Lessons of Motherhood in 5 Years

Almost five years ago, I posted 5 lessons I had learned about motherhood in 5 months. Looking back, they were pretty simple lessons and not all that profound. I had a steep learning curve in a child like Zoey. But even then there is only so much about parenthood one can glean within the first 5 months. But these lessons were initial stepping stones in our journey together. I was so grateful for growth in my life-changing experience as a new mom. I still have a lot to learn, but I am now sharing what the past 5 years have taught me about motherhood. Let me know if you can relate to any of them!

My Top Five Lessons I Have Learned in Motherhood

5. Understanding the general timing of major milestones in my child’s life is helpful, but too much comparison can suck the joy out of the experience.  

There will never be another Zoey, or another David, or another Jacob as they each exist in our family. I definitely want to know when I should have cause for concern when it comes to their development and growth. However, if I am constantly comparing them, that information quickly mutates from knowledge to worry.  I become worried over when they crawl, how many words they are speaking, or how well they share with the kid next to them. It then becomes too easy to gloss over each individual’s characteristics that makes each one of them unique. And I worry that they aren’t like those around them.

In response to this lesson, there are many things about Jacob that I’ve stopped counting. I notice every day how much closer he gets to another tooth growing in, but I’ve stopped looking at the numbers. At first I thought I was being a typical mom of three kids, where the third one doesn’t have his baby calendar filled out nearly as much as the first and second kids. Granted, there probably is a bit of truth to that. I’m not as eager to jot down every new word and food this time around. But more than that, I’ve realized that, at least for me, comparing numbers sucks the joy from the experience for me. Yes, it is helpful to remember the general timeline when it comes to baby-proofing the house again. I appreciate having an idea of when to expect certain new skills to develop. But ultimately it doesn’t really matter if Jacob learned to crawl before or after David did. I was just as excited to witness each of them crawling for the first time, when they were each ready for the task on their own. To be in constant comparison mode is to stop appreciating them for who they are individually. Zoey had what I called a face-plant shuffle. Her head was on the ground for the first few months of crawling. I loved that David army-crawled for his first few weeks. I also love that Jacob’s movements looked more like a beached dolphin than a traditional crawl. They probably all crawled within a few weeks of each other, at around six months. But I gained no more joy in pausing those memories to try to calculate which one crawled first. So I’ve stopped doing that lately.      

4. I stress too much and kids are resilient. 

My youngest especially has a recovery time of about 2 seconds when something bad happens. Even my complex 5 year old has finished crying after about 5 minutes, regardless of the severity of the offence. I recognize that not every child has this sort of temperament, but I have learned that I am upset about something far longer than my kids ever are. Some times I need to just get over it. For example, if my son pulls my hair, he has a rough hour ahead of him while I think about how I am ruining my son for the girls in his class, possible girlfriends, and maybe even his potential wife by not getting a handle on his bad habit of pulling hair. However, if he pulls Zoey’s hair, she will scream, push him away, and two minutes later they will be playing together again as best friends. She’s a much better friend than I am.

3. Poop stinks. 

Like really really really badly. I can’t stand the smell of poop. Anyone who has used Miralax or Senna to help regulate digestion issues on a regular basis can feel my pain. I’ve have grown to the point of detecting poop within seconds of entering a room, usually my kids’ bedroom. My tolerance of poop has had to grow as my kids get older. There just isn’t any other option if we are going to keep them under the same roof. As they get bigger, the smells grow too. God forbid that it would all travel directly into the toilet. So lately I have become much more efficient and consistent with cleaning. Just make the poop smell go away.

2. Control is an illusion. My current plan is containment and consistent consequences. 

I can’t control every time that my kids decide running or skipping is their preferred method of travel. For their safety and my sanity, I have consistent boundaries in place around our yard that they are not allowed to run beyond. If boundaries are crossed, consequences are met. This is also reasonable preparation for adult living, where we are permitted to do many things, but there are consequences to every action.

and the number one thing I have learned over the past five years…

1. My time with my kids is most enjoyed when I allow myself space to grow with them.

 Here’s what I mean. It takes a certain level of tenacity and grit as a new mom to walk through pregnancy, labor, and delivery. I think most of us know beforehand that a we need to work to a certain level in order to contain, grow, and release a healthy human. What I have continued to learn is that the work and growth can’t stop at delivery. This includes both baby and mom. If we allow ourselves to flourish as moms in our understanding of, our knowledge of, and our patience with our child(ren) as they grow, our experience is so much more enjoyable because they better equip us for the next phase. My biggest failures and causes of depression have been when I assume that what has worked before is going to work now.

