Exactly 7 years ago today, I became a mother.
Wait, what?! It’s only been 7 years?
How is that possible when such a huge part of my identity is being a mom? I have to strain my brain really hard to remember what life was like before becoming a mother…visions of me with my feet up on the couch, watching movies come to mind. There was also the marathon reading I did on lazy Sunday mornings. But I digress.
In the last 7 years I have learned more about myself than in the 29 other years I have lived. Definitely, hands-down, I have never been held up in front of a mirror like I have since becoming a mother. And it’s been awesome. Every bit of it. Because out of the challenging pregnancies, the post-partum issues, the hard work that comes with babies, then toddlers then children…I was re-born. Me. And all the things that were important to me, that I came here wanting to do and try and see and change, became known to me once more. This time I couldn’t squash my purpose. I couldn’t say I was too scared to do what I cared so deeply about. Because that’s not who I want to be for my children. And it’s not who I want my children to be.
If I were to pick 7 insights gained in 7 years, they would be:
1. No matter how much I swore this would never happen, it seems like too many times than I care to admit, when I open my mouth to speak to my children, my mother falls out. She just makes a lot more sense to me this time ’round.
2. There’s only one mother I judge severely – and that’s me. Other women can do all kinds of things, make all sorts of decisions around their children, and I likely won’t blink an eye. But heaven help me, if I decide that something I did or said was sub-par (against some ridiculous measuring stick). I consider this to be my cha-cha. I take one step forward – like when I take full advantage of a teachable moment – and then one step back when I shove more of my daughter’s artwork in the back of the closet rather than display it in coordinating frames on our walls, and then another step forward again when I put the baby down for a nap, fold a load of laundry, register my kids for soccer camp and schedule a play date. But hey, at least I’m dancing! Seriously, though, this is not fun and something I’m working on all the time.
3. I like my space. Motherhood doesn’t really afford that. Especially not when the kids are home and you are, too. I’m not sure if it’s my introversion or just another personality quirk, but I really like long periods of isolation – and silence. This was something I didn’t realize I needed until it no longer came easily to me. It’s not really like, oh I’d love a 20 minute soak in the tub. It’s more like, I’d love to not have to say anything out loud for like a day or two. There’s enough of a gap between child #2 and child #3 that I got to experience going away for the weekend and that came when child #2 was 18 months. Some days I hold on to that more tightly than others.
4. The moments when you catch yourself in your children’s actions are second to none. When my older daughter writes in her diary by lamplight before bed or when my son…um…when he…*pause* ok, he’s nothing like me. And when my baby girl…at 6 months old…ok, she doesn’t do much. Well, she sucks her thumb. Ok, but I didn’t suck my thumb. So, what I’m saying is, 1 out of 3 times when you see a reflection of you in your children, it rocks.
5. There is a special kind of frustration I had never experienced until becoming a mother. And also a fierce kind of love. The dichotomy can be exhausting and amazing and probably the greatest lesson I will ever undergo in this lifetime.
6. I’m still grossed out by certain bodily fluids, but I am 100% more likely now than before motherhood to catch these fluids in my bare hands before they make a mess on the floor. I NEVER thought I would ever do that.
7. I have worked with children since I was a pre-teen. Junior Beaver leader, then regular Beaver leader, then Scout leader, babysitter, autism interventionist and then speech-language pathologist for preschool and school-aged children. People said, “Oh you must be so patient to work with children.” And yes. Yes, I was. And then I had my first baby and out with the placenta, I delivered every last ounce of my patience. I don’t know where it went. To this day I have not been able to find it. Or rather, I should say, it comes and goes. I mean, I have calmly coaxed children off the walls from which they were bouncing. I have stood on my head and spat nickels from my mouth to get a child to make a sound correctly three times in a row. I have taken children camping into the woods where somebody peed in their sleeping bag and then woke up 20 other now scared, homesick boys and girls. Before motherhood I did it all with grace, and bucket loads of patience. But Lord help the person to whom the Lego I just stepped on belongs.
These are just a few things I have learned – mostly about myself – during my motherhood journey. What about you? What has being a parent taught you about the person you thought you knew best?