When is a new mom not a new mom?

2 at at time, baby
Thalia defiantly taking on the anti-pacifier brigade

There’s been a rash of births around our office and my neighborhood lately, and I’ve found myself entertaining the most wonderful questions from friends and colleagues.

-Will I ever be able to leave the baby by himself for one night? I just can’t imagine it.

-Will it kill the baby to do cry it out?

-Will it kill me to do cry it out?

-Is it really bad to use a pacifier or is that just one of those things that annoying parents say?

-What do you do when you get together with old friends and realize you are totally uncomfortable with their parenting choices?

-Does breastfeeding really take the weight off?

-How the heck did you manage to work on no sleep at all? This is crazy! I’m exhausted!

Oh, and to clarify, they’re not wonderful questions because they’re wonderful situations. They’re wonderful questions because they’re not mine.

(Whoo hoo!)

It makes me realize I probably don’t get to wear the new mom label anymore.

Not just just because the questions make me think, been there, survived that, wouldn’t go through it again if you begged me. But because when I go to answer, I now know the secret that “old” moms have: there’s no one right answer to anything in parenting.

Oh, it doesn’t stop me from answering. I still have my opinions. But I also know this:

For every kid that used a pacifier without incident, I’m sure there’s one who was somehow horribly traumatized by its removal.

For every baby who survived circumcisions, CIO, formula feeding, sleeping with crib bumper, and wintry days without a wool hat, there’s surely some tragic news story out there that contradicts it entirely.

For every stay at home mom who grapples with her decision, there’s a working mom who feels the very same way.

So when I hear these questions, I find myself answering, “do what feels right” a whole lot.

Just do what feels right.

That’s mostly what parenting is.

Here’s the other secret I’ve figured out after more than (eek) six years; I also know that while your kid may have been walking 2 weeks before the other kids in his playgroup, or signing at 7 months, or able to recite Ovid quotes in Latin at two, you are entitled to be crazy proud. But please know it’s no guarantee of a lock on Harvard. Frankly, it’s no guarantee that he won’t be the kid in Kindergarten who eats chalk.

(Shh…don’t tell the newbies. Let them have their moment.)

My kids still feel like new kids to me. But I am feeling less and less like a new mom. I suppose it’s bittersweet.

When did you stop feeling like a new mom? Or does it ever stop?


52 thoughts on “When is a new mom not a new mom?”

  1. I think maybe when my second kid hit 1. I was finally comfortable with any and all issues. I mean, as far as outward appearance goes, I feel like I look like a pro. But there are days when they do something new that I still have marvel at them like a new mom.

  2. I don’t you ever stop feeling like a novice. Kids keep changing and we’re just struggling to adapt. As soon as you get the whole diaper thing down, it’s time to potty train. As soon as you advance to real food, they stage a food boycott. It’s just never ending.

  3. My kids are all teens (and one adult!) now, so I haven’t felt like a new Mom in a looooong time. But still, there are new experiences and new joys and new failures with every day that passes.

    And regarding the “wouldn’t go back there if you begged me”, there is a Receptionist in our office that has three daughters under 5 and I marvel at her ability to get them up in the mornings, take them to two different daycares and still arrive at work 20 minutes early every day. Then she goes home and does it all til bedtime. Three is full-time hard work (as is two or one or any number of children) before you factor in a career and a father who is frequently travelling. But it occurred to me the other day that I did all of that too, just a few years ago and IT WAS SO HARD! (that’s what she said…natch!)

    Wouldn’t go back there if you begged me or paid me or made me.

  4. I was thinking about this just yesterday. Sometimes I still feel like a new mom, just not a new mom of a newborn. I’ve never had a two-year-old before now. When Miss L is a teenager, that will be a first as well. I’m sure I will be just as incompetent a beginner at that as I was for every other phase she went through. Cheers to being a new mom forever!

    1. Oh, this is just about what I was going to say. There is always something new around the corner, something I am going to question my ability to do right as a parent, some situation in their little lives I will be unsure how to handle. But yeah, thank goodness I am not the new mom to a newborn anymore!

  5. Speaking as a Dad…

    The moment you realize that 99% of parenting is about avoiding the real screwups as best you can (don’t leave the kid on top of the car, though the kid may have pushed the food away once, do *not* assume she’s not hungry, he’s teetering at the top of the stairs…*get* him, things like that) AND you realize that they’re humans, inexperienced and perhaps inarticulate, but humans nevertheless, you become an old parent. And, as a Dad again, you realize that you *will* be wrong…(well, most of the time)…

    Of course, then one of ’em looks at you just right — and it’s brand new all over again.

