From One Mom to Another: What I Wish I Knew
We’ve all read the well-meaning posts about motherhood. How we should cherish the moments. Lean into the tantrums. Focus on the years, because they’re short. Drink more coffee. Do more yoga. Take more photos.
This is not that post.
Nearly 15 years ago, I became a mom for the first time. Fast forward and now I have six kids. Am I an expert? Hardly. I do, however, know how to nurse a baby, scold a preschooler, set up a stomp rocket for the elementary kid, work a math problem for the middle schooler, cook dinner and yell at the teenager to get off the computer – all at the same time. That should be an Olympic sport.
No, this is the letter I wish someone would’ve given me all those years ago. I probably wouldn’t have read it as the Gospel truth, but perhaps a few nuggets might’ve stuck. I’m living this motherhood gig with few regrets, as should you. But, to all the new moms out there, this one’s for you, dear.
Dear New Mama,
Let’s get a few things out on the table. No need skirting around the elephant. You’re tired, you’re squishy in the middle, you are in love (or not yet) with your baby and the last thing you want to do is have sex with your husband.
People will tell you that these days, they are long. But the years, they are short! You will want to punch them. You have my permission. Many years ago I became a mom for the first time, and because I’m a glutton for punishment (kidding), I’ve had six babies. That right there should be proof that motherhood won’t kill you. I did not, however, say anything about it sparing you from wrinkles, gray hair and having to get new underwear after you sneeze.
These are the practical things I wish I’d known about being a mom.
Don’t buy new Lego sets. For real. It’s a conspiracy, like the hot dog and bun people. Just buy a box of them at a garage sale, put it in someone else’s Lego box and tell your kids to “be creative.” They only build that fancy set from the stores one time, then they disassemble it and spend the next 10 years trying to recreate it. Only to have you step on the pieces 1,562 times. Ask me how I know.
Skip organized extracurriculars for longer than you think you should. When my sweet girls turned two, I immediately enrolled them in dance class. Save yourself the gas, the expense and the tears come recital day by just buying them a tutu from Costco and taking photos in your living room of them dancing to 80s on 8. More entertaining, way less expensive. The same goes for organized and select sports. If you have a backyard or a playground, go there. It’s free and also? It’s enough.
No one has parenthood figured out. You know that mom who brags about how good her kids sleep? Or, the one who says she never has to help her kids with their homework? I have three words: hills and valleys. That’s pretty much the secret to parenthood. Some days you win at the parenthood gig. Your kids are kind and helpful, gracious and joyful. Those are the days you post on social media. Most days, you’re just figuring out how to get back to the hills kind of days from the valleys. But, I will tell you that’s where the work of parenthood happens. In the trenches. My best advice? Find a parenting buddy. Hopefully both of you won’t be in the valley at the same time. But if you are? Buy wine. And drink it.
Avoid getting sucked into the parenting fad of the month club. If you really want to get someone riled up, just ask their opinion on medicating, feeding, schooling, vaccinating, breastfeeding or diapering their child – and then tell them they’re wrong. We all read something on Facebook and suddenly we have our MD. Different strokes, different folks. What’s worked for our family won’t work for everyone. Your way won’t work for everyone either. Chances are, I might even (gasp) change my mind about some of those things. All that leads to this…
Believe in what you’re doing. Believe that the way you’re choosing to parent is the right way. For you. Some of our kids come out with special needs and some develop them later on. Some kids are Yale-bound, others struggle with learning disabilities. Some have addictions. Some have accolades. It’s a crap shoot, really. None of us know when we spin the kid lottery wheel what we’ll get. But I can tell you this, we all get a winner. It’s how you choose to view it, that matters.
Organization matters and kids should fail more than we let them. Does this even need more explanation? Decrease your blood pressure by leaving your car keys and cell phone in the same place (or, if you can’t, offer your kids $1 to find them!). And, let your kids fail more than you think you should. Natural consequences teach great lessons.
Rather than losing yourself in your kid, discover who you were meant to be. With each baby, I’ve learned more about myself than I thought possible. The thing about having kids is they change you – either you become more self-centered, more neurotic OR you become more self less and more grateful. I think this process of giving up control happens every morning at 6am, when someone taps on my arm because of a toilet-accident, a kitchen-accident or a sibling argument. Hey, life in a big family. I believe it was St. Catherine of Siena that said it best, “If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze.” You have a life, better get to living it.
Welcome to your most exhilarating journey – motherhood.
How fun it is to wake up to a post from you! And this one is great. 🙂
“Some days you win at the parenthood gig. Your kids are kind and helpful, gracious and joyful. Those are the days you post on social media.”
So so so true! There are days when my toddler amazes me, and loves on me, and hugs me and kisses me. And then just the next day she only wants daddy, or grandma, or her stuffed animals and I’m chopped liver.
This is such nice advice to hear 3 weeks before I’m due with my next baby. Thank you!
