learning to be new – another wise letter from jen lemen

Nov 9, 2010 | Life in Progress


(baby true, five weeks, 10 pounds!)


i can barely get on the phone these days, or email for that matter, but i’m learning that quick 5 or 10 minute conversations with my friends on the phone are working. we’re cutting to the chase. they ask how i’m doing, i tell the truth, and then we get on with it. they counsel me with good advice, humor, or a story about when they were a new mom. it’s all very very soothing and exactly what i need (thank god – otherwise, i imagine i’d feel utterly alone). it was during one of these quick conversations with jen that i spoke about my confidence – how it wavers in this new mama territory. some days i feel like only i can properly tend to baby true. other days i feel like i’m really lousy at all of this. some days i wonder if my heart will not feel so unprotected and open to the elements. other days i feel a million times stronger.

as jen often does, she told me just what i needed to hear and then she wrote it all down in a special guest post below. whether you are new at mamahood or something else entirely, her guest post today will reach you.

ps: jen recently launched her very own etsy shop so that we call all FINALLY get our hands on her artwork. i love how she tells us the back story – the confidence crisis, the fears, the vulnerabilities – that come with putting our artwork into the world. she is on a new journey too 🙂


My dear Kelly Rae,

As I write this, I am honestly exhausted, and I’m strangely comforted knowing that as a brand new mother, you probably are, too. Bringing newness into the world (whether it’s a new chapter of your life as in my case or a real live baby as in yours) takes energy and hard work–the kind that surprises you with how tired you got so fast, over seemingly nothing. Add the woes of having no idea what you’re doing and wondering if you’re the world’s first person who really cannot not manage this new thing you just brought into the world, and you can find yourself in a confidence crisis before you know it.

Here’s what I know about being new at something:

It’s not easy.
It’s scary.
It’s not really that fun.
It’s at the same time strangely thrilling.
It’s nerve-wracking.
It’s humbling.
It’s awe-inspiring.
It’s exciting.
It can make you feel dumb.
It does not last anywhere close to forever, even though it feels like it.

Being new, actually, when you think about it, is over much faster than you think.

These are the times when it is critical to put your measuring stick away. There is no gold standard for good behavior now. There is no established criteria for good mother or bad mother. There’s just the new and the not-so new. The exhausted and the tiny-bit-more-rested. The oh-I-get-it-now! and the i-just-can’t-get-this-yet.


When you are new, it’s absolutely critical to be kind to yourself, and to handle your psyche just as gently as you do your newborn baby. A brand new part of you just got born along with baby True and so you must handle that baby girl kindly, because she has needs, too. She has no idea why she just locked the keys in the car or why she is crying. All she knows is that she is doing the very best that she can, and that for now, someone needs to talk to her gently until she understands what she’s doing and who she is, is more than enough.

Your confidence will come, Kelly Rae, as you lay down all your internal measures and embrace what you are actually learning, moment by moment. Your confidence will grow as you draw–not on your sleep-deprived brain, but on the tenderness of your raw, unprotected heart.

Your heart knows where your real expertise lies. Your heart remembers all the things you’ve learned over so many years of loving with your heart wide open, no questions asked. This same heart that has carried you across miles and moved your paintbrush across canvases and said yes over and over again to what really matters–this is the heart that will guide you now while you’re so new. This is the heart that will help you see how much the love you have is already guiding you as you learn how to take care of True. You can trust this heart more than you know, and about simple things, too. Your heart really can show you what to do.


I am sending so much love your way. This is a hard time–learning how to be a beginner at doing something new. But it will take you places you never knew you wanted to go. You can trust the process to unfold and that you are learning, right this second, exactly what makes the most sense for you and John and True.

I love you so much and for what it’s worth, I have every confidence in you,


Sending much love,

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I’m Kelly Rae Roberts

Before I picked up my first paintbrush at the age of 30, I was a medical social worker. I followed my creative whispers, and today I’m an artist & Possibilitarian. I’m passionate about creating meaningful art and experiences that awaken and inspire our spirits.

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