  6. I think I stopped wheny youngest was about 2. That was about the time anything “baby” was suddenly super old, and I also no longer had ANY desire to engage in conversations about parenting (namely the CIO, diapering, breastfeeding talks that I formerly always had an opinion or experience to share). Now I just sit back and let the other new moms do the talking and I know everyone gets there (wherever “there” is for them) eventually.

    Even as I sat in a case meeting this morning discussing my son going to middle school next year, while its new to me, I felt at ease. We’re always learning but it all kind of works out. It’s hard to see that in the early (sleepless) years.


  7. My son is 17 years old and a senior in high school. I’m also currently 15 weeks pregnant.

    When I had my son, I didn’t even have dial-up internet access. We were also essentially broke. The guidelines for nearly everything were different. I had significantly fewer resources, hadn’t begun to think about some of the psychological, developmental, and social issues I think about today, and our family had one car in a non-walkable city. I brokeupwards of 75% of the current received wisdom in new mommy rules and my son is just fine.

    So that should give me comfort, right? Well, to some extent it does. And yet I still feel like I’m about to be a brand new mom, and I am alternately excited and terrified.

  8. Not sure why I post that website… I haven’t been there in so long!
    I would answer the question with NEVER! With a first born child you will always be a new mom. My oldest will be 21 in a few months and I still find myself entering new territory and constantly seeking advice from those who have already “been there, done that” We will have college graduation, masters degree, first home purchase, engagement, wedding, babies and the cycle begins all over again!!! All of the things that happen in stages whether newborn, 2, 5, 10, 16, or 21 yrs old haven’t changed the “new parent” feelings that continue throughout the years. My only advice is to enjoy the age they are… because before you know it… you’ve blinked and their 21 years old!

  9. Oh, I just had this moment at work this morning. A coworker and I were pregnant together this year, and actually ended up having our babies on the exact same day (her first baby, my third). Since our babies are the exact same age, and I get the feeling she has no other friends that are moms, she shares war stories and bounces ideas off me. As she gradually admitted that yes, her baby has been sleeping on his tummy the past few nights (aaah!) and he occasionally sleeps in their bed (whaaaaa?), I realized that to her, I may possibly have all the answers. I promptly dispelled the myth by telling her every baby is different, and there’s no controlling your baby; they control you. Since when did I become the baby authority?

  10. Hmmm. . .good question. I think it took me spitting out baby #3 (well, not literally spitting) to not feel so much like a new mom—I was more relaxed with him than any of the others. So, according to me, you just need to have one more and you’ll be a veteran! Ha!

    But, honestly: The End Of Diapers was a milestone that made me feel like I had survived something big. Though, there are plenty of times I still feel like a New Mom, especially as my oldest heads to tweendom.

    1. I was going to say something along these lines. My third baby just turned a year old and is walking, so I finally feel less of a newbie. He was born 4 years after his closest sibling, though, which put me back in the trenches for a few months! And, like many people have already said, just because they aren’t newborns anymore doesn’t mean there aren’t new things to experience!

  11. For me, I think it was when my second was born and she did everything the exact oppisite of her sister. That’s when I realized it’s all a toss up and you just have to go with it.

    1. THIS.

      I always say if you ever need to have your perfect parenting skills cut down to size, go and have a second baby.

      1. I was going to say this too. My kids were such polar opposites I decided I was obviously chilling and had it in the bag. Now? I have a Jr. Kindergartner and a “I.KNOW.EVERYTHING.tween” Lord help me I am not near where I thought I was!!

        Also? When people ask for advice I always tell them “if it feels right to you then it’s right” because my son broke every rule in the book and my daughter was a dream baby. I’ve lived it all.

  12. I realized this recently through facebook. When friends started posting every 20 seconds all those crazy obsessive comments about their first pregnancies/babies, it started to annoy me. Then I realized, whew, I’m not one of those moms anymore.

  13. When I had #2 the new mom smell wore off. I was a lot more relaxed and didn’t obsess over the same things I did with #1. I knew that he would eventually learn to sleep, walk, talk, and not use his pacifier. I was also happier with my choices, with #1 as soon as I made a choice I questioned myself, with #2 I was able to make a choice and move on. Now at his preschool, I meet the “new moms” and I see myself in them and I always try to make them feel good about their choices and tell them to be kind to themselves. I do wonder if I will feel like a new mom again once my kids get older and have no idea how to deal with middle school problems.

