As of today, I have been a mother for three years. The time has flown by. I remember spending Mother’s Day 2014 very pregnant anticipating the birth of my daughter. Now I’ve had three years of experience and am very pregnant again!
Even though I’ve only experienced the newborn period through toddlerhood, I feel like I’ve learned a lot.
I’m sure that when my son arrives next month, I’ll learn even more about motherhood and parenting as I adjust to being a mother of two.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned in three years of motherhood.
Patience is the greatest virtue of all
Raising children requires a saint-like level of patience. Kids don’t understand time, they don’t care what you have to do and they aren’t bothered by something taking absolutely forever (as long as they are in control of it taking forever). You have to have a huge reserve of patience to get through the day with children.
I didn’t think of myself as an impatient person before I had children. I could stand waiting. I had some tolerance for uncertainty and I was able to keep it together when I got annoyed or aggravated with another adult.
I find that working on myself through meditation, journaling, and making time for self-care helps me have more patience and be a better parent. I also read articles and books about children’s brain development and the different stages they go through. It helps me to understand that my child’s behavior is normal and necessary and makes some of the struggles a bit easier to deal with.
You have to go with the flow
Trying to do too much or control too much is a recipe for disaster. You have to go with the flow and be comfortable changing your plans, canceling things or admitting that you can’t do it all. There are times when I forgo doing something because I want us to stay in our pajamas all day.
In the past, I might have felt guilty about this because other people would want us to do something else, but the longer I’m a mother, the less I care. If someone doesn’t understand that things change when you have kids then they either don’t have children yet or have forgotten what it was like.
You can’t do everything right
It’s not possible to do everything “right.” There are going to be times when you mess up. Sometimes you know you did something wrong, like lose your temper, and other times it’s a matter of opinion.
I am not a perfect parent. But I try really hard and have a good sense of self-awareness. I am open to criticism and commentary on what I’m doing. I don’t want to live in a bubble where I’m being told I’m “doing my best” if that’s not the case. I also don’t want to be critiqued for my choices when I believe they are in my child’s best interest. I’ve learned to graciously take the advice of my elders and other mothers, and use the bits that I like while ignoring the rest.
You can’t please everyone
Many people had children before you did. They have advice and opinions and want to share them with you. No matter how you choose to parent, someone will always be unhappy with what you choose. As a child’s parent, it’s up to you to decide what works for your child. That may be limited screen time, no sugar, using a ton of hand sanitizer or putting your child in daycare.
You have to find what makes you comfortable. I’m putting my daughter in preschool at three years old because I feel that’s best for her development and socialization. Other mothers feel they can offer the same benefits at home. Some mothers aren’t concerned about it at all. Everyone will make different choices and you won’t be able to make everyone happy. I choose to make my immediate family (husband, daughter, and myself) happy and not worry about the rest.
Be happy with your choices
When coming to a new stage, there are hundreds of resources you could use. There are people who think sleep training is evil while many moms let their child cry it out. There are others who sleep in a family bed until their children are teens. You find a method that works for you and go with it.
There’s always going to be another method that directly contradicts the method that you chose. This is pretty much true for everything – not just things in the parenting world. What matters is choosing something that feels right for your family. Although I am interested in writing about different methods and ways of doing things, I’m not that interested in talking about it in real life because I don’t want to sound judgmental or be judged. Whatever worked for you was the best choice for you and whatever worked for me was the best choice for me.
In the end, most kids seem to be roughly on the same developmental level by the time they are in school anyway.
Take time to enjoy your children
Raising children can be exhausting. It can feel like you’re not doing enough or that you’re doing too much. Make sure you take time to enjoy your children. Listen to them when they talk, engage in the things that interest them, and soak up the snuggles and cuddles.
I’ve made it a point to put down my computer, phone, book, laundry or whatever else I’m doing whenever my daughter wants my affection or attention. I know she won’t always want a snug or a smooch. These times are precious and I try my best to enjoy them as much as possible. I sing with her, dance with her, and try to make her day as special as I can. I encourage my husband to spend time alone with her when he gets home from work so that they can build their relationship. Everyone has told me that time flies and I know this is true, so I enjoy it as much as possible.
Parent with your “big idea” in mind
Life is a series of small moments. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and realize that you aren’t making progress towards your goals or that you aren’t living your ideal life. The most important thing that I’ve done as a mother so far is parent with my “big idea” in mind.
My big idea is that I want my children to think the world is a wonderful place. I want them to feel safe, happy, and cared for. I want them to believe that they can achieve their goals and that their parents will always be their biggest fans. I want them to think that there’s some magic out there and people are kind. I try to speak with my daughter with this in mind. I don’t want to project my fears onto her or raise her to be anxious about her future.
As long as I keep that in the front of my mind every day, I think I’m doing a pretty good job. I have a long way to go, but I know this is the most important journey of my life. And it is my greatest honor to be the mother to my child (soon to be children!).