A military mom shares the joys and challenges of being a new parent
Military moms experience some unique challenges as new parents
Being a new mom is a challenge no matter who you are or what your situation is. Delivering a child and then adapting to its demands takes a toll on the most stout-hearted among us. Now, imagine for a moment that exhaustion and loneliness amplified by being far away from family and friends. Imagine that your spouse is deployed for months at a time during that first year.
That’s the hurdles that moms face when their spouses are in the military. Needless to say, these tough mothers have learned a thing or two about navigating pregnancy and parenthood. Amanda Barnhardt, one of our favorite customers, is just such a mama. She’s been generous enough to offer some helpful advice that’s applicable to new parents of all stripes.
Amanda and her husband Matt, an IT tech in the Navy, were friends for nearly a decade before they got married. Now, Matt is about to head out on his first deployment, and Amanda is preparing to take on the responsibility for parenting solo.
“I am incredibly lucky to be able to stay home with our daughter,” Amanda says, “but it’s lonely, and it’s going to be even lonelier when he gets deployed and is gone for 6+ months. We have no family close by us, so it’s extremely hard. When I need a shower break, unless Matt is home, I don’t get one. Sometimes I’m eating lunch and breastfeeding at the same time because I really have no choice.”
Here’s Amanda’s top three tips for military families expecting a new baby, but this wisdom is just as true for any new mom.
Take advantage of parental leave ASAP
“First and foremost, make sure whoever is in the service takes the parental leave as soon as the baby is born. I had complications during our birth, and my husband being able to be there and 100% focused on me and our daughter is what I needed absolutely.”
Ask for help
“Second, ask for help if you can. I sometimes feel guilty because I’m a stay at home mom and don’t have a job, but being a mom, especially of a newborn, is a job, and it’s hard. So when your spouse gets home, ask them to help, to hold the baby so your body can get a little break, especially if you’re breastfeeding. You don’t realize how ‘touched out’ you get because of how much your baby needs you. Being able to set them in their swing or to let your partner hold them makes all the difference.
Being away from your support system and family is hard. You really become isolated when you have a baby, and even more so when you are a military spouse. Don’t be scared to ask for help and to even get someone to talk to. It will make you a better parent if you have the help and rest you need.”
Take naps often
“Nap as much as you can. The housework will and CAN wait. Trust me. I didn’t at first and regret it because then when 2 a.m. rolls around, we are both crying. Your body needs sleep. I used to work two jobs and thought I could handle doing dishes during one of her naps – I was wrong. Breastfeeding burns so many calories that your body can’t physically handle it without sleep.”
And, finally, remember to cherish those first moments. When asked what makes all the stress worthwhile, Amanda offered up an inspiring reminder of what makes those little bundles of joy so special.
“Honestly? It’s hearing her breathe a sigh of relief when I pick her up. Knowing that she doesn’t really know anything, but she knows I’m her safe space and if I’m holding her, things will be okay (what I imagine she’s thinking anyway). The cooing and smiling is incredible, but knowing that she feels safe and comfortable enough to relax and fall asleep on me is a high you can’t get anywhere else.”