Motherhood is hard, especially for first-time Moms.
If you are finding yourself struggling to manage your time, stress, emotions, or personal growth — keep reading! I’ve compiled a list of some of the most helpful things that I’ve learned so far, and I hope the tips for surviving motherhood as a first-time mom help you, too. Solidarity, sister!
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Welcome to Motherhood, Mama Friend
Ah, motherhood. It is so many things and everything. It’s beautiful, amazing, and for some it’s literally a dream come true. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be equally challenging and confusing. And believe me, it is all those things and more!
Some days you will look in the mirror and think, “Dang — I’m totally rocking this motherhood thing!” And then the very next day you can look in the same mirror and wonder how you’re ever going to make it out alive.
This post is meant for you if you’re resonating with the latter.
We have all been there! Which is why I thought this post with 15 tips for surviving motherhood would be a great resource for you if you’re struggling to get by and are overwhelmed.
I want to meet you where you are — in the heart of the mess and the overwhelming struggle of figuring out how to be a kickbutt mom while not losing your mind at the same time.
Sometimes it’s all you can do to survive another day — and that’s okay!
Most of these tips have a common theme of managing your stress in a healthy way, because that’s what will get you out of this alive.
Are you ready to discover some real-life ways to ease the stress and overwhelm as a new mom? Keep reading, Mama Friend!
Psssttt…Wish you had a condensed version of the 15 tips for surviving motherhood as a new mom? Well, you can! I created a really pretty poster and affirmation cards, and even better — they’re all printable!
Be sure to subscribe to the email list using the form at the bottom to get them for free!
Tip #1 to Surviving Motherhood as a First-Time Mom: One Thing At a Time
Nothing more and nothing less, my dear.
Say this to yourself: I will take it one thing at a time.
Now get a little more specific for the little moments that feel like hell and determine what the “thing” usually is.
Is it one meal at a time? One dirty diaper a time? One doctor visit at a time? One hour at a time? One nap (or lack of) at a time?
One __ at a time.
You need to fill in the blank to fit your needs on a recurring basis — hourly, daily, weekly, monthly.
I know it’s easy to want or expect to be able to do everything and have everything under control ’round the clock, but you simply can’t. So whatever you have coming at you daily, you need to just stop yourself and commit to taking it as easy as you can.
Phrases for Overwhelmed Moms
Not to sound like a broken record, but repeat after me, okay?
When the baby is crying, I will take it one crying spell at a time.
When the baby and I are sick, I will take it one snotty tissue at a time.
When I am tired, I will take it one yawn at a time.
When the dishes and laundry are piling up, I will take it one dish and one load at a time.
When I am trying to incorporate more self-care into my life, I’ll take it one activity at a time.
When the days and nights are long, I will take it one hour at a time.
When I am losing my patience, I will take it one deep breath at a time.
When I am lost and confused, I will take it one question and feeling at a time.
Surviving motherhood when you are stressed and overwhelmed is about one thing: one step at a time.
Tip #2: Figure Out Your Needs, Claim Them, Own Them, and Declare Them
I had to figure this one out for myself and it took me a long time to do so.
Listen to me; you do not need to put your needs on the backburner.
Is much of your life going to be about your baby from here on out? Yes! And it should be!
Does that mean that you will never have needs of YOUR OWN and when you do, that they don’t deserve attention and tending to? NO!
I’ve said this time and time again after finally learning it myself — you cannot fill from an empty cup.
It is ultimately up to you to decide when your cup is empty and how you’re going to refill it.
Doing so will allow you to be happier, more balanced, more patient, and feel good — which leads to being a better parent and partner overall. Your family needs a happy mom. Your children need to see what self-love looks like so model it well, Mama!
You can do this by,
1. Figuring out your needs,
2. Claiming those needs,
3. Owning each and every one of them, and
4. Declaring them to those who share in the responsibility and are part of your support system.
Need even more tips for surviving motherhood by working on your personal growth and self-care? This in-depth guide to personal growth as a mom can help!
Tip #3: It’s Nice to Have a Village, But You Don’t Need One
And not everyone has one!
This is definitely not my way of telling you to turn down help and support, though. If you have a group of people that you trust and that support and help you — celebrate them and be thankful for each one!
