. And even if you don’t, it will still be a nice break. No more waiting, no more putting it off. Call. Right now. And take the first available appointment you can get. Now call the CDC again and make a childcare reservation so you can go to that appointment alone.

6) About letting Ezra cry…I know you hate to do it. I know it feels wrong. But honey, he’s still going to be crying himself to sleep for nap times and night times when he’s 27 months. I promise you that. He won’t cry for long. But he will still cry, every. single. time. So give yourself a break once in a while. I’m not saying you have to let him cry for a half hour, or cry every single night. There’s nights when you want to hold him for hours, and that’s okay. But there are nights when you just need to go to bed. Okay? I know this one is hard for you, so just work on it. Just try.

Okay, I know that you are thinking about Ezra right now…and he is probably crying in his room or wherever you left him. So I will let you go, but here’s a few last things for you.

Remember…you are a good mom. Not because of your parenting style or the choices that you have made for Ezra–but because of how much you love him. Stop obsessing. Stop being so fearful. Stop trying to do everything right. Relax. Just follow your instincts, because they are what you can trust the most.

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Now go, pick up your baby and love on him, because I know that you want to.

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  • Janine Huldie

    I loved letter to your past self from your future self. Aprille, this really was a wonderful and ingenius post. And your message is clear, you love Ezra, but everyone, including moms, need a break even for an hour.

  • Melanie

    We really need to stop trying to be perfect and instead try to be good enough. This sets a good example for our kids who learn that they don’t have to try to be perfect either. If they see that sometimes we get tired and need a break then it allows them to have days when they are tired and need breaks too.

    Speaking of strollers – did you ever see the movie Away We Go with John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph? One lady refuses to put her child in a stroller because she doesn’t want her child to think she’s “pushing him away.” I smile every time I put my son in a stroller – you could go crazy trying to follow all the parenting fads!

    • Aprille

      I’ve never seen that movie or heard that ideology, but I’ve heard plenty other similar ridiculous things, and even held to them at some point. Then I got a brain. lol

  • Sara

    Probably my favorite post from you so far (and I love ALL of what you write)!!! 🙂 I cried and laughed. I want to write a letter like this to my earlier Mom-self, and so much of what you said would be in my letter as well. There is NO such thing as perfect, and no person who ever was…except Jesus. You are awesome. God gave you Ezra because no other Mommy in the whole world could be his Mommy. He is blessed because of you! Keep giving yourself Grace like in this post…His Grace is enough. <3 Love you friend, I am PROUD of you!!!

    • Aprille

      Thank you so much. This comment made me laugh. I’m glad it is your favorite. I’ve learned so many things the hard way and I’m just glad I can share it all.

      You totally should write a littler like this. 🙂

  • Courtney

    This sounds exactly like something I should have read my first year of Motherhood while my husband was deployed, as well. The pressure to feel “perfect” as a new Mom, and do everything right while also adjusting to new Army life without my husband was something that almost destroyed me from the inside out. But, there’s no going back… I’m so thankful I found your blog to read now! 🙂

    • Aprille

      I could have written that comment. I’m so glad to be beyond that phase. I have a lot of regrets, but for now I just have to be thankful that I’m in a better emotional place.

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