10 Lessons I have learned in the last 10 years about Life as a Mom
Good heavens this knowledge would have been significantly welcomed 10 years ago, but I’m ever so thankful I have learned some tough lessons that have made me a better mom. Perfect – no, better – yes.
1. You will never feel fully prepared no matter how hard you try.
I used to stress out over every tiny “what if” scenario to the point it almost paralyzed me. The anxiety with what might happen if I’m not close to the nearest hospital dedicated to children, ran out of the type of food I brought them, couldn’t control the germs around my little ones, to name a few. Then it grew into trying to set them up for success in school and in sports, always finding out things weren’t exactly as I wanted them to be. The sports teams weren’t fairly drafted, the teacher didn’t understand what we needed, and the like. I tried so hard in everything just to feel the sting of disappointment when it never quite worked out as I had hoped. I thought I was prepared for parenting but there was always something to show me I truly couldn’t have full preparation. Nothing can prepare you for the uncontrollable.
2. You will love your child with a love you never knew you had. This will be the one of the most incredible feelings and it will be one of the worst feelings. As you bond with and love your child, inevitably this strong love will cause you to have new instincts and new inner conflicts with how to handle the world. When things go well, you will burst with joy and happiness, when they don’t go so well, the pain will bring you to the edge of all the helplessness you could ever know and all of the fight you didn’t know you had. But it’s so worth it.
3. Doubt will always lurk over your shoulder. Am I making the best decision about school, the right sport, the right church, the right home expectations? Will they grow up and need therapy because of me, will they turn out as a productive member of society, will the world see what I see in them? Did I do enough, ask enough or too much of them? This list goes on. But you don’t have to let it bury you. You will make mistakes but your love covers a multitude of your mess-ups. Don’t allow those thoughts to paralyze you or mock you when you make a mistake. Mistakes will happen. But so will many triumphs.
You will have to fight conformity to be authentically you as their mom. Society has their own idea of what being a good mother looks like. So does your own mother, your neighbor, social media, your mother in law, and the lady at the store that doesn’t know you from Adam. They all have a place to speak their truth about parenting to you but at the end of the day you need to know that what lines up with your beliefs and your heart is what you need to do no matter how much it bucks the trend. Clearly, I don’t mean abuse, but when love is the driving factor, abuse won’t be involved. If you end up with a child who tells you that you are the strictest mother – it’s a compliment even if they don’t mean it to be. You may just have boundaries
You will see the world from a completely different set of eyes. Motherhood is humbling, it is overwhelming and it is eye opening. Those mothers you never noticed before looking exhausted and in slouchy clothing, the child fussing in line at the store that used to annoy you – you get these people now. You also have more compassion on all the other moms when you see them struggle. You start to understand that your way or the highway doesn’t apply as much as you thought it did. You pray for other mothers when their hearts break. You find yourself trying to understand how to help other mothers as they have need. You see others in a better, more loving way. You are a more loving human.
6. Expectations and assumptions will show you who is boss.
If you think for a second things will be a certain way because you willed it or that’s what it looks like in the Jones’s yard – you are in for a rude awakening. Life will hand you children with fragile needs, extra difficult circumstances that will make you feel like you are on an island. You will research and go to extreme lengths to make it all better. Sometimes it will help and sometimes it won’t. You will start to understand that just because you checked the boxes doesn’t mean you will have the easiest road. You may have to bury your child you never got to hold alive, or bury one that you did. You may have such significant special needs that the house in your mind with the dog and picket fence and healthy kids was thrown into the middle of the ocean. Your man may walk out on you and your kids or hurt you to the point of disrupting your family unit. You will have to mold and change and fight when reality of the imperfect is upon you. You will know life is no respecter of persons.
7. You will become a better cheerleader for the women around you.
Maybe in high school you couldn’t like some other girls because of their personalities – you didn’t want to spend time and energy pushing outside of your friend comfort zone. When you are a mom, the common thread of that title unites us like no other. Overlooking the differences and being unphased by them to the point of rooting on the mom who makes completely opposite school choices, disciplines differently (or not at all), manages to have fantastic birthday parties that are top pins on Pinterest – is all a major perk of being a mom. You wish your sister moms the absolute best. Always.
8. Home is the place your children learn how to handle the world.
Pre-school, elementary, middle and high school aren’t going to do it. Church can’t do it alone. Extra-curricular activities won’t instill it. Sure, these things can be fantastic that are preparing them for the world and they will thank you later. Be confident in you – that’s the best for you and your children but real-world learning needs to come from within. That’s mom and dad’s job. Conversations need to go both ways at home. A vulnerability with your children creates understanding and respectful bonds between you. You bring the world’s things into the home and put them under a microscope and discuss. You ask questions. You answer questions asked of you as honestly as possible. Tell them you screwed up. Apologize. Ask them for help. Respect their feelings. Explain when you put boundaries up. Fearing if I left it up to all the organizations and that wasn’t enough – I’d regret it. So far, I’m glad we communicate openly and often. If we don’t teach them our values, our morals and right and wrong based on our faith – the world will.
9. Instead of keeping them from failing – give them opportunities to fail.
This may sound harsh. Convince your child to try out for a school sport when you know they have a good chance of not making it. Don’t go to their middle school teacher and bail them out of Saturday school. Let them eat the jalapeño off the shelf while grocery shopping after you told them not to 10 times. My mostly non-verbal exclaims “hot” since this incident. Make them go to social events where they don’t know anyone. Push them – then be right there to carry them through the hard. Wipe their tears, give them hugs and lots of encouragement and praise for what they do well.
10. Be the best you.
Do the work. Figure out why you struggle where you struggle. Investigate your own behaviors. Seek help. Find ways to bring your soul to peace. Forgive people. Forgive yourself. Again, to both. Listen for God – He speaks to you quietly and you’ll miss Him if you aren’t in relationship with Him. If you aren’t in one – He’s calling you so please don’t ignore His ask to love you. I only increase being a better me by walking with Him. You can’t put your emotional or physical needs on the backburner for your kid’s sake. Everyone in your home will suffer. I became a much better mother as soon as I started on my journey dealing with unresolved issues. Only regret is I didn’t do it sooner. Do the work and watch you mom the best you can.