If you do not have that village that everyone says you need, though — don’t sweat it.
While I did have some help with things like grocery shopping and always had my Sister-In-Law to talk to, my partner worked long hours and my family/friends weren’t able to visit much. And, honestly I was struggling hard-core with postpartum depression and was afraid to be around anyone for fear I’d break down and cry and not seem capable of caring for my son. Totally should have approached that differently, by the way.
I’ll be honest — it was incredibly lonely, especially since we didn’t have a vehicle made for snow and my son absolutely hated car rides, so I was stuck at home for what felt like an eternity.
Not everything got done, either. I’m only one person after all…as are you.
But you know what? My family is healthy, I have an incredible bond with my son, and we did okay with what we had. I got help and learned to cope with all of my feelings and the life changes, and I encourage you to do so, too.
It’s okay to just survive motherhood if surviving is all you can do for a season.
Tip #4: You Can’t Do or Have It All, So Choose Wisely
What’s most important to you?
I ask because you’re going to need the answer for yourself. If you try to do it all, there will come a point — especially if you’re on your own in this motherhood journey — where you’ll arrive at a crossroad and be overwhelmed. You will be confused, and you will be stuck spinning your wheels.
Why? Because up until this point, you haven’t established your priorities or your boundaries.
And believe me, when you are the sole caretaker for a little human (or more than one) 24/7, you will not only want to set priorities and boundaries, but they will be necessary for your well-being!
How to Set Priorities and Establish Boundaries As A New Mom
First things first — you need to decide for yourself and your family what the most important things are.
For example, I decided to stop stressing out about always having clothes sitting unfolded in baskets, and decided to enjoy time snuggling and holding my son instead. Attachment parenting is very important to us and he was (and still is) my very first priority.
Next, you need to set boundaries based off of your priorities– no matter how other people may take it.
Example: Because we practice attachment parenting (a future post, because I’m so proud of our journey…) and our son could not stand baby carriers, swings, bouncers, etc. of any kind, it was incredibly difficult for me to keep up on dishes and general tidying up after everyone — including my partner.
Long story short, my spouse and I had a discussion (okay, multiple discussions) about him being more proactive and helping me out around the house. It wasn’t easy, but I set boundaries on what I was willing to do and not do.
Will I do his laundry and do I understand he works hard? Absolutely, yes! But will I continue to beat myself up because the floors are scattered with his dirty clothes and I am too tired after having a baby to pick them up? Nope. That is his responsibility, and caring for both my son and my emotional well-being are priority over a tidy house. Therefore, I set boundaries around those things.
Your priorities will determine your boundaries, and both are necessary.
Tip #5: Give Yourself Grace
Ah, this one is a toughie. It’s probably my biggest struggle, being the planner and control-freak that I am.
It kind of goes off of point #4, because I know sometimes it just really needs to be imprinted in our minds that we should accept responsibility for only our top priorities — and nothing more.
Confession: I usually like to at least attempt to “do it all” and take care of every area of life. Cooking, cleaning, business, family time, exercise, blah, blah, blah…but I need to remember that’s simply not going to happen each and every day, and it has nothing to do with my capabilities, nor does it have any impact on my worth as a mother, wife, caretaker, dog mom, homemaker, or business owner.
Can you relate?
It’s honestly so easy to think that you should be getting everything done every day and if it’s not, then the world will somehow fall apart and it’s all our fault. At least, that’s how I feel when I get ahead of myself and don’t intentionally stop, breath, and allow myself to not be Wonder Woman for one dang day.
So, tip #5: give yourself permission to relax and give yourself grace.
Tip #6: You Need an Outlet
This one was a true life-changer, and I do not say that lightly.
As a brand new mom who stayed home 24/7 with her baby and who also struggled with postpartum depression, I needed something to look forward to and something that made my heart thump in excitement.
I know what you’re thinking, and yes — my son absolutely was and still is the light of my life and all that happy Mom stuff. But honestly, it’s just…different. My son may be the center of my universe, but I still need my own thing.
Are you feeling me on this one?
Because it is SO easy to lose yourself in motherhood (especially when those new mom hormones are rushing through your body). And I know that not every mom feels this way, and that’s okay. But it’s also okay to admit that you just need space and something for you.
