Three Things I’ve Learned as a Mother
This is my 23rd Mother’s Day. I’m not one of those girls who always wanted to be a mother. Most of my childhood was spent helping to raise my younger siblings. I had things I wanted to do, places I wanted to see, things I expected to accomplish before I eventually became a mother. In my young mind, being a mother would always be secondary to whatever else I was doing.
Ahhh. What a silly girl I was! Why? Because here is the overriding truth of my life.
Are you ready for it? I LOVE BEING A MOM. Yes, I’m a blog author. I have a Bachelor’s degree in communication. I have been a paralegal and exported and impo
rted millions of dollars of goods around the world. I’ve been a disk jokey and a news reporter and I’ve designed and sold advertising. I’ve done lots of things in my life, but at the very core of my being, I am a Mom.
Most importantly, I love being a mom to MY kids. I have been so blessed to have them in my life. Every day, no matter how hard life has gotten, they have brought me such joy. For me, being a Mom is truly the greatest blessing of my life. Since I’ve been around the block a time or two in the old Motherhood, allow me to share with you some things I’ve learned as a Mom.
1. Enjoy the Tedium.
When you are deep in the trenches of diapers and bottles and nap times and temper tantrums and all the other “joys” of childhood, there are certain things that you do that just become tedious. They seem unimportant and can wear you out. For me, it was the bed time routine.
Retelling the story of Beauty and the Beast, complete with different voices and interspersed with as many songs as you can remember because your child fell in love with the movie but Disney has not yet released the songs or movie can get really old when done every single night for three months straight.
So can singing one hugely annoying, repetitive song that takes 5+ minutes to get through and kills multiple brain cells with each repetitious verse. Imagine singing it in the dark while you are on your hands and knees, crawling backwards out the door while singing softer and softer praying all the time that she won’t wake back up the second you close the door behind you. Let me assure you that six months of that gets very tedious.
When you have to read a story, wiggled noses, turned on the John Denver tape, paper clippped your kid in his blankets (lift their arms up above their head, pull the blankets up their arm pits and then putting their arms back down) for the kid in the lower bunk
and then stood on the edge of the lower bunk while you tried to sausage roll your kid into bed (tuck the blankets around him on both side) and then got all the Lovies (bear army) in place and made sure the DeeDee (favorite blanket) was draped lightly over their face all without falling off the bed and then, and only then, can you leave the room, well, that also get tedious and difficult to enjoy.
It can seem really difficult to enjoy those moments day in and day out. But, here is the truth. Those moments? They really are just moments. I used to get mad when older moms would tell me to enjoy them while they were young because they grow up so fast. I was constantly exhausted and sleep tortured and battling depression through most of my children’s early years. Sometimes, it felt like I’d be doing crazy bedtime routines and wading through toys and wiping sticky fingers forEVER. There was no light at the end of that tunnel or so it seemed and also no joy in those moments.
It really does go fast, though, and you don’t get those sweet, precious moments back. I wish I would have tried harder to enjoy it more then. You blink and he is no longer a sweet little boy who just wants to cling on to his mom. Before you know it, he is a giant teenager, towering over you and fully capable of spending large amounts of time out of your sight. Thankfully, mine is still sweet enough to try and let me recreate a photo for this blog.
ps. He had to scrunch way down to get his chin in the right spot. He’s nearly a full foot taller than me these days. Also, he was very happy to do this with me, he was just trying to get the same expression on his face as in the first picture.
I love it when my adult children still want to spend time with me and talk to me. I love being a part of their lives. Now that this tall guy is out of the house, I can’t tell you how much I wish that I had listened more attentively as he was recounting the intricate details of a great book he’d just read, or spent an hour or two longer with him playing Super Mario World, or just played another round of H-O-R-S-E in the backyard with him.
Even when you are tired and worn out, try to find the joy in those moments. Those little people are worth your joy and your effort and you will be able to look back and feel good about your time in the trenches.
2. “Motivation” Is A Skill Worth Learning.
