My biggest parenting struggles in the first 3 years of motherhood (and what helped me overcome them)

Raluca Loteanu October 13, 2017
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gentle sleep training

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Here is the truth: parenting is hard! But with every struggle that we overcome we have the chance to become better parents.

Some days ago I was looking through some old pictures of my son. Photos from when he was a little baby wearing cute outfits. Photos from his early toddlerhood when he was exploring every single drawer in the house. Or photos with him smiling happily in a middle of the living room, surrounded by a mess that he proudly created!

In all these moments, I was on the other side of the camera, watching him grow and accompanying him through all these little adventures.

And I thought about those first years of motherhood. The pictures captured so many special moments of his life. But they will never be able to capture all those feelings that Ive gone through behind the camera.

The first years of motherhood are full of emotions.

A child brings so much love and happiness! But being a new mom also brings a lot of doubts, worries, and struggles.

We talk so often about the joy and too little about the difficult moments! And sometimes this makes moms feel like they are alone in those struggles. That other moms are doing a great job and they are the only ones who have doubts or make mistakes.

This is why I decided to open my heart and share all the big struggles that I faced during the first 3 years of motherhood.

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I hope that my experience will make other moms feel that they are not alone.

Maybe you have faced the same struggles. Maybe you had the same doubts. Or maybe at some point, you also worried that you are not good enough as a mom. If so, I want you to know that I understand how it feels! And that for every single one of these challenges there are things that can help you!

First months

1. Breastfeeding

What I felt:

Ever since I was pregnant I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my baby. But I never imagined how difficult the beginning will be!

In the first two weeks, it hurt so much that I thought that I will not be able to do it anymore!parenting is hard

What helped:

One of my closest friends supported me during that period. She gave me advice and she had a lot of patience. And, most of all, she guided me in those difficult moments when I felt that I wanted to give up. I will always be grateful to her for this!

Helpful tips if you face the same struggle:

One of the most helpful resources is “Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding“. This book is packed with great tips about all the issues related to breastfeeding.

I know that reading a big book in the first weeks after birth is not easy! So another alternative is to contact a breastfeeding consultant. They offer personalized advice and can help you overcome the difficult moments.

2. Lack of sleep

What I felt:

A newborn inevitably brings sleepless nights! I knew that but the reality was a lot harder than what I imagined.

In the first weeks, I was totally exhausted and overwhelmed! I even thought that maybe I am doing something wrong and that I am the only one who finds it so difficult to take care of a baby.

What helped:

First of all, talking about my feelings helped a lot! Especially after other moms confirmed that I am not the only one feeling completely overwhelmed after having a baby! Actually, I think that all first-time moms feel this!

Another thing that was very helpful was to give up almost everything besides taking care of the baby (and myself). I was not cooking, not cleaning the house more than necessary, not even answering the phone when I was tired. My husband was a great support during that time.

I never used sleep training and I breastfed my son also during toddlerhood, so I woke up during every night for two years! Even after I returned to work when my son was 11 months old.

I always tried to compensate the interrupted night sleep by going to bed early or sleeping during nap time. And things got easier over time!parenting is hard

Helpful tips if you face the same struggle:

I think that there is no magic solution for the lack of sleep. At least not a gentle one.

But there are things that can help:

– You probably already heard the sleep when the baby sleepsadvice. And I know that this is not always possible!

But my advice would be to use the time when the child sleeps to do things that you like and not tasks. If possible, do something that recharges your energy. Take a nap, watch a movie series that you like, call a friend and chat.

– Try a baby carrier. I was in love with babywearing! Not only because it helped my son fall asleep in my arms without any effort on my part. But also because I was able to do tasks around the house with Bogdan in my arms when he was awake. This way I could use nap times to do things that I liked.

– Ask for help! If your husband, a friend, or a relative can help you during the day, dont miss that chance!

Let them help you and use that free time to get some rest. Even if they cannot help with taking care of the baby, maybe they can help you in other ways. (e.g. cooking, cleaning, going to the grocery store, doing the laundry)

If your childs sleep is a big issue that you struggle with, I recommend you to read the “Gentle Sleep Book” by Sarah Ockwell-Smith. This book offers gentle, no-tears sleep solutions that can help you get some rest during the night.

6 months – 1 year

3. Introducing the first solid foods

What I felt:

I’m sure that some moms will smile reading this thinking that introducing solid foods cannot be a real problem! In my case, the real issue was not the process itself but my stress about it.