I’ve been quietly reading (stalking) your blog for a while now and love everything, but this really resonated with me as I sit with my first little one kicking me from the inside at 21 weeks. There is so much out there to read on what’s best and how you should do this parenting thing that it can be super overwhelming, so having the real, down and dirty advice from someone who’s been through it multiple times is so refreshing and appreciated!
I love my silent readers (thank you so much for commenting, now, though!). Many, many congratulations on the baby in utero. What an adventure you have in store. Just remember, when someone wants to help after the baby is born, your answer is YES. Happy you’re here!
Great post on parenting reality! I am the mother of 4 ages; 14-18 and how I wish I would have relaxed and smelled the roses when they were smaller. What we think is a big deal at the time you realize (later) not a big deal! Enjoy those babies when they are little and when they are BIG! Can I share this on my wall?
Of course you can, Kim! Yep, all the “big deals” usually just end up being lots of laughter later.
Just 3 weeks away from my due date with baby #3, and yes, these are great nuggets of information from an experienced mom to ANY mom out there! And you are right. No one has this figured out. I do think having a support system (and the answer is always yes when someone wants to help with a new baby) is the best thing to have. And if your support system happens to be a gem of a post on the internet – be sure to pin it.
Thanks for the words of wisdom this morning!
Oh my gosh! THank you so much for giving me permission to forego the Lego phase; albeit 15 fallen apart Lego sets sitting in a large tote, later! Ha! Maybe someone reading your post will buy them at our next rummage sale!! Great letter, especially that self-discovery piece; took me three kiddos to lean into that one!
I’m pretty sure Legos are going to be the death of me. Or at least my feet.
This is gold friend! Hills and valleys indeed!
As the mother of two (both adopted), ages 49 & 50, I would only add that when the day comes that your children are gone (to college or whatever), you will so miss the chaos they create in your life. Then, if you’re lucky enough to live close to them when they marry and have their own children, you get to love your grandchildren without the pressure of trying to get it right (pure love).
Love you! 66
This is brilliant! I’m sending this to friends who need this!
Ah, if only I still lived in Texas…we would totally be friends. Love this post! Our youngest just turned 6 weeks and I’m trying to figure out how to juggle the teens the babe and everyone in between. I’m telling myself that all moms of 7 flounder for awhile before finding the “new groove”. Right…right?!?!
Oh yeah you are! It took me a while to hit my stride with #6. Newborns are newborns no matter what number they are!
“Hills and valleys.” Amen!
Just wanted to thank you for your open and honest postings. I started following along when I found out I was pregnant with my first, around the time you announced your pregnancy with Gianna. We just found out we are expecting our third and to say I am overwhelmed would be an understatement. So thank you for reminding us all that we are doing a great job where we’re at.
You may feel overwhelmed, but I hope you feel encouraged here! Congratulations. Your house is so full of life. Hooray!
[…] I look forward to things, stages that will come when I have more big kids and children who can do things like ski with me, or read aloud, or paint paintings that look like more than brown blotches. I also love to look back and remember the sweet newborn days when cuddling and nursing and changing was the priority of the day, and I could watch what I chose on Netflix. Thoes days are gone… But they sure were lovely, as is the present, which I also am trying really hard to live in and enjoy. There are good moments and bad ones, “Hills and Valleys” a wise woman once said. […]
I enjoyed this post, Kathryn. We only offer $0.25 to find a lost item of mom or dad, but I bet as they get older we’ll have to up that amount! I thought I was a genius with that idea:)
I must’ve heard it from you 😉
Thank you Kathryn for such a wonderful and inspiring post! I am mom to two teens 19 and 17. I enjoy reading your blog and am inspired by your creativity but I just had to comment on how terrific this post is. Very wise advice about motherhood. I love “hills and valleys”–I might switch my mothering mantra of “it’s all just a phase” to “hills and valleys”!! Such a great reminder that we have to take it all in –the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. I appreciate your honesty and openness…. THANK YOU for you wisdom and insight and reminder of what a wonderful crazy blessed vocation we have.
What kind words, thank YOU for being here and such an encouragement to me!
Have you seen these: http://nerdist.com/lego-slippers-will-protect-you-from-unbearable-pain-of-stepping-on-legos/ ?
Thank you for yet another wonderful post and perspective on parenting.
God bless you and your family!
Ha, I have. Brilliant!
[…] From One Mom to Another: What I Wish I Knew […]
You had me at “You’re tired, you’re squishy in the middle, you are in love (or not yet) with your baby and the last thing you want to do is have sex with your husband.”
That’s exactly where I am right now. Our sweet baby is 4 months old and I feel like I’m trying to figure out who I am right now. This post makes me want to hop on a plane to Texas, sit in your kitchen, and ask you to help me figure my life out right now.
Sarah, while you might not be able to fly down to Texas so we can share some laughs (and tears) over a sweet tea, I’m available by email anytime! firstname.lastname@example.org