  14. Why do I always feel like it’s the ones with no kids who are the “experts”? I think I lost the new-mom smell sooner than later because I had two at once. Breathing? Check. He’s good.

  15. I was feeling pretty not-new mom this fall when my daughter started kindergarten, right up until about a month into kindergarten when I discovered that I was shockingly pregnant and have spent the past four months since then feeling like a first timer with a nearly six year old in tow. I can’t even remember half the stuff from before (which, in no way has compelled me to pick up half of one pregnancy book…gist: Lots of Don’ts and remember to eat broccoli … lots of broccoli). I really have no idea what it will be like when there is an ACTUAL BABY here EVERYDAY. I just can’ wrap my mind around it at all.

  16. I had this odd realization, when my kid’s pediatrician, pregnant with her first kid, said something to me that made it clear that she thought of me as an “old mom” because it is all different once you have your own.
    I felt like a new mom when H was little, like I hadn’t done it before. I felt like everything changed. We’re hitting our stride now, and I’m so relaxed. My breeze through my well child appointments in a way I never did with the first one. She broke me in right good.

  17. I think I echo the sentiments of many of the awesome intelligent women who have commented here–I don’t think it ever wears off. There is always something new and something I haven’t had to face. I always joke that my first didn’t prepare me to be a parent because he was so easy. But now that he is almost 6…not so easy.

    We will always have questions? When is it appropriate to have a sleep over? When is it okay for a kid to have a cell phone? When can my daughter wear make-up? When do you stop picking out their clothes for them? And the list goes on and on and on.

    But your advice is right–you have to do what feels right for your kid and for your family. My answers will not be yours and that is okay and that is what makes this community of mothers so amazing.

  18. I think we never stop being new at this. I’ve always thought I was at least 6 months behind any type of developmental stage that my son was going through. At least when he was an infant I could say I was only maybe a month or two behind the curve. My son is nearly 6 and I’ve only recently realized that he probably won’t choke to death if he chews gum. He’s been begging to chew gum for, oh, 2 years. Guess what his first night’s hanukah present is? That’s right, his very own pack of gum. Two of them, actually. (I was scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to come up with 8 night’s worth…) I see my friends with pre-teens and teenagers and think, wow, not ready for that, I just don’t know what I’ll do when I get there. But, I guess I’ll figure it out just like everybody else and like you say – just do what feels right.

  19. When I made the transition from physically exhausted to mentally exhausted. That’s when my “new mom smell” (love that) wore off.

  20. A few months ago I was out in our front yard, kind of milling about while my three (mostly clothed) sons were playing all around the house.

    We live on a beautiful tree-lined street, great for walking and running, and great for meeting neighbors and visiting. In the distance I could see two cute moms walking up the street towards our house and I thought to myself “I’ve been meaning to meet this girl and her sweet new baby! How fortuitous!” Ok I probably didn’t think that word exactly, but it’s highly possible that I at least though something like it.

    As they got closer I noticed one had a stroller and the other didn’t. And the stroller was one of those super-tricked-out jobs that I’d seen in New York when we were there for the marathon and I was pushing my newborn around in a sad, sad snap-n-go from the 90’s. And the one who didn’t have a stroller was a leggy blonde. And maybe 25? Maybe.

    I’m friendly and not ageist so I stuck my hand up and waved and said hello! Hello! And they just kept on walking. And I felt like Old Mother Hubbard with all of my children running around. And they looked like fresh new moms, totally hip and cute.

    So that’s when I stopped feeling like a (hip, cute) new mom. Though if I’m telling the truth, it probably happened when I woke up from the daze of having #2 on the heels of #1.

    But I never, ever pretend like I know the answer to anything for a new mom. Because I don’t. Like you, Liz, I have my opinions, and I’ll give them to you if you ask. But usually, I’m just trying to get it right more often than I get it wrong, and it’s a slim margin, believe me.

  21. When I saw a breastfeeding mom at a restaurant and I didn’t miss it. Not only that, I relished in seeing my independent eaters, sitting quietly across the table.

    Then I watched them implode over a broken crayon and wished I could stick a nipple in both their mouths…

    And I realized, again, that it’s only this moment, and the gut feeling and the best guess that any parent ever has. I immediately gave them a box of new crayons from my purse (Spoiling them rotten and ensuring they will never work for a g-d thing in their lives).