Looking back I honestly cannot understand why I was so stressed! Our pediatrician gave us a chart with clear instructions and I felt that I needed to follow them. But I was spending an hour preparing Bogdan’s food and usually he was not really interested to try it.

This only made me more tired and frustrated, especially as I don’t like to cook every day!

What helped:

After almost two months when I stressed more than necessary about this, I gave up. I decided to ignore the chart and let my baby guide me. I tested different tastes and textures until I discovered what he liked the most.

And this worked great! Bogdan was very happy and curious to discover new foods. And I was glad and relaxed!

Helpful tips in case you face the same struggle:

I know that it’s a lot easier to say this than to actually do it but don’t stress about this! If your baby is healthy and happy, it really doesn’t matter what the food chart says!

If I would start this all over again, I would probably start with baby-led weaning. This method is focused on the child and I think that it would have been better for us! If you want to find out more details about it, here is a great book on this topic: Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods-and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater.parenting is hard

4. Returning to work

What I felt:

I knew from the start that when my son will be 11 months old I will return to work. But as that moment was approaching, I felt more and more worried!

Leaving my baby with someone else during the day was the most difficult thing to do! No matter how difficult the first months were, I loved every moment spent with my son! And the thought of staying away from him several hours a day was very hard to handle!

What helped:

I started to prepare this moment with several months in advance. I studied different child care options and I tried to find the best one for my son!

Also, I started the accommodation period one month before returning to work. I tried to make this change as gentle as possible for my son.

Emotionally, it was very difficult for me to accept this new stage in our life. But as soon as my son adapted to the change, I was more relaxed. And I even started to enjoy the fact that I was able to do my job again!

parenting is hard

Helpful tips if you face the same struggle:

Returning to work is difficult because the separation is hard for both you and the child. Here are some things that can help:

Take some time to search for the best childcare option. Knowing that your child will be in good hands during the day will help you be more relaxed about this change!

If possible, start the preparation with one month in advance. This will allow your child to have a slow and gentle accommodation period. And will tame some of the separation anxiety!

After work, focus on the child! This will help you reconnect with your child and will make this transition easier for both of you!

1-3 years

5. Dealing with tantrums

What I felt:

Toddlerhood brought us a lot of new experiences as parents! But it also brought the first tantrums!

I remember that the first tantrums caught me totally unprepared. So I even felt guilty that I wasnt able to prevent them!

What helped:

After the first tantrums, I started to read about how I can manage them in a gentle way. I discovered Laura Markhams book “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and it gave me the confidence I needed to deal with them in a gentle but firm way.

This doesnt mean that the tantrums ended! We still faced them, especially when we went through some important changes in our life. But the fact that I had a method to help me deal with them meant a lot!

Helpful tips in case you face the same struggle:

Learning about gentle parenting and positive discipline has made me a better mom. So I would recommend to any mom to try gentle methods because they really work!

Here are two articles where I wrote more about dealing with tantrums and strong emotions:

How to help young kids deal with strong emotions in a gentle way

What happens when we handle tantrums in a gentle way {+ printable tips}.

parenting is hard

6. Setting limits in a gentle way

What I felt:

I must admit that at first I was sometimes afraid to set limits. BecauseI wanted to be a gentle mom and the protests (or even tantrums) that followed after setting a limit were really discouraging. I felt like I wasnt able to manage some of the difficult moments. And they became frustrating for both of us!

What helped:

I was lucky that during the time when I struggled with setting limits I had the chance to attend a conference held by Tina Payne Bryson. She is the co-author of the book No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, a wonderful book about positive discipline.

She gave a lot of useful tips during the event. Then I read her book and it helped me understand how I can set limits in a loving and understanding way.

Helpful tips in case you face the same struggle:

If you struggle with setting limits and finding gentle ways to discipline your kids, I know how hard it is! But I also know that patience and gentleness can really help!

Here are two articles where I shared our method for setting limits and I wrote more about the hidden reasons behind those moments when we feel like we fail at setting limits:

This is the reason why sometimes setting limits with kids seems so hard.

7. Being calm

What I felt:

Before being a mom I never imagined that remaining calm can be so difficult! I considered myself a calm person but managing my emotions as a mom was a real struggle.

And it still is! I am continually trying to get better at this and I do my best to be gentle with my son even when I’m angry.

What helped:

The most helpful thing was to admit that I am the only one responsible for my reactions. No matter how my son behaves or how tired I am, it’s my job to manage my emotions.