Our kids are constantly growing and changing. We need to allow ourselves the time and space to respond to each phase and decide how we can best meet each of their changing needs. Whether we stay at home all day, or spend spare hours as we can after working, our parenting skills need time and space to grow if we are going to continue enjoying our ever-changing kids. It’s hard to appreciate the strong will of a two-year old when we have a newborn mentality. Likewise, it’s hard to appreciate the independence of a five-year old when we are still reminiscing of how sweet she was when she let us dress her up every day. Moms are born the day their children are born, and I need to grow in my parenting as my children continue to grow. This doesn’t just make me a better mom, it makes me a happier mom.

Let’s Wrap it Up

Most days I love being a mom, and most evenings I can’t wait for bedtime. That’s just the way it is. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be a perfect mom, as much as I might have wanted it in the beginning. I am content to do the best I can with what I know, to continue learning, and to try to forgive myself as often as my kids forgive me. Life is good when we can remember to live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Labor of Love by Point of Grace

This song really resonated with me when I first heard it, which was back during our first Christmas with Zoey. As someone who was raised in the church, it is easy for me to hyper-spiritualize the story of the night Jesus was born. But perhaps the biggest point of the Christian celebration of Christmas is that Christ became human. The Almighty, a supernatural being, and his human mother, a young Jewish teen named Mary, both submitted themselves to the realities of an unassisted human labor and delivery in a barn. That means a lot more to me now as a mom. I can’t imagine that Mary’s birth plan matched her birth story either. For that matter, she probably had to throw quite a few parenting magazines and opinions out the window as she, her carpenter newlywed named Joseph, and their Savior/son Jesus were each daily confronted with the limitations of a dysfunctional human family. Somehow this is an incredibly encouraging thought for me. God is with us. He designed us, he fully understands our frustrations, and he continues to love us unconditionally.
Labor of Love by Point of Grace

I’m a Mom

How is it that these tiny beings are capable of generating within us such extremely gratifying, exhausting, conflicting emotions? For roughly 40 weeks we experience realities of soreness, nausea, shortness of breath, and an overload of mucus. In the midst of sweet butterfly kicks we quickly learn just where our ribs are located. We hear the galloping of little heartbeats, which help us to wade through seas of pillows and comforters that never seem to quite make that back pain go away. We hear, “Just wait until you see him or her.” But the reality is that these are just the precluding phrases in an entire chapter of early motherhood.

Daily we find hilarious moments of great joy, immediately followed by fear, pain, and exasperation. It’s hard to know whether exhaustion comes more from the turbulence of newly awakened emotions, or the sheer weight of carrying, raising, and training these tiny versions of ourselves. And somehow, in the passing of long days and short years, we find ourselves wanting to start this crazy journey all over again with another tiny life. Somewhere in the highs and lows we have found a calling while stretching ourselves to the limits. In the process, we find new identity. Although we remain ourselves at the core, we are somehow more having learned of these emotions, these lessons, and these children.

The great complexities of this entire experience are oversimplified in the self-defining phrase that means the most to those who personally relate: I’m a mom.

    5 lessons learned during my first 5 months of motherhood

    1) Love isn’t just about drying tears and wiping noses.  It’s about picking them up and holding them until you know why the tears were there to begin with.

    2) Doctors can be very helpful, but no one knows your child like you.  Also, there is ALWAYS hope, whether anyone else sees it or not.

    3) Schedules are great, but unexpected challenges in the day are more fun and more memorable.  Conveniently both happen simultaneously.

    4) Everyone in your house has a breaking point.  You will find them all.  Try to manage it so that at least one person is sane at all times.  It’s sad when you find that the most patient one is the dog.

    5) The most fun word to teach that expresses frustration: RAWR!