Last year on Mother’s Day, my husband and children treated me to a homemade breakfast (that they all cooked and cleaned up after), along with sweet, heartfelt cards and gifts. Needless to say, I felt completely loved and appreciated. It was perfect.
While these tokens of love and appreciation are so nice for us Moms on this day (and I totally enjoy and look forward to them), they are not necessarily what stands out in the forefront of my mind when I think of Mother’s Day. It’s something deeper. What seems to come up for me each year is how much motherhood has taught me and continues to teach me. It’s quite astonishing to think about.
If you were to ask my two children if I teach them or they teach me, they will undoubtedly say that I am the one who does the teaching. I am the one who is always talking to them, pointing things out to them to learn and grow from, and “life coaching” them. This is a bit of a running joke in our home since I am a life coach. When I get on a roll, sometimes, they will joke and say, “Mom, are you life coaching me?” This is funny, but you get the point- I am seen as the teacher/coach.
Here's the truth though- while I am teaching and coaching them as all parents should, I am one hundred percent learning at the same time, and I think I always will be. I’ve realized in my sixteen plus years as a mother, that this is an ongoing education- the art of motherhood. It is a subject I will always be expounding and furthering my knowledge of. Why? Because just as the seasons change, so does your role as a mom. Just when you get one season perfected, and think, “Okay, I’ve got this,” things change and it’s time to learn a new one. With these changing seasons comes many changing emotions, thoughts, and feelings.
There’s that old Bob Dylan song, “The Times They Are-A Changin.” Well, this could be the theme song for motherhood. Perhaps this is one of the most challenging aspects of being a mom…. getting used to and okay with the constant changing seasons of our child rearing years.
When our children are first born, we are their primary care givers and nurturers. We feed them, change them, rock them, and give everything we possibly can to them…these little bundles of joy. They completely rock our world right off the bat and teach us a level of love we did not know even existed. They show us a side of ourselves we’ve never seen before. A side capable of complete selfless, unconditional love. Yes, we get cranky from the sleepless nights and the long days where we never make it to the shower and live in our PJ’s, but somehow none of this matters. All the discomfort fades away when we look at their little scrunched up faces and smell their silky infant hair. Our hearts almost bulge out of our chests when we are the only ones who can settle their crying and calm them. Right away, they teach us a depth of love that even all these years later is hard for me to describe.
As they get older and test our patience, they teach us exactly that- patience. We learn to pick our battles and not get upset over the little things. We learn that a messy toy room and crumbs all over the kitchen floor may drive us crazy in the moment, but at the end of the day when they’re giggling in the bathtub, it doesn’t matter. We learn that the mess is simply proof of this sweet child before us playing and developing. Something deep down inside of us says, “Relish these moments, they won’t last forever,” but we don’t really take that to heart as we should. When the days are long, we don’t grasp how quickly the years will fly by…. until they have.
When they go to school for the first time, we learn what it feels like to have a little bit of independence back. It feels good and even somewhat liberating, but at the same time, we learn the first pangs of motherhood heartache. We realize one chapter has ended and we will never get it back. We learn how to make ourselves feel better in these moments as we quietly tell ourselves, “They’re only in kindergarten…they still need me.” We learn to convince ourselves that they will stay little forever…when they won’t.
As they get older, we learn how proud we can feel by watching them succeed. The games, shows, and school events are at the top of our priority list. As we take countless pictures and cheer them on, we learn that their success is even more rewarding than our own. We start seeing our own worth and capabilities through how well they are doing. If they do great, well then, we are a super-parent. And if they do not do so great, well, we must be failing them in some way. We learn through these years what it’s like to lose ourselves a bit, even a lot at times.
Naturally, they begin to pull away from us as they grow up. It is healthy and they are supposed to do this. Afterall, we are working to raise independent and capable children who become independent and capable adults. We still learn the sting of rejection and loss though when they become less dependent on us. They no longer sit on our laps or hold our hands. They don’t need us if they wake up in the middle of the night any longer. One day, this all simply stops. We may not even realize it initially, but when it suddenly dawns on us, we learn how it feels to have our heart break just a little bit more.
