Linda Fruits (aka @fruitsofmotherhood on TikTok and Instagram) is the author of the book, The Mom Life, which is an honest reflection on motherhood that shares a wholehearted reality check for new mothers looking to normalize the reality of parenthood amidst the funhouse mirrors of social media.
1. Taking time for yourself
I know this isn’t groundbreaking information, but it’s a reminder we all need from time to time. Even when I practice what I preach, I sometimes feel weird about skipping my kids’ bedtime routine to take care of my needs. Believe it or not, moms are not robots. We need breaks from everything—it’s the only way to rest and recharge.
Not only is taking time for yourself essential for your mental and physical well-being, but it helps you establish a support system—whether that’s family, friends or a paid babysitter. You’ll also figure out who you can trust to watch your kids and at the same time, your kids will learn that they can trust other adults too (a healthy life skill!).
2. Identifying when you feel mom guilt
The sneakiest of all “new mom feels” is mom guilt. Mom guilt makes you feel like you’re literally doing everything wrong as a mother. But if you are aware of it, then you’re already on your way to relieving it. It’s only when we identify our guilt that we’re able to change how we perceive it. Ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way?”
Do you feel guilty because you’re going against “societal norms?” Family expectations? Or your own expectations before you became a mother? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, you can shift your perspective away from that.
This is your unique motherhood journey, and you must be willing to bend—or eliminate completely—the rules you had in our head about motherhood before you became a mother.
Remind yourself you’re doing the best you can, and that this will look different for different moms, and that’s more than okay.
3. Feeding your kids dinosaur nuggets
Just because you’ve found yourself on #BentoBox Instagram doesn’t mean the way you feed your children is any less than great. I’ve put broccoli in front of my kids over one hundred times, and they still don’t like it (despite what the “child food gurus” on Instagram say).
We all have food preferences, so why do we expect our children to be any different? Maybe because the one-year-old who would eat anything you put in front of them turned into a two-year-old who will only eat dinosaur nuggets or buttered pasta. It’s going to be just fine, Mama.
The point is that food cannot be forced. Instead, we want our kids to establish healthy associations with food and to know when they are full or when they don’t like something. It’s also about learning to say “no” which is why I think so many parents get triggered at meals because their kids say “no.” It’s just not something that was allowed when we were kids.
The power of learning to say “no” means we will not be raising people-pleasers and pushovers; they will prioritize themselves and set healthy boundaries as adults.
So go ahead, feed your kids what they like and try new things when all of you are up for it.
4. Apologizing to your kids
If we must apologize to our kids, that means we probably did something wrong.
We all make mistakes; we’ll never be perfect and that’s more than okay. Apologizing to your kids can only improve your bond by validating their feelings. It also teaches them that making mistakes is okay as long as you take responsibility and try to learn from them.
Apologizing gives both of you permission to be human. It allows space for both of you to have your days. It increases self-awareness, conflict resolution skills, and decreases the idea that you (or your child) must be perfect to be worthy of love.
5. Letting your kids play independently
I know, it feels like you should be down on the ground engaging with them 24/7 playing all the princess dinosaur chronicles, and yet…there is another way.
Independent play fosters imagination and builds persistence and problem-solving skills. It teaches kids patience and resilience. It helps them learn about themselves and encourages calmness – all great things.
6. Missing your life before kids
I love daydreaming about the days before kids where I could just lay in bed all day long if I wanted to. Does that mean I love my children any less? Of course not.
People with uteruses were not created to just be mothers. We don’t say the same thing to fathers, do we?
Life was simpler before kids. We could leave at a moment’s notice, be as selfish as we wanted with our time and energy, and we cleaned up only the messes we made. These are things we can only truly appreciate once they’re no longer there.
We can miss our old life and love our new one. These things are not mutually exclusive. It's honest, and we love that for us.
7. Giving in
Giving in means we’re weak and failed, right? WRONG.
Giving in to our children could mean that we negotiated whether they were going to have five more minutes of TV, and consequently one fewer book before bedtime.
Giving in to our children could mean that we decided to choose our battles for the day, and this one was not worth fighting for.
Giving in to our children could mean that we are prioritizing our own needs.
Giving in is relative and all about perspective. No one is really losing or winning. Actually no one is even keeping score.
Giving in to your kids allows them to feel in control of their lives and develop great negotiation skills.
8. Letting your house be messy
Homes were meant to be lived in, especially when you have little kids. Unless your home is going to be featured in a decorating magazine sometime soon, sit down and put your feet up. If all you do is follow your children around, cleaning up the messes they make, are you living? Does that bring you joy? Do you have time for your friends and loved ones while doing so?
Yes, sometimes I clean my house for me. I need a fresh start and a clean slate for my mental clarity for the week. But from then on, my expectations lower significantly. Do you know why? Because I’m tired. Raising kids is no small feat, and I’m just going to skate by with what I can until the next cleaning day (which is also for my mental health).
The photos and videos we see on social media are not representative of real life; those moms pushed the clutter out of the way too – or maybe have more support than you. If no one can see in our homes 24/7, where else would this need for cleanliness stem from? From generations where men worked, and women took care of the home? Or is it all the stuff we see on social media? Even Marie Kondo has given up on tidying after kids!
If it means you get more rest, let it go. Your kids don’t care about the clutter, they will love you no less. It teaches them that they too don’t have to be perfect.
Let it be messy sometimes.
9. Talking about your struggles as a mother
I see toxic positivity all the time online about motherhood. Just because someone doesn’t struggle the same way you do doesn’t make your struggle any less valid.
Motherhood has been oversold, and in some ways, has underdelivered. There are so many people telling us to “love every moment,” “you’re going to miss this someday” or my favorite, “it’s the best thing you’ll ever do, having kids completes you.” I felt so alone when I thought I was the only one struggling as a new mom and couldn’t relate to any of these maxims. I love my children, but that doesn’t mean I love motherhood all the time. Becoming a mom can flip your life and everything you’ve ever known to be true upside down, so of course we need to talk about it.
Talking about your struggles doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful or that you don’t love your children. We talk about our struggles because it’s mentally beneficial to vocalize our feelings instead of holding them in. It’s healing and can lead to solutions. We don’t have to always grit our teeth and smile through it.