Is your mom-life not quite what you envisioned? Are you feeling a little lost, or maybe on autopilot right now?
You are definitely not alone.
I became a mother just a few months after our first wedding anniversary. While I don’t think one can ever truly prepare for parenthood, it is safe to say that I felt completely unprepared to be a mom–compared to my own lofty standards. Over the years I have learned (often the hard way) how to be a mother. For years, I fumbled along on my own. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. So, here are 8 lessons I have learned that have led to greater joy in motherhood, and actually–in life.
1. Be intentional.
Own your stuff. If there is something about your life that you are not happy with, ask yourself first what you can change. If you cannot change the circumstances, see if there is anything that needs to be changed about yourself. If there is nothing about yourself that needs changing, then you may need to shift your perspective.
Cultivate a vision. What values and traditions do you want to pass onto your children? Integrity? Honesty? Kindness? What activities (i.e. game nights, vacations, etc) matter most to you and your family? Take some time to jot these down and identify a few things you can do to cultivate your family values and environment.
2. Clean house (broom not required).
Declutter your soul. All of us have—at some point—experienced pain, hurt, anger, and bitterness. Sometimes we hold onto things that no longer serve us. If you are feeling weighed down, ask yourself if you are holding onto any unresolved hurts. Unforgiveness is like taking poison and waiting for your offender to die. Forgiveness is an act of release—not of letting someone off the hook so that they can keep hurting us. Forgiveness is releasing your soul from the bondage of anger. If you choose not to forgive, you are holding yourself hostage, and allowing a person or situation power over your wellbeing. If you cannot identify someone in your life who needs forgiveness, consider that you may be that person. What do you need to forgive yourself for?
Get organized. Is there something that you have always wanted to do, but can’t seem to find the time or space for it? When I decided to start blogging, I was already a full-time stay at home mom of four and a new homeschooler. That might not seem like a lot to some of you, but for me it was plenty. I had to organize my time to fit in 15-20 hours of blogging work into what I thought was already a busy week. I had no idea. Time can be budgeted similarly to money. Before you say “I don’t have time…” check your schedule to verify that.
3. Realize you don’t need to do or know it all.
Ask for help. When I had my first daughter, people came out of the woodwork to offer to babysit. I wish I had taken more people up on those offers. Now that I have four kids, the offers don’t come nearly as often. When you refuse help, you subconsciously teach people that you are invincible and self-sufficient. After a while they will likely stop asking, so take the offer even if you don’t think you will need it!
This applies to your household as well. I used to do all the cooking and housework and complain about constantly being exhausted. No wonder! That got old so quickly. Now, we have a chore chart and tons of communication about teamwork. Having to ask for help is far better than wearing myself out serving my family hand and foot. Trying to do everything on your own in a world full of people is unnecessary. It truly does take a village (to raise a child—among other things)!
Simplify your meals. Right after I quit my job to stay home, I prepared super fancy meals and cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner. By “super fancy,” I mean I didn’t use my crockpot and we never had grilled cheese or cereal for dinner. I have since learned the art of a simple meal plan. I also learned that my family loves Taco Tuesdays even when I’m bored with them, and my crockpot is, in fact, my best friend. When I pared down my meal planning, I found more time and energy to enjoy my family.
4. Find your tribe.
Surround yourself with like-minded people. I joined a MOPS group about 3 and a half years ago, and it has been a source of support and camaraderie I couldn’t have dreamed up. Joining a hobby-based group (on Meetup, etc) is a great option if you don’t necessarily want to talk about potty training and sippy cups the whole time. Sometimes it’s nice to remember that you are more than a parent.
Find a mentor. This goes along with tip #3. We all have the capacity to learn from others. We train for every other job, why not parenting? Mentors and coaches can help offer support, encouragement, and perspective.
5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Laughter is good medicine. The meltdowns and messes we deal with on a daily may not seem humorous now. But the sooner you find something to laugh at, the sooner you can let stress bypass you. For instance–when I hear my son ask me the same question fourteen times at increasing decibels, it’s incredibly irritating in the moment. But writing about it is kind of funny.
Kids are resilient. There will be great days as surely as there will be days that are less than perfect. We will recover, and our kids will survive. We cannot control our kids any more than we can control the outcome of their upbringing. If we are humble enough to admit our mistakes, that will mean much more to our relationships with our kids than if we were to live in denial. When you mess up (notice I did not say if), own it and apologize if necessary.
And look on the bright side. Maybe college tuition will be free by the time our kids are old enough to go, and we can save that money for their therapy bill.
Just kidding. See, laughter is good medicine.
6. Take the occasional detour.
Some of my favorite memories I have with my parents are the days we went off the beaten path and took a spontaneous day trip. Or had an impromptu picnic at the park. Or took a mental health day off from school. I have 3 kids who love surprises, and one that I usually must prepare to ‘carpe diem.’
An occasional planned (or not) break from your ordinary routine is sometimes just what everyone needs to fight a case of the blahs.
7. Say goodbye to [mom] guilt.
I have a hunch that this is a generational thing, but we as parents are so hard on ourselves. I don’t know where we got the idea that we need to have great jobs working from home 5 days a week, plus two degrees, and a side business, with a perfect wardrobe and a gym membership.
And for moms, the pressure is intense. We want to do everything right from the time we conceive. We compare feeding, sleeping, and disciplining methods. We judge those who parent differently and seek validation from people who neither live with us nor have any say in the upbringing of our children.
We want to have and be it all for our kids. The truth is, our kids don’t need us to be perfect—they just need us to be present. But they don’t need us to be present 24/7 either. Give them (and you) a little room to breathe.
8. Stay in your lane.
This may sound cheesily like “do you, boo,” but here goes nothing. Maybe don’t try to be someone that, deep down, you truly aren’t. If you are the super quiet, introverted mom, don’t feel like you have to volunteer for PTA prez, scout leader, and backstage dance mom. If you hate cooking, don’t try to conjure up elaborate meals. If you hate being outside in nature, don’t feel pressured to chaperone a camping trip. The thought of that last scenario makes me feel twitchy. If you need a clean house to feel sane, by all means, clean your house and get your kids on board to teach them responsibility. Or hire help if you can afford it.
Some of you will flat out disagree with me on this, and I can handle that. So, I will tell you a little story:
I love my mom. When I was 8, she invited every girl in my third-grade class to our home for my first slumber party. There were maybe twelve girls in all. I had a blast, but I can’t imagine how she pulled that off without a glass of wine her sanity intact. I do remember a strobe-lit pillow fight, one homesick girl, and two dead goldfish in our aquarium the next morning. When you love someone, you are willing to make certain sacrifices. But know your limits and respect them. Your kids will be fine, I promise.
Motherhood is an experience like no other–an extraordinary journey full of mountaintop moments and days at rock bottom. There are twists and turns that no one can predict. Motherhood has brought out the best and the absolute worst out of me. I used to hope that each day, I would become a better mom. What I have found instead is that–each day, my heart opens up a little more, enlarges a little more.
Each day, as I’m stretched and pulled and pressed against my limits time and again, my capacity for love grows stronger. I used to hope to find fulfillment in motherhood. What I have found instead is even better–an opportunity to invest my life, my essence, my being, and my love into four lives that will one day grow and branch off and contribute to the world.
What lessons have you learned that improved your life, mom or not? Let’s chat in the comments!
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