If you feel like you need to remember a part of yourself pre-baby, or if you want to invent a totally new part of yourself post-baby — you need an outlet.
It doesn’t have to take up a ton of your time or require you to be alone. You don’t have to commit to it, either. You just need to be excited about it!
Tip #7 for Surviving Motherhood: Speak Up
This applies to everything from asking visitors to leave after a period of time, to telling your partner that you need a break, and everything else that you want to say but haven’t.
Fun fact: speaking up for myself is not something that comes naturally to me. I have always been the people-pleaser and bottled everything up until I simply couldn’t take it anymore.
Then one day I was thinking about how I’d want my son to handle situations like the ones I have been in, and it hit me like a big red brick in the face — I don’t want him to handle it like I do at all!
But our children model us, so we have to be good examples for them, right?
So, if you’re having trouble standing up for yours or your family’s needs, just imagine how you’d want your babe to manage the particular challenge when they’re older, and then copy whatever it is.
It’ll be hard, but speaking up for yourself is like a muscle — the more you use it, the stronger it becomes and the easier it is to exercise it.
Tip #8: It’s Okay to Not Love Motherhood All of The Time
One of my biggest tips for surviving motherhood as a new mom is this: do not expect to love motherhood every second of every day. Don’t even anticipate that you will even just simply enjoy it all the time.
Because the reality is that being a mom is hard. It will probably be the hardest and most challenging thing you’ve ever experienced, and this is real life, Mama Friend! And real life means struggles, and low-points in life, and it means not always loving something.
And you know what? It’s okay to not love motherhood every second of the day, because not loving motherhood does NOT correlate to your love for your child.
Quick example (because I LOVE my examples 🙂 ): You love money, right? (It’s okay — I do, too!) But do you always love having to make money? My guess is no, and neither do I. And yet, it doesn’t change the fact that we really love being able to buy food and being financially stable. The one doesn’t cancel the other one out.
Want another newsflash that will warm your heart and let you sigh of relief? There is not a single parent that does not occasionally need a break or gets completely overwhelmed with this crazy parenting thing.
The truth is that it’s normal to not love something all of the time, even being a mom. And it doesn’t make you a bad person or mother. It just means you’re human.
Tip #9: Take Care of Your Body and Health
When is the last time you had a well-rounded and healthy meal? Or, when is the last time you got some exercise in, if even just a quick walk?
Taking care of your body is SO important Mama Friend, especially right after having a baby!
What you put into and do with your body has so much to do with how you handle stress, how productive you are, and how you feel about and look at life.
You need to care for your body if you want to not just survive motherhood, but thrive in motherhood.
Some common things to look out for (especially postpartum) are:
Are you getting enough sleep or rest? (If you have a baby, probably not — which is normal. You are strong, hunny!) Are you allowing your body to recoup and heal? Or are you trying to get everything done and pushing your body too far, too soon?
This one is important! You do not want to push your body to the max.
Do you remember to eat and stay hydrated? You can’t expect your body to run flawlessly if you’re not fueling it properly.
How often are you moving your body? Obviously I don’t recommend exercising until you get the green light from your doctor, but staying active within your ability is an important tip for surviving motherhood. You can do this with quick walks, stretching, a Yoga ball, marching in place while doing dishes or folding laundry, dance parties with your kids, etc. Every bit helps! (If you just had your baby, make sure to run the idea by your doctor first and don’t overdue it!)
Tip #10: Nurture Yourself and Recharge Your Spirit
Considering the toll motherhood can take on a woman, I think this is one of the best tips to surviving motherhood. It’s not uncommon for your self-esteem to take a hit and your perspective to become a bit (or a lot) skewed when becoming a mom.
Life becomes very mundane, and you may need to feel “refreshed” every so often. Or if you’re like me, you need to recharge daily.
Which is why it’s so important to nurture yourself, and recharge your spirit!
This tip is very individual and you have to decide what’s best for you.
Some ideas to start with are,
- Have alone time
- Pick up a simple hobby
- Engage in something creative
- Explore your passions more
- Look into something that has piqued your interest
- Find something to laugh about
- Connect with your spouse
- Get dressed up
- Read affirmations or quotes
- Journal, and
- Act like a kid, be silly, and actively play with your child (my favorite!)