  22. I think in some way we are all new moms for each stage that each of our children is going through. My kids were similar in some ways, but very different in other ways. Doing what feels right was essential, because no two children are the same and no book can tell you how to mother that child the right way.

    At the same time, knowing myself and being confident in myself was essential too. There are things that I feel incredibly strongly about and if I had lacked confidence in those things, I would have felt judged and questioned myself at every turn.

    I find it sad when parents feel judged by the decisions of others, as if someone else making a different decision (especially if they had REASONS for that decision), means that they judge your choice to do it differently.

    1. I’m with you re judging. Recently I read this post on Babycenter by Jennifer Borget about mom guilt…and how one teeny mention of CIO derailed the entire comments into a big stinkin’ pile of judgment about sleep training. Gah.

      1. We don’t do CIO in our house and it ranks up there in the top 3 most important parenting decisions for me. I have very strong reasons for the choice that I made, in the same way that my vegetarian friends have very strong reasons for not eating meat. I’m not offended by their reasons for not eating meat (even though I could interpret it as me being a horrible, unfeeling, cold blooded murderer) and I hope (for their sake more than mine) that they could find a way to not be offended by my reasons for not doing CIO.

        1. I think it’s not about anyone offended by you “not” doing CIO (I would think the offense mostly lies on the other side, no?) – but more about respecting other’s choices, as you said yourself: I find it sad when parents feel judged by the decisions of others

          We can say “that was not the right choice for me” or we can say “you are a horrible parent for doing X.” I guess I’m just making the distinction clear.

          1. I agree.

            But it becomes a problem as soon as you add “because” to the end of “that was not the right choice for me”. Unless that “because” is something that only applies to your child (e.g. I do not feed him nuts because he has an allergy), it does get interpreted at “you are a horrible parent for doing X” if the other person isn’t confident enough in their own decisions.

            1. Not to get too off topic here, but it depends on how you phrase the becauses, right?

              “I didn’t do CIO because it wasn’t the right choice for us.”
              “I didn’t do CIO because I believe it’s irreparably harmful to the child.”

              And I’m not picking on you and your strong stance on sleep training Annie–but I think it’s fair if we’re having a discussion about how we hate that parents are judged for their choices, that we acknowledge that that should count more or less across the board, right?

              Once we say “because…” and the rest of that sentence implies “I’m a better parent than someone who makes a different choice” then we’re into the ugly.

            2. I think there is a lot of value in discussing the pros and cons of different parenting approaches and a simple “it was/wasn’t the right choice for us” doesn’t really add much to that conversation. But, to be fair, neither does “it’s irreparably harmful.”

              I think a more specific and nuanced conversation can be valuable if both parties are interested in having that conversation. I’ve learned (with time) that there is no value in having a conversation about CIO with someone who has already decided that is the right way to go. But there may be value in having that conversation with someone who is conflicted about it and unsure which direction to take.

            3. I’m all for open, thoughtful conversations and you’re always very good at those.
              I guess I’m just sensitive to “parents who make different choices” without very much exception.

            4. Okay…I’d be remiss if I didn’t quote this from you, Annie, about sleep training:

              I don’t think it is right. I think it is disrespectful and I think it has the potential to be harmful. That said, I have changed. I have realized that we all have limits as parents and that we will all do things, at some point in time, that have the potential to be damaging to our kids or to our relationship with our kids.

              It contradicts your original statement that “I find it sad when parents feel judged by the decisions of others.”

              That said, I do appreciate that you have convictions. I always have.

              And to get back on topic, one of the ways I know I’m not a “new parent” now, is because when I read things like this, it doesn’t make me question my own decisions anymore.

            5. Yes, I did write that.

              In the same post, I also said that when I lose my patience, I scream at my children. Yet, I do not feel judged by articles others have written that say that screaming at your children is disrespectful. I also feed my children processed food sometimes and do not feel judged by articles that say that it isn’t healthy.

              We all have limits and I don’t judge other parents for making decisions that are less than ideal because I know that parenting is hard and because I know that I too am not perfect.

              No parent is perfect. All of us make choices that are less than ideal sometimes. That doesn’t make us bad parents.

