After almost a decade of motherhood, a corner has been rounded, and my idealistic pre-baby self stands and waves to me through a tunnel of time. Out of respect, appreciation and just a touch of pity for her and her incredibly earnest naiviete, I jotted down a few thoughts (specifically 23) for her to consider, decry and most certainly dismiss out of her unrelenting youthful idealism. That’s fine. I love her anyway (idiocy notwithstanding). So here goes…
1. Taking care of children is a lot of work. A. Lot. Of. Work. No contraption, philosophy, methodology, Fisher-Price product or 12 meter piece of hand-woven silk can change or will change that reality.
2. Keeping kids happy for a stretch + going back to your own life free of care = babysitting.
3. Motherhood is not babysitting.
4. If being the mother feels really, really hard sometimes, that’s because it is. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong or that there’s much you can do to fix it. For further explanation, please see No. 1.
5. Little things can mean a lot. Even if you’re scared of the big picture of motherhood at times, take little breaks and do things you like. They will help more than you think. Trust me on this.
6. Remember that you like to laugh. Raising your children will inspire smiles, but not always make you really, really laugh (there are many reasons for this you can’t understand yet. Again, trust me). Laugh. Laugh laugh laugh. You’re not getting graded on this – your joy nourishes you AND your baby.
7. Fear is the enemy. Don’t be afraid – attack the very thing that intimidates you the most.
8. There will be many times you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, because you don’t.
9. There will be times you feel you’re not properly trained for this job, because you’re not.
10. Let go of judging yourself so harshly – sometimes all you can do is just hang in there, steer clear of what drags you down, and get through the $&*@ day.
11. Don’t think taking care of a family will be about you feeling loved… or even liked. One of the hardest parts for you will be doing what you feel is best for the ones you love, even and especially when they don’t agree/argue/dislike you for it. That’s okay. You have other friends. Or if you don’t, not to worry… “The Golden Girls” is still in syndication on Hallmark.
12. Sometimes you will feel like “the Bad Guy.” There is a reason for this – you are the Bad Guy. Get comfortable.
13. You will have to make countless difficult, confusing, unclear decision in the moment without reliable information or thoughtful consideration. This will feel incredibly stressful and isolating for you. Buy chocolate.
14. You think you can make people happy… you can’t.
15. Don’t get overly mired down in a/o fascinated by your own feelings. Excessive deconstruction of one’s feelings can be addictive as a sugar rush, spectacularly distracting, and a huge energy suck. Like children, give them some but not all your attention, lest they become overindulgent and demanding. Press on.
16. Don’t push yourself to change, and don’t be afraid to change, either. Being a mother isn’t a vocation – it’s a metamorphosis.
17. As we are our own worst critics, we can also give ourselves rave reviews, so do things according to YOUR standards, not anyone else’s. You are the person evaluating yourself, so make yourself proud.
18. Be willing to learn. So what if you do a 180 on something that was formerly really important to you because you realize it’s not working for your family? It’s good to be able to adapt – that is not necessarily abandoning your values.
19. As the great choreographer Wayne Cilento used to say, “If you haven’t fallen down yet, you’re not dancing hard enough.” Same goes for being a mother. If you haven’t messed up yet, you’re letting your fear paralyze you. You wouldn’t want your kids to be so afraid of making a mistake that they constantly second-guess themselves, would you? No. So just get on the field and play each down.
20. Parenting theory is just that – theory. The practical application will have vastly different results. It’s not just you. And PS, stop reading parenting theory – you are already in your head enough. All the extra noise will just stress you out.
21. Learn to trust yourself, stay focused on your core values, and know that at the end of the day, you kept your eye on the ball.
22. Talk, listen, rise, fall. Modern Motherhood is airbrushed and retouched and inaccurately portrayed. Take all the energy you use to question yourself and funnel it toward seeing your life and your family as they really are, and then love that reality. When your lifetime is over what was true, and truly felt, will be your legacy.
23. And above all – it’s only life, so lighten up.
You know… my younger self would attempt to make sense of some of the above out of courtesy, yet she would politely ignore most of it because it is would seem negative and unpleasant. I was always rather quietly stubborn that way. And unintentionally a titch smug. Oh, how I loathe my youthful smugness.
Perhaps that’s the gift of the learning curve outlined above – humility. I do love the humility that comes from spending a whole day out and about only to discover while brushing your toddler’s teeth that you have a smudge of newborn breastmilk poo in your eyebrow.
Yes, we’ve come a long way, pre-baby self. Here’s to another decade with tons more lessons to be learned, and (hopefully) slightly less excrement on our collective face. Cheers to us, Mama. <3