By “motivation,” what I really mean is bribes. I tripped over this technique one day in late Spring when it was just me and the kids at home with a bag of leftover Easter jelly beans and a house that needed to be quickly cleaned before some friends came over.
What was born in that moment was a game. “Hey, Nate. How would you like to earn THREE green jelly beans? All you have to do is pick up all the trucks and get them back to your room.” Suddenly, picking up toys was never so much fun. To be properly used, this parenting technique comes with a bit of caution: Be VERY judicious about how you use this.
Kids are savvy negotiators that could break the mind of the hardest of criminal in their negotiating tactics. You MUST be careful. It didn’t take long for my kids to try to get more jelly beans or request their favorite color. I quickly learned to make the easiest jobs a one bean/You-Get-What-You-Get-And-You-Don’t-Have-A-Fit job while the least pleasant jobs went for more beans and in their favorite colors. Those jobs that were not done fast enough earned a black jelly bean penalty (no one likes them in my family).
I stumbled back upon this technique during the Girl Child’s teenage years. Her insatiable love of shoes “motivated” her into painting bathroom cabinets and doing other home improvement projects that had to be done before we could sell our house. It also may, or may not have helped her finish out her last few high school classes in order to graduate. My “motivation techniques” bought me an equal share in that particular diploma.
It’s a skill worth learning, but, again – don’t uses this technique for the minor stuff or it will lose its effectiveness. But, when used sparingly, it is a valuable parenting tool to have in your arsenal.
3. Time Matters
When I was starting out on this road of motherhood, the big buzz phrase making it’s way around was this: “Quality time spent with children is more important than quantity time.” This was a way of easing the hearts and minds of all the working mothers who were not able to be with their kids every minute of every day.
It was a load of crap. Well, let me clarify. I don’t believe that if you have to work to help provide for your family and you miss your child’s first steps that you have missed out on something precious. When you see your child’s first steps it’s one of life’s great moments. Regardless of whether those steps are the actual very first steps that child ever takes or are just the first steps you are seeing, it’s a special moment. Do NOT beat yourself up over those things.
Quality time does matter. Taking the time to do things together as a family is hugely valuable. Children need to feel connected to their families and shared memories are a great way to do that.
Epic trips to New York City,
and Nauvoo, Illinois
will always rank up there as some of our great family adventures, just to name a few. Less epic, but equal in building quality times are other family activities. Like fishing trips,
the annual trip to King’s Island,
hiking and camping trips,
holidays and birthdays and the like are things that create unity within a family. Those shared memories are vital to the health and strength of the family unit.
But equally important and less heralded are all the lesser moments. The quantity time. Those can not be ignored or disregarded as less important toward building a strong family and happy, well-adjusted kids.
Times when you are just spending time together for no real reason or when you are working together to accomplish a goal, or eating dinner together or hanging out watching a favorite TV show as a family are also so meaningful and important. Quantity time is just as important to your children as the quality time is. It is a rare child who is going to wish their parents spent less time with them.
Being a mother is hard. It’s not for wussies. It takes strength and courage and dedication and time. It means putting your needs last nearly all of the time. It means getting puked on and pooped on and squished in a bed not designed for so many people. It means sacrifice and patience and creativity and love and so many more things.
It means taking a stand and sticking to your guns and not backing down on the important things, because they are important. This is my Don’t Mess with Mom pose and all three of these boys know it well.
You have to be tough enough to handle the hard stuff that comes. Because it comes.
But the joy comes, too. One day, they write to you and tell you that they recognize how bratty they were to you and how much they respect and love you. It’s true. It happened to me just last week!
Those moments are sweet and wonderful and make this whole Mom thing so worthwhile.
At any rate, those are my pearls of wisdom. Try to enjoy the hard parts, be willing to bribe them when necessary and put in your time. Happy Mother’s Day and, if your mom is still around, tell her you love her and that you are sorry you were a bratty kid. Chances are she’s been waiting a while to hear that.
ps. Dear Mommy: I love you! Thank you for being such a wonderful mom to me. I know I was a brat but you loved me anyways. You are everything I hope to be and so much more. Happy Mother’s Day!