I’ve only been a mom for four short years, yet in this time I have been rocked by more meaningful, difficult, and surprising life lessons than I ever have been. Becoming a mother has been a journey that has revealed to me my greatest weaknesses, my biggest fears, and my most daring dreams. I’m often completely astounded at how two little humans with no college degrees or “real world” experience have been the greatest teachers I have ever had. I have a feeling that my kids aren’t the only tiny gurus roaming around, but these are the best things I’ve learned (thus far) from my journey through the vast and somewhat challenging journey of motherhood:
Patience is something you practice, and you’ll fail daily at it. Kids are the greatest at revealing how little patience we really have, transforming the most level-headed person into a hurricane of frustration rather quickly. This isn’t a testimony to your lack of patience, but our children’s ability to push us past our mental and emotional limits multiple times a day. They keep us striving to become better, despite how challenging this becomes. Beating yourself up as your shortcomings appear doesn’t help your kids feel more loved, important, or smart. What helps them is when you just keep trying, despite having pet peeves or OCD. What counts is that you love yourself like you want others to love them. And also, everybody struggles with patience…because we are inherently slightly selfish creatures. We like our routine, we like things going as we plan, and kids aren’t about that jam.
It’s okay to find yourself wondering if you were always like this. You probably were, you just weren’t enduring a tantrum over a spiderweb or being asked the same question thirty times in a row. It’s all okay.
Go with the flow. Have you ever cared for a toddler? Then you’ll see what I mean when I say we are really just living moment to moment. My toddler can go from epic meltdown to snuggling with me to pretending he’s a firetruck in less than ten minutes. Just as superfluous is my almost toddler who can be obsessed with playing with my wallet in one moment, to wanting absolutely nothing to do with my wallet and being upset about his sock being on in 60 seconds flat. The tantrums we endure as mothers seem harsh and eternal (especially when both our kids are screaming at us at the same time), but these–like all moments–pass rather quickly. Instead of staying in the woes of the tantrums, just keep flowing with your kids. My kids have been marvelous at teaching me how little I actually live in the moment. Our responsibilities are huge as parents, and while we can’t throw them to the wind to stare at a butterfly for an hour, we can enjoy each moment and endure each moment knowing that it passes and that we are in it, no matter what.
The smallest things are the most important. Before you became a parent, you may have never thought about how amazing it is that babies actually learn how to use their hands to pick objects up. Yet when parenthood rolls along, you’ll find yourself smiling from ear to ear as you watch your baby find their feet, use a spoon, or speak in full sentences. I can have an actual conversation with my toddler now. Just as amazing is how the smallest moments in our lives can feel like the biggest, proudest moments as well. From hugging your child who tells you, “I love you,” for the first time, to enjoying a cup of coffee on the porch during the fall while the kids sleep in, little moments can fill our souls with love and joy. These moments exist all around us, all the time. It can be as simple as watching your child interact with another child for the first time and seeing the glimpse of curiosity in their eyes. It can be when they try sweet potatoes for the first time, shudder, and gag. It can be when their tiny hand reaches for yours while you’re watching TV, or your toddler tells you, “Don’t cry mommy, just breathe.” These moments matter, even though nobody else sees them or even knows about them. This is the substance of life.
We’re all in the same boat. It may be easy to compare yourself to moms who have the time, energy, and money to go on frequent date nights or do thirty minute workouts at home, at the end of the day we are all mothers. We all struggle with something. We all strive for something better. Our kids still infuriate us, and we still lay awake at night hoping, praying, and dreaming for their safety and well-being. Even celebrities who we think “have it all,” still struggle with a toddler who wants something they can’t have. When we compare ourselves to other moms, we open ourselves up to judgement that makes us feel small, weak, or like “bad moms”.
No mother knows what they are doing. We might have days where we feel like Mary Poppins, but we also all have days where suddenly everything our child liked yesterday sends them into a turbine of unhappiness.
Kids are a reason to dream big. When I had my first son, I realized that I had really given up on achieving something worthwhile in my life. I looked at him as he slept in my arms, and I told myself that I was going to show him that it’s possible to live a good life and love what you do. That determination has led me to an associates degree, several certifications, and the empowerment that I can continue to get my bachelor’s degree and I can have a fulfilling and soul providing career. It may feel impossible to climb out of poverty or seem scary to change your path. But kids are exactly the reason why we should dream big, follow our passions, and work even harder to create a life that we are proud of, with them. Kids learn more about life from what we do than what we say, so it’s important to “do” life with courage and passion.
The days are long, and the months are short. And sometimes, parenting can feel like a trapped piece of time that lingers forever. It may take courage to keep going at it, day after day. Yet here we are. My baby is almost 4, my second baby is working on 2, and I’m already four months pregnant. Didn’t I just find out I was pregnant with my first? Where did the time go? We can’t make it slow down, but we can soak up every good moment we have during the day and we can fill our days with remembrance instead of staying in survival mode. Don’t let life become a blur or work, bath time, and binge watching. Find balance and find clarity, because these days will surely pass and we will look back on them and wonder, “How did it go so quickly?” I plan to remember dancing in the rain, chocolate covered pudding faces, and eating fake ice cream my toddler pretend makes me until I am sick.
My kids are my gurus. They are the tiniest, most challenging people I’ve met. But they love me with a love that knows no bounds. They keep my standards high, and encourage me to forgive myself and others more completely. They have shown me the dark parts of myself that need work, and because of their love they have challenged me to face them. Most of all, kids are the greatest gifts to us all, reminding us that life isn’t as serious as we want to believe it is, and that life is still as magical and big as we used to see it as kids ourselves. With only their existence, children have the capacity to change lives for the better, and they often do.
Next time you feel like your kids are tiny goblins bent on destroying your life as you know it, take a moment to consider how exactly who they are is exactly what you need in your life to be a better person. And then, just like my toddler says, “just breathe.”