Tip #11: Cultivate Healthy Emotional Habits
Want to know another life-changer for me as both a mother and a person in general? Figuring out how to manage my emotions better!
By cultivating healthy emotional habits, you will handle stress better and honestly, what mom couldn’t use some help with that, right?!
If you find yourself being short-tempered, reacting to situations and other people’s actions instead of responding to them in a positive way, and your emotions tend to be all over the place (like mine…), it might be time to look at your emotional well-being.
So, what do healthy emotional habits look like?
- Saying yes to your needs
- Saying no when someone is crossing lines
- Enforcing personal boundaries
- Being intentional about how you respond to people and situations
- Choosing to respond instead of react
- Learning the love language of others and yourself
- Identifying your triggers and stressors and then managing them
- Being in tune with your body so you recognize when it is sending signals (like when you are being triggered)
- Practicing meditation and other calming activities
- Not taking everything personally
- Having empathy and understanding
- Asking for help when you need it (moms need help, and that’s okay!)
- Having gratitude
- Reflecting on how much you’ve grown and how far you’ve come in life
- Acceptance that everyone evolves and growth is never-ending, but that is exciting!
- Being aware of your emotions, self-talk, and your perspective
- Gaining emotional intelligence
- Realizing when it is time to do things differently
- Holding yourself responsible and accountable when it is due
- Being flexible and adaptable
- Being proactive
I know that the list above can seem daunting, especially if you struggle with the self-care and boundaries part of it. This is a great post that breaks down some ways that you can practice emotional self-care.
Tip #12: Learn How to Prevent and Manage Stress
Just like you need to know your needs, you also need to know (and accept) your limits and your triggers. This is one of those vital tips for surviving motherhood! It also goes off of Tip #11.
Having healthy emotional habits will ultimately lead to better stress management, which I think is pretty cool! 🙂
I know that stress management is a fairly popular topic, but I don’t think the management part is necessarily the starting point. You know what they say about prevention being worth more than a cure? Well, that applies to stress, too.
I’ll stop you right there, Mama Friend…
Yes, I am telling you to find ways to prevent the stress in your life!
And to be honest, this is one of the most useful tips for surviving motherhood that you could put into practice. If you don’t believe me, just try it!
Here are some simple ways to prevent stress as moms
Prevention is key to (almost) stress-free living.
- Know your limits and work with them instead of ignoring them
- Exercise and take care of your body
- Incorporate self-care into your daily life
- Nurture your soul
- Try some of the suggestions in tip #11
- Write down what you’re thankful for, even (and especially) when you’re not feeling very blessed
- Wait 24 hours (if it’s not an emergency) to bring something up to someone and examine how you feel after the initial feelings pass
- Set realistic expectations (more on that in tip #15)
- Streamline and automate what you can (grocery shopping, payments and bills, batch cooking and freezer meals, etc.)
- Have empathy and realize that you can’t control others, but you can control yourself
- Try journaling
- Practice mindfulness and intentional living
- Don’t compare
- Get a good life planner and utilize it
- Find ways to free up your time
- GET REST!
- Resist the urge to over-commit
- Stop trying to please people all of the time
- Establish and remind yourself of your priorities
- Remove yourself from situations that will push you to your limits
- Ask for help
- Do not participate in drama, negative discussions, or the like
- Surround yourself with peaceful and level-headed people
- Accept things as they are, and not what you want them to be
- Get professional help (therapist, counselor, coach, etc) for your biggest struggles
How to manage stress
Some stress is simply unavoidable so when it does arise, consider some of these tips:
- Understand emotional intelligence and leverage it (here’s a good article on it)
- Take care of yourself (I repeat it so often because it’s one of the important tips for surviving motherhood)
- Delegate tasks and share responsibilities like dishes and changing dirty diapers
- When you feel your boundaries are being pushed, walk away and pause so you can focus on breathing deeply and can gain perspective again
- Read affirmations or your favorite quotes — before, during, and after difficult situations
- Ask someone you trust how you’re handling everything — the answer may surprise and delight you! Or it may show you where you need to improve.