              That is what I mean by the original statement “I find it sad when parents feel judged by the decisions of others.” If you are confident that your decision was best for your family or that your decision was the best that you could do in the circumstances that you found yourself in, then unless someone is coming right out and saying “you are a bad mother” (which I know someone did on one of your older posts on the topic), then someone else’s reasons for doing/not doing [insert parenting issue here] shouldn’t matter.

            6. The difference is, you assume that my (we’ll call it “my” for now) choice was less than ideal. You equate it to screaming at my children. You believe it was done out of my own imperfections or weaknesses. But that in the end, you acknowledge that I (“I”) am still a good parent.

              I think to truly not judge, it means you must assume that my choice was well-researched, well considered, and done out of love with the goal of offering the best possible care to my children. Even if we (clearly) disagree that there are different ways to achieve that.

              In other words, there’s a huge difference between “You believe in sleep training because you are a good parent and want the best for your kids” and “you believe in sleep training and despite that, you are still a good parent who wants the best for your kids.”

              It’s just something to consider. And thanks for the discussion, truly.

  23. I realized after the birth of my second child. She was so entirely different than my son, who was born with colic and was quite sickly as an infant, then as he got older, he developed asthma, and multiple environmental and food allergies. My daughter was “luggage” compared to him – and I realized, hey, nothing is my fault. I think that’s key to feeling like a “seasoned parent” – that realization that yes, you do your best, but in the end, your kid is gonna be who he’s gonna be, and it’s just our job to guide them as best we can. And adapt. Continuously. 🙂

  24. When I could leave the kids alone in the house to run an errand. (That’s a whole level of freedom that the thrill has not worn off of yet.)

  25. As a mom, the things that made me defensive are the things that filled me with the most doubt and insecurity: sleep training, circumcision, vaccinations, etc. I read a helpful statement once (Liz, it was probably your mom!), “All the decisions you make as a mother are right. And all of them are wrong.” Now, even if we share different parenting styles, I feel most comfortable around smart, loving moms that admit, as you put it, “I don’t know what I’m doing either.”

    (A lot of interesting comments about this topic, but I just can’t get past the photo of THAT WIDDLE BAY BEE GURL!!! What?!!)

  26. As you know I have been away with my family, and in a desperate attempt to deal with my massive amount of unorganized thoughts since returning – I am catching up on reading blog posts that I missed.

    Anyway – this post and its comments are particularly interesting to me as a mom who has crossed over to the other side (tweens) and as someone who supposedly has a degree in all this stuff – child development etc (Me).

    As each stage ends and a new one begins in parenting, I always feel like a new mom. I mean – right now, I am presented with ‘real’ conversations on sex, boners, and drugs and alcohol…if that is not new, I don’t know what the f— is.

    I tend to agree with the comments…the 2nd child makes you feel not as new, but in reality – the 2nd kid is different so the same stage may be new.
    Bottom line – parenting along the continuum provides new challenges and emotions as we roll along – or try to seamlessly roll along.

    As for the embittered battle of moms judging moms — it is a cat fight that I choose not to participate in…especially since my choices and beliefs land me on the receiving end of it – often.
    At the very least, it has taught me that as moms, we make choices that fit right for us and we should never judge another mom because we are all new and just trying our best.
    In our extended family, we have a new baby = my cousins embrace certain decisions differently and I take pride in saying – “how would YOU as the mom like me to do this or that?” After all, it is not my baby and I certainly do not ask them how to chat boners with my tween.

    thanks for the fabulous discussion, Liz.

    1. Great points Rachel. I feel like I’m always learning…but that doesn’t make me feel like a new mom. New experiences are different than new motherhood to me, I suppose.

      But hey, ask me when my kids start getting that tween hormonal thing. (If I’m not on major anti-anxiety meds by then.)

  27. I love this post. I was just thinking about this other day. I was comparing my friends situation to mine, her youngest kid is the age of my oldest kid, and therefore our lives are a little different in terms of crying fits, hecticness, carpools, etc. Then I was thinking about my friend who is now pregnant with her first and I thought, wow, our lives will be so very different. At that moment it dawned on me. I am not yet a mom of tweeners but am certainly not a new mom and thought the adventures of public school and kindergarten are NEW to me, the bouts with fits and runny noses and sleep issues are old hat.

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  29. I stopped feeling like a “new mom” when people quit stopping me in stores and on the streets to tell me how cute the baby was. Once they are old enough to have a personality, and are no longer considered public property but are instead YOUR problem, you’re out of the honeymoon period, and no longer a new mom!

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