Was I ever going to be a mom? That was a hard no for me.
I never daydreamed about a future of growing a round belly to carry life. Or swaying a baby to sleep or bouncing a toddler on my hip. I never imagined myself in a role where I was needed so completely and loved so profoundly.
The younger 20-something version of me shut this part down. Maybe it was the fascination of my time being mine. Or maybe it was the back-to-back loss of my brother and father. Or maybe the doctor who said it would never happen anyways.
Either way … not for me. Parenting? Pass.
But life has a way of shaking up what you think you know and turning it on its head. As two pink lines turned into blue onesies and doe-brown eyes, my response changed.
Was I ever going to be a mom? I couldn’t imagine myself as anything else.
Parenthood is the ultimate journey - not only in getting to know our children but in growing (and testing) ourselves, too. Here are 12 things I have learned as a mother - principles to live by.
1. I am qualified.
Took me a bit to believe this one. But I am. And so are you. The gig doesn’t come with a manual, which means we are the manual. I spent so much time on Dr. Google with my first, searching for answers to questions that usually started with “Is this normal when …” or “What do you do when …” that I overlooked the little whisper of intuition deep inside. We are all the exact parents our children need. Our children already know this, and it’s time for us to believe it, too.
2. It all starts with me.
This may be the biggest Einstein moment for me - my deepest revelation about parenting. Parenting isn’t just about raising small humans into adults, it is equally about reparenting the child inside of us. I have come to recognize that there is a little girl within me who cries out to be seen and heard, and she throws her biggest tantrums in the face of my children’s challenging behaviors. It isn’t about my boys and what they are doing, it is about the way I perceive what they are doing. And the things I struggle with the most now when parenting are the things I had to suppress within me when I was a child. Phew. Lots to chew on there.
3. Parenting is a relationship.
I used to think parenting was something parents did to their children, but I realize now that it is way more relational than that. There are a pair of wants, needs, desires, and perspectives here, not just mine. Just because one set belongs to a pint-sized human doesn’t mean that they are any less valid, worthy, or important. Younger in age doesn’t equate to an inferior human.
4. I will mess up.
Despite my best loving intentions, I am going to miss the mark a time or two (or a zillion). I am going to yell or say or do something I’d like to take back. That doesn’t make me a bad mom. But, because of this, I am going to get really good at making repairs. So, forget what you see on social - that is only part of the story. No one is perfect. No one.
5. Everything is temporary.
Ev-er-y-thing. Those sleep challenges where you feel like you’re reliving groundhog’s day … temporary. You will sleep again. How about those tricky milestones of power struggles, meltdowns, and tantrums? Also temporary. The sarcastic tween stage and the “I know it all” teen phase … temporary. Doesn’t mean these moments aren’t hard, they are, and they can feel like they stretch on for eternity. But, do you know what else is also temporary? Their littleness … the way they snuggle in your nook or say your name a million times (“mom … mom … mom”), the afternoons of play, the nights of laying with them until they fall asleep … there will be a last time for it all. And as one chapter closes, another will open, with its challenges and its blessings.
6. Sometimes it’s okay to lower the bar.
I had BIG ideas about how I would parent. No processed food. No screen time. No ugly cartoon tee shirts. But somewhere along the line, I realized that it was okay to lower the bar from time to time, to shift, to give in here and there, especially when in survival mode. Totally exhausted, run-down, depleted, overwhelmed, need a break - I mean, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to make it through. I always strive to do my best. Sometimes that’s a 10, and sometimes it is a two. I am no less a mom on my 10 days than I am on the days of a two.
7. The checkboxes aren’t as important as the connection.
I remember a little face looking back at me waiting for me to answer the question he had already asked 60 times, and legitimately, I didn’t hear him once. My mind was on the laundry, dinner, errands, how to juggle schedules, making the perfect birthday cupcakes … about a hundred other things, none of which included my child at that moment. Our children don’t care about our to-do list. They care about our presence. Time is precious. Don’t focus on those things you will forget about next week, and don’t let it create friction in your relationship. Focus it on what is important - the quality (not quantity) of time and connection with your child.
8. I don’t want obedient kids.
I used to think that I wanted kids who listened and did as I said. And while submission may be an easier parenting approach in the short game, it creates issues down the road. I want my children to be able to say no - to me, their peers, or anyone or anything that doesn’t align with their intuition. I don’t want to punish or control my kids to make them behave, listen, or comply. I want to raise children who think for themselves, follow their bliss, and aren’t scared to go against the grain.
9. Behavior serves as a function.
I used to think that my child was giving me a hard time anytime challenging behavior arose. At one point, that was like every three minutes. It was super frustrating and I started to resent the little human I loved so much. But then, I realized something pretty amazing. All behavior is communication. Under the meltdowns and tantrums was always an unmet need or lagging skill that was making it challenging for him to meet an expectation. Behavior is never the problem, it is the symptom. And when we solve the problem at its core, the behavior regulates itself.
10. Kids aren’t mini-adults.
Biologically, neurologically, and emotionally, our kids are kids, not adults. Most of the behaviors we label as defiant are actually development. Whining, fluctuating big emotions, impulsivity, not listening, hitting their sibling, lying, trouble sharing … all the things lead back to brain development. The part of their brain responsible for these high-level skills is immature and the part of the brain that tells them to fight, flight, or freeze is fully developed, so it only makes sense that they will use the tools they have. We are the adults with a fully formed brain and it is our role to teach, guide, and model for their developing one.
11. Emotional education is the bomb.
Want your kids to stop being little hotheads who run through the house like a bat out of hell? Want to connect with them and build an attachment where they feel safe, seen, and validated so that your toddler or teen lets you into their world? Want to promote academic success? Emotional education is where it’s at. Teach your kids how to notice, name, and manage what they feel, and model doing the same. It builds the foundation for everything.
12. I matter too.
In the 18 (plus) years where your world revolves around your kids, remember that you also matter. I love being a mom, and that is one of the biggest parts of me, but, it isn’t the only part. I still want to do a yoga class or take a walk alone. I still want to follow my career dreams. I still need my girlfriends. And I want to date my husband so I don’t forget how cool we really are together. There will be seasons for all of it. Release any pressure to do it right, and remember that self-care is a mindset. Pause to notice what you want and then give yourself what you need, no matter how big or small.
When we let it, parenting becomes the ultimate teacher. I have learned so much and am sure I have more yet to discover. Focus on where you are right now because the journey - not the end - is the magic.