My son — my first child — the little person who first made me a mother, turns 10 this week.
I’m going to let that sink in.
(For me. I know you’re good, but whenever I think about it, it blows my mind and I have to put my head between my knees for a minute.)
For ten years, I have been a mom. I have had wonderful days and awful days.
(Looking back now, I’ve had wonderful weeks and awful weeks.)
But at least now, I can say that I have a little experience.
And so today, in honor of that kid who came out sunny side-up, ready to kick the world’s tush, I’d like to share a bit about what I’ve learned — about kids, about parenting, about being a mom and about growing up alongside your first-born:
1. We’re not all in this together
When my son was born, I was under the impression that I was joining a really great club: The Mommy Club. I figured everyone was just like me, and that we would all hold doors for each other, and give each other approving nods while nursing (or not!) in the coffee shop.
I didn’t know that there were mean and judgmental mommies, but there are, and they are no fun AT ALL.
I at least thought all my fellow hippie moms were universally nice.
What a shock it was to learn that people can be competitive over dish soap and diaper cream.
2. Some of us are totally in this together
I was incredibly lucky to bond with two moms during our pregnancies who are still amazing friends today (plus 1). Sometimes, I cling a little too tightly to them, I think, because they are such a lifeline. If you find friends like this, go ahead and get the matching tattoos, and say a prayer of thanks every day that they put up with you.
3. It’s hard not to worry
I can’t even find a way to quantify the amount of time I have spent worrying over stuff that turned out just fine. I know I’ve wasted days with my kids, and I hate that when I think about it too long.
But recently, I’ve started to realize that when you love someone as deeply as I love my kids, it’s almost impossible not to worry sometimes. So instead of beating myself up, I’m trying as best as I can to not fret over the small things. I try to live in the moment. I try to focus on gratitude and love.
4. Stress is the enemy of good parenting
(See above.) I like myself so much more as a calm mama. My husband and I are so much more on the same page when he isn’t stressed about work.
But the thing that is so hard about stress, is that often the more we think about trying to control it, the worse it gets. So instead of fretting about your stress level, make it a priority to take good care of yourself, so you can take care of everyone else.
It might feel sometimes like your mood dictates the mood of our home, and I know this is scary, but that’s probably because it does. (And that’s exactly why self-care is so vital.)
5. Choose compassion
Whenever you can, choose compassion for your kids.
There will be times, especially as your kids grow up, that you feel disrespected, or like you are maybe raising a little yahoo.
Do whatever it takes to not give in to reactive parenting.
I often tell my kids now that “I need a minute to think about that,” or “Mama needs a time-out.” Do I still explode? Do I still say things I wish I didn’t?
But I always make it a point to apologize and begin again with my kids. And I try every day to see them with my heart instead of my head. My heart is better at this stuff.
6. Don’t be so hard on yourself
There is always someone there willing to judge, so be kind to yourself.
I’m learning that when we expect perfection from ourselves, our kids see it, and begin to think that expecting perfection from people is normal and healthy.
When you are beating yourself up over something that will not matter in 5 days, 5 hours or 5 minutes, talk to yourself the way you would speak to your best friend.
7. Be a Rambo-Bambi
When you become a mom, you are at your very most vulnerable that you will ever be in your entire life.
It can be
a little terrifying.
I am going to tell you now, because I wish someone would have told me: It is ALWAYS OK to stand up for yourself and your child. Don’t expect anyone to come to your rescue. Life isn’t a Disney movie, but sometimes evil step-mothers are real.
The people who matter will get it if you over-react for a minute, and standing up for your rights and those of your child is a great way to weed-out the nutjobs.
8. If you feel like hiding, you need a break (and it’s OK to take one)
This is how my refrigerator and I became very good friends during 2005-2013.
Because I used to hide in the little nook between my fridge and counter and scarf chocolate when I was feeling overwhelmed.
Only in the past year have I learned that it’s OK to take breaks — that taking breaks make me a better mama. Again, be kind to yourself.
9. Write things down and take too many pictures.
10. Go ahead and forgive yourself
Right now, take a deep breath, and forgive yourself for the things that haven’t gone the way you wish they had.
Did you end up having a traumatic C-section? (Been there, Sister.)
Was breastfeeding hard? (Same!)
Did you yell last week? Do you really, really want a do-over?
Well here you go: By the power vested in me by the Internet, I now grant you the right to forgive yourself, OK?
Because here’s the very best part of this parenting thing: We get to begin again every day. Every single morning, we get the chance to try again to get it right.
I know there’s still a lot I have to learn about parenting. (The teen-age years are coming. God help me.)
But what I’ve garnered so far is that most of us spend these beautiful years worrying if we’re doing it right, instead of enjoying this time with our kids.
And so today, as I look at these awesome kids, my heart is filled with overwhelming gratitude that I get this opportunity to be their mom.
Am I doing it right?
I honestly don’t know.
But I’m doing it with love, and today that feels like more than enough.