There are some things I want you to know.
I read this amazing article recently, and I would like to emphasize and expound on it a bit with this post.
The adjustment from being a successful, young professional in a fast-paced business environment to staying alone with a baby all day is...challenging, to say the least. There are no more raises or promotions. No more thank-you emails or plaques for your office. No more adrenaline-pumping late nights, working on how best to win this or that customer over. Nope. Now it's you. And a baby. Staring at each other.
The thought that this would be a hard adjustment had briefly flickered in and out of my mind when I was pregnant. But frankly, it was always met with a "but I'll have a babyyyyyy" and the biggest heart-eyed emoji you've seen. So to say I was unprepared for the loneliness, the dullness, the bleary eyes, the thanklessness, is an understatement. You're living at the intersection of bored and relentlessly busy, lonely and never alone, and it's unlike anything you've ever done before.
I posted something about this on Twitter, and one user told me to avoid talking about how hard it is, lest I deter women from being stay-at-home moms. I'm doubling down on this assertion, however, by writing this post. It is easy to forget, in the naivety of newlywed-ness or early pregnancy that this wonderful, squishy newborn, this beautiful house we get to stay in (...all..day...) is our cross. Yes, the joys abound. But let's not lie and say it's easy. On the other hand, let's acknowledge that it's a cross, pick it up, and carry on.
So what I would say to that new mom is probably not what most of the self-help blogs on the internet would say. I'm not going to say "You're enough." because you're not, and nothing shows you this quicker than motherhood. I'm not going to say "Be sure not to lose yourself in this" because it is only in losing ourselves that we gain eternal life. I'm not going to say "Take time for yourself," because God wants all of you for Himself.
Of course, I don't mean to neglect yourself. I mean to forget yourself, and there's a huge difference between the two.
This is the cross that God has given you, right here and now, to get to Heaven. And love is the only thing that will drive you to fully nail yourself onto it. Don't waste this cross by complaining, by focusing on how to alleviate the suffering, by loudly proclaiming your suffering to anyone who will listen, by ignoring some of your duties in the name of "self care." My advice to you is to go all in.
To do this, you have to be growing in holiness. You have to be doing the rosary, mental prayer, spiritual reading, and staying close to the Sacraments, or guess what's going to happen? Your love will run dry. The flame will dwindle if you deprive it of oxygen. Love of God—even more than love for husband or baby because those things are rooted in love of God—is the only thing that's going to get you through this. Not a weekly escape from your duties by shopping or visiting the spa, not binging on reality TV shows, not venting, and no—not even being understood by your husband or friends. True charity is the only thing that will get you through this and allow you to embrace your cross.
Embracing your cross means embracing the sleepless nights; the mental exhaustion; the anxieties of having a sick baby; the monotony of dishes, laundry, and housekeeping; the work of keeping your house and yourself looking presentable; the working on chores while the sun is slowing sinking; the cleaning up stinky messes; the inconsolable screams; the hard parenting decisions that require gobs and gobs of fortitude; the staying home; the losing friends; the thankless days that slip away into thankless nights.
Of course, there are joys to be had in it all. It helps to stay organized. It helps to be prepared. It helps to have a housekeeping schedule. There are reprieves from the sufferings: little giggles, first rolls, first steps, first smiles.
But these honestly pale in comparison to the joy of embracing suffering: giving it a hug and welcoming it into the home of your heart, because it is the path that will lead you to Heaven's gates.
Everything, everything comes from God. If you love God, adore His divine will for your life. In the big moments and the small ones. In the happy and sad ones. This is the key to true joy. I'll end with a quote from St. Pio:
"Hasn't Our Lord promised that He is faithful and will not permit us ever to be overcome?...How can you believe otherwise, my sister? Isn't God far kinder than we could imagine? Isn't He more interested in our salvation than we are? How many times has He proved that to us?"