So I made a commitment to work on this. To try to be a better mom every single day. To find ways to keep my strong emotions under control even when this seems very hard.

Being intentional about this and more aware of my feelings really made a difference! Being a calm mom is certainly an ongoing job but I am confident that I am on the right path!

Helpful tips in case you face the same struggle:

I was very happy when I found ways to learn to be a calm mom even when this doesn’t come naturally. So I am glad to share the tips that helped me, hoping that they will help other moms too!

You can find all the tips here:

What helped me become a calmer mom and be gentle with my child even if I’m angry

The lessons I’ve learned to prevent yelling at my child even if I’m really angry.

8. Finding a balance

What I felt:

This last struggle on my list is the one that followed me through all these years since I am a mom! There were moments when I felt that I have completely lost the balance in my life. That I no longer have time for me and my dreams. That I have sacrificed my relationship because I was too tired to be a loving wife.

And every time I did everything I could to find ways to regain my balance!

What helped:

In time I learned to put myself first from time to time. I understood that my child needs a happy mom and there is nothing wrong with prioritizing my needs!

So I started to focus more on me and to search for ways to combine my role as a mother with my own needs and dreams and with my role as a wife. It’s not easy but it is totally worthwhile!

Here are some of the things that helped me the most:

3 simple changes that make my mom life much happier

The one easy change that saved my relationship in the first years of motherhood.parenting is hard

Helpful tips in case you face the same struggle:

There is no easy way to find a balance in your life when you feel tired and overwhelmed! But there are things that can help!

The first step is to make a commitment to find those changed that can make you happier. Everyone defines happiness differently so there are no magic solutions that apply to everyone.

Here are some of the things that helped me and maybe they can be useful for you too:

5 tips for overwhelmed moms that made a difference in my life

How I find time for me (and work) as a stay-at-home mom

How to create a successful stay-at-home mom schedule {+printable planner}.


I am looking back at this list and this is certainly the longest post that I ever wrote! And probably the one that made me feel the most vulnerable.

But I truly hope that sharing my struggles and all the things that helped me will inspire other moms to find solutions for their struggles!

Motherhood comes with a lot of challenging moments! But it also rewards us with the most wonderful moments of our life! This is the thought that always helps me when I feel overwhelmed: that at the end of all those chaotic and exhausting days in my life there is that moment when I lay in bed near my son and he hugs me in the most lovely way. And that moment makes everything worthwhile!

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Here is the truth: parenting is hard! But with every struggle that we overcome we have the chance to become better parents. | Gentle parenting tips | Attachment parenting | Solutions for parenting struggles

photo credit: Evgeny Atamanenko / shutterstock.com
photo credit preview photo:  Tomsickova Tatyana / shutterstock.com

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Raluca Loteanu

If you find yourself on this blog I invite you to discover us as the happy family we are, who look with optimism and joy at life. If you want to contact me, you can find me on email, I gladly respond to each message.

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Comments (2 people commented this post)

  • avatar image

    Connie

    October 17, 2017 Reply
    I love this article! Preparation is soooooooooooo important! It would be so much harder for me and my husband if we didn't read Susan Urban's guides - ( we have read 2 guides: "how to teach a baby to fall asleep alone" and "how to make breastfeeding pleasant and easy" ) We got them on I think the author's website www.parental-love.com My midwife told me about this series of guidelines and I really recommend them - especially these 2 guides. Helped us so much!
  • avatar image

    Veronica Mitchell

    October 20, 2017 Reply
    Oh I feel you! Thanks for sharing all your experiences and tips on how to go through it. This post would sure be helpful for all first time mamas. Just hang on there, things will always get better! :)

Leave your comment

Comments (2 people commented this post)

  • avatar image

    Connie

    October 17, 2017 Reply
    I love this article! Preparation is soooooooooooo important! It would be so much harder for me and my husband if we didn't read Susan Urban's guides - ( we have read 2 guides: "how to teach a baby to fall asleep alone" and "how to make breastfeeding pleasant and easy" ) We got them on I think the author's website www.parental-love.com My midwife told me about this series of guidelines and I really recommend them - especially these 2 guides. Helped us so much!
  • avatar image

    Veronica Mitchell

    October 20, 2017 Reply
    Oh I feel you! Thanks for sharing all your experiences and tips on how to go through it. This post would sure be helpful for all first time mamas. Just hang on there, things will always get better! :)