- Listen to music while you sing and dance your heart out
- Find healthy outlets and ways to decompress (sex can be great for this)
- Get a massage
- Find positive friendships with people who bring out your best self
- Change your environment (go for a walk, drive, or go somewhere totally new to feel refreshed)
- Create a clean and organized home that you enjoy being in
- Start a stress journal to do brain and feeling dumps in as needed
- Express your feelings to someone you trust (but do so respectfully, and try not to allow it to turn to a toxic conversation or habit)
- Reframe your thoughts and perspective
- Rethink and adjust your standards (for yourself and those in your life)
- Learn good time management
- Invest in good relationships
- Take care of your body and health
- Watch your diet (caffeine can have a direct relationship to mood swings. I know — I find it sad, too!)
- Commit to having fun and relaxing when needed (you need a break, Mama!)
Tip #13: Work Your Brain and Challenge It
It’s a known fact that Mom Brain is real! Being around your amazing baby all the time is great, but if you don’t do “adult” activities, sometimes your brain just tends to feel like mush.
Just like your body needs exercise and you need emotional self-care, your brain needs to be stimulated and “worked out.”
You can do some simple activities to work your brain every day, like:
- Disconnecting from TV and technology
- Learning a new skill
- Physical exercise
- Games that require you to problem solve, read, write, or do math
- Draw a map from memory
- Write and tell stories (you can do this one with your kids — a win-win!)
- Socialize and have adult conversations ( 🙂 )
- Switch up your routines and habits (brush your teeth with your left hand instead of your right hand, for example)
- Try brain training games and courses
Tip #14: Do Not Allow Yourself to Compare
The cliche is a cliche for a reason; comparison really is the thief of joy!
So get off of Instagram and Facebook and choose to live in the moment with your baby, because there is no such thing as perfect and you are exactly where you need to be in your journey.
If you need some help not comparing, try this exercise:
- If there is someone that you find yourself being jealous of or comparing yourself to, take note of it.
- Then examine your envy a little and ask yourself why you are jealous and comparing your life to theirs.
- Go a little farther after that and figure out if what you are comparing yourself or your life to is attainable.
- If it is, it could be an opportunity for growth! Explore it!
- If it’s not, then you need to accept it and choose to move on. Easier said than done, I know.
This tip can be applied to your baby, too. Most of moms probably don’t mean to compare our babies to other babies, but we all do whether we are aware of it or not.
It can be hard to accept the fact that you wake up every hour with your 6 month old while your friends baby has slept like a rock since they were a week old. (Trust me, I am fully aware of the struggle, girl.)
But comparison is something you need to get a grip on and get under control because it can become a nasty habit that ultimately alters your perspective and your attitude. Stop it early so it can’t grow into anything unhealthy!
Tip #15: Set and Maintain Your Expectations Realistically
I saved the best for last. Out of the 15 tips for surviving motherhood mentioned, this one is the one that I wish I had mastered from the beginning.
There are some things in life that you just can’t fully prepare for, especially being a mom. And the totally unrealistic expectations that people, TV shows, and books can set you up with do not help.
When my partner and I brought our son home, we were obviously aware that babies cry and need Mom 24/7, and they don’t always sleep the best. But holy crap, when you are actually living it, you come to realize pretty quick that your expectations may or may not have been realistic.
By the way, do you want to know one of the most useful and realistic tips for surviving motherhood that a surprisingly small number of people told us? Babies don’t actually sleep like, well…babies.
You will at one point or another become not just a mom, and not just a zombie, but a Mombie. I know, it sucks.
Back to my original point…
A life lesson that recently hit me like a big, red brick in my face…
Setting and maintaining realistic expectations is essential.
The truth is that some things are harder than they need to be simply because of our own expectations and standards.
This tip can be applied to literally every area of your life, not just the expectations put on your adorable (albeit sometimes sleepless and grumpy) baby.
So manage your expectations, Mama Friend. Because it’s possible that what you’re going through is normal but simply unexpected.
To Sum It All Up
I know I threw a lot of tips for surviving motherhood your way, so if you skimmed all the way through, I don’t blame you! You are already busy, right? 😉
So to quickly sum everything up, here is the condensed version of the 15 tips.
15 Tips for Surviving Motherhood as a New Mom
So there you have it! 15 of my favorite and real-life tips for surviving motherhood as a new mom!
Now it’s your turn! What are some of the most valuable tips you picked up in your journey in motherhood to making it out alive?
Share in the comments below!
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