Other than finding out that you're pregnant — which, for me, was a surprise several times — there are so many things that you didn’t know you needed to know about becoming a parent. For example, I knew that I had learned a lot about parenthood from watching my mother over the years but holy smokes, I am just like her! And I never realized that I could be so tired and yet so wired at night thinking of my kids’ needs. Raising 7 kids while running a growing business is hard enough, then add a global pandemic and all that comes with it and I started to feel like I was rewriting the parenting playbook. Motherhood certainly doesn’t come with a manual, but I’m here to share a few of my biggest takeaways from the last 25 years of parenthood...
I Am My Mother!
As a young girl, I promised myself that I would never be as unreasonably strict as I thought my mother was growing up. Today, when I tell my kids that story they can’t help but laugh! But something that I have always admired about my mother and have inherited from her is her ability to see through rose-colored glasses. She was able to see the best in every situation even while raising her 12 children (I am the oldest!). I am grateful to have learned that trait from her, especially now during all the added stress that has come with the pandemic. It has been easier for me to find the good that has come from our very, very close quarters as a family and like mom, I’m always down for a game of Rummikub!
You Can Love ALL of Your Kids Equally
Something that comes up a LOT in our MomForce Facebook Group (a group created by Chatbooks as a resource for all things parenthood) is the concern that adding a second child to the family will make it hard to love both children equally. I remember having the same feelings. How on earth could my heart make room for another baby (or 6!)? But every time, my heart just seemed to grow and expand, making plenty of room for the new baby. And the biggest surprise was how mind-blowingly awesome it is to see you children loving each other. There is nothing better!
You Can Survive on Little to No Sleep
I remember going entire days full of errands, dishes, diapers, and play dates while running on a mere 2.5 hours of sleep — and a fair amount of caffeine. Babies that wake up multiple times a night is no joke! I often wondered: How is my body even functioning? I interviewed sleep expert Christine Lawler on The MomForce Podcast earlier this year and loved her tips for parents enduring sleepless nights. “One of my favorite things [to tell my clients] is if not tonight, then probably tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, then most assuredly the night after that,” she shared with me. “And so if I can just tell myself: I slept like garbage last night, but you know what? I bet tonight I'll sleep way better. Then, I can’t get overwhelmed.” If you really want to be able to sleep, you need to get out of your head about it
You Can Lead Your Family Through a Global Pandemic
The last 5 months of q uarantine have taught me more about motherhood than I could have ever imagined. Most importantly, I’ve learned that less is more. Pre-COVID-19, I felt like our family was overbooked and overscheduled and we rarely saw each other. Having to wipe our schedules completely clear made me realize what my family and I were missing: unstructured family time! It had been far too long since we did puzzles as a family, played games together, went on walks, cooked, ate, and cleaned up together. Quarantine was perhaps one of the biggest curveballs of my 25 years of motherhood and I’m grateful for the reminder that it’s ok to slow down and do less.
Trust Your Instincts
I had no idea how real a mother’s instincts were until I became a mother myself. I can always sense when things are wrong with my kids. I know if they’re having a bad day, if they’re lying to me, or even if they’ve brushed their teeth (is it bad that I still worry about my kids brushing their teeth?!) I always thought my mom was oblivious to what was going on with me, but now I know better. Mom always knows when something is up! I’m just glad that I trust myself to know when to respect the boundaries I have with my kids, or when I need to push through to dig a little deeper. Sometimes it just takes a few extra prompts to get a child to open up about a bully at school or something uncomfortable that happened on the bus. Trust yourself, mama — you’re doing better than you think!
Motherhood is the Hardest yet Happiest Job
I’m a firm believer that being a parent is the hardest yet most important job in the world. It’s demanding, frustrating, beautiful, emotional and completely consuming. And now, 25 years into it, I can also agree with the strangers that would see me out running errands with my crew of little kids and tell me, “Enjoy every moment! It goes so fast!” That used to frustrate me when the days seemed endless, but now I know that the days are long, but the years are short! Look for the meaning in the mess and the magic in the everyday moments. Take lots of pictures and a few deep breaths, and enjoy!