We watch them go through the ups and downs of life. We learn what it’s like to constantly question and second guess ourselves. “Did I just say the right thing? Did I handle that the right way? Did I help or make it worse?” We learn what it’s like to drive ourselves crazy with the internal mom chatter that seems to never stop. We learn what it’s like to lose sleep over our child’s wellbeing. In these moments we realize that we need something bigger than ourselves to help us with all this worry and concern. We learn to pray and ask God to help us. We learn we must trust Him with our kids. We learn we can’t control everything, even though we desperately want to.
We learn the joy of seeing them experience things…like their first love. We watch them grow and mature. As they do this and their focus turns from us to someone else, we learn what it’s like to not be their number one any longer. We again feel that heartbreak a bit, but we also learn that this is good, and they are developing into exactly who they should be. We see them treat their special person with kindness, love, and respect, and even though we miss the days of reading stories before naps, we realize that we have done a really good job all these years. We learn that our child’s character is one of the greatest accomplishments we will ever have. We learn to accept the fact that they are growing up, and no matter how hard we wish we could slow it down, we learn and realize it’s okay that we can’t.
We learn what it’s like to miss something a lot, like the days of playing with tractors and cars on the floor, but also learn to totally relish the present moment of having a deep, meaningful conversation with them. We see them face problems and challenges and learn what it’s like to give them advice and guidance- just enough to help them, while still allowing them to figure some things out on their own. We learn the balancing act of being a mom.
As time goes on, we learn that we are smarter than we give ourselves credit for. We begin to gain back the part of ourselves we lost all those years ago. We learn that while we will always be their mom, it’s important to have something other than our children that fulfills us. We learn that by doing this, we become happier and more confident as a woman, which inadvertently makes us an even better mom.
We even learn that if we don’t handle everything perfectly, it’s not the end of the world. Our kids are resilient and stronger than we think. We learn that it’s okay to make mistakes and let our kids see that. We learn it’s good to be human with them. We learn the expectation of being a super-parent is unrealistic and far-fetched. We learn that our kids love and respect us more when we are just real and transparent with them. We learn that our kids learn from our mess ups, which means the mess ups are valuable.
We learn to stop questioning ourselves and realize that there is a deep mom wisdom within us. We realize if we tune out all the distractions and noise, take time to pray often and reflect, we can handle anything that motherhood throws our way. We see our children look at us differently when we realize this, and we somehow know that they respect the inner confidence we have developed over the years.
At some point we learn to be extremely grateful for all the little blissful moments that make up this thing called motherhood. The laughing and being silly on the way to school, the hugs they sometimes give us for no reason, the joy we receive from making their favorite meal, the days watching them playing in the surf on vacation…. all these mom moments, well, they get tattooed on our soul…. FOREVER. And so do the challenging moments. The tough talks and the consequences we’ve had to give them at times, the deep self-doubt we’ve felt over the years and even the times we’ve felt like a complete failure…. these get tattooed as well.
All these years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds of being a mom get tattooed on our hearts and souls, and at the same time provide endless lessons. They teach us SO much. There are simply too many examples to list. I can honestly say many of the most valuable lessons I have learned in my forty plus years on this planet, have been in the last sixteen plus of raising my children.
I have raised children, as all us moms do, with little to no preparation. No amount of babysitting when you’re younger, or reading “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” can prepare you for the life-long lesson of being a mom. It’s the lesson of all lessons in my opinion. It’s joyful, hard, sweet, rewarding, discouraging, invigorating, deep, moving, exhausting, motivating, heart-breaking, and undoubtedly the most profound you will ever experience. There’s not a mom out there, including myself, who even has an inkling of awareness as to what she will learn over the years when she holds her baby for the first time.
These lessons of birthing, raising, nurturing, and then slowly letting go of a child are completely priceless. They cannot be truly realized through anything but life experience.
This Sunday, I know my two children will give me cards that express gratitude for all the things I do for them as their mom. They will be extra sweet and thankful as we celebrate this day, and I will love it as I always do. But I must tell them thank you as well because being their mom has taught me invaluable lessons I never would have learned otherwise. I have deep gratitude for this. I believe my role as a mom has molded me into a kinder, more loving, more generous, more patient, and more sensitive human being. I would not trade it or the lessons I have learned and will continue to learn, for anything.
And to all the moms who read this let me say, good job, keep going. I know these lessons are hard. I know they fill and break our hearts all at the same time. They are the lessons of mastering motherhood, and we’re all learning them together as we go.
Happy Mother’s Day…keep learning and growing with your kids and enjoy this beautiful day.