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10 Lessons I’ve Learned Since Becoming A Mom

10 Lessons I’ve Learned Since Becoming A Mom

The college days of me dreaming about becoming a famous actress have long gone and has been replaced by me settling into my new and exciting permanent role as a mom! It’s been quite the adjustment, starting from pregnancy to body changes, life adjustments, failed expectations, harsh realities, and painful moments. But even through the struggles that sometimes makes its way into being a mom, the moments are appreciated because they come with beautiful meaning. However, if you’re at all like I was in the beginning and can’t see the beautiful meaning, you’re definitely not alone.

Below are 10 lessons I learned from being a mom. I hope this resonates with you and you find comfort that we’re all in this together!

1. Getting pregnant is just the beginning!
After years of doing everything possible to avoid getting pregnant, I suddenly found myself wanting to be a mom. As it turns out, trying to get pregnant can be its own challenge. The thought of becoming pregnant and actively trying to get pregnant are very emotionally draining. Additionally, if you’re working full time and trying to keep a social life in check, it can become just another task on the daily to-do list. Some parents suffer from infertility and that’s even bigger undertaking when trying to conceive. But once you get pregnant, you realize how pregnancy is only the beginning.

The lesson: Don’t stress! Don’t compare yourself to other women or couples that didn’t seem to struggle or plan for a pregnancy, but managed to get pregnant. Don’t get discouraged or feel as if you’re being punished. Your time will come and if it’s not meant to happen for you biologically, think about adoption and fertility treatments. Hey, you might even decide that planning for a family is not your thing. Some couples are childless and happy!

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2. Once you’re pregnant, everyone will have an opinion!
It’s funny how everyone feels the need to express their opinions. For me, it was especially aggravating because we did not find out the sex of our baby until after the birth. Additionally, I had no news to report since I didn’t suffer from any physical ailments, except for swollen feet towards the very end of my pregnancy. For the most part, I wanted my pregnancy to be MY experience before anyone else and didn’t feel the need to broadcast every detail. I found that some people actually felt entitled to know everything. Others felt a need to remind me that I could still miscarry – yup, thanks!

The lesson: Opinions are just opinions. Some people feel the need to scare new mommies because that’s how they were treated. Other kind souls will wish you well and some will disregard everything, to each their own. Just remember not to take it personally.

3. You will change.
We all know we physically change and whether we get back to our “old” pre-pregnancy body isn’t the point. We change physically, but we also change emotionally. We suddenly care A LOT about someone else. We become a mom by providing a safe world for our babies from day one. We sympathize with other moms who struggle and look tired, we celebrate each other’s triumphs, and we understand the juggling it takes to build and maintain a household.

The lesson: Even if you can fit into those old jeans, revel in the fact that you’re not the same. You’re a better version of yourself and your children will help you grow, learn, and mature more than any other person will. Embrace it.

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4. No amount of baby books, research, or advice will prepare you.
Although we wish to be extremely prepared (getting the best crib, researching the best stroller, visiting the daycare options etc.), there isn’t a way to 100% prepare for parenthood. The sleep deprivation isn’t like the deprivation you experienced after a night of partying or during college, cramming for finals – it’s real deprivation. Deprivation to the point of hallucination. There’s no preparation because it’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before.

The lesson: A relief. You can’t test out parenting or do a sample session and think you’ve got it. You’ve got to do it all the way. Once you have all those perfect supplies and tools in place, then all you can do is take it day by day. Each family is different, but there’s comfort in knowing that being a good mom means doing what is best for your family.

5. Expect the unexpected – always!
I have been blessed with a first child that is very unpredictable. He is also extremely sweet, fun, energetic, intuitive, and amazing. For example, our journey with breastfeeding was extremely difficult, but we persevered by seeking support. I didn’t expect such a challenge ahead, but once I realized I had to work harder, I stepped up. Additionally, all those situations – including when he pooped through his onesies or spit up on other people or the dreadful crying through the bewitching hours of the night – became glimpses of the surprises ahead. As a former manager in retail (who’s always in charge and a bit controlling), I was taken aback with this sudden craziness, but in the end, I learned to let go and revel in the fact that I had no control.

The lesson: Live your life! Enjoy the chaos and use it as a learning tool! This is a chance to learn under pressure and use the fight or flight intuition we are so blessed with. This is the beauty of challenge: it passes and you learn!

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6. Your child’s father may or may NOT be a great parent.
The truth for married women is that we married our man because we love them. It’s can sometimes be a different story when husbands become fathers though. I truly believe that it’s all learned, so if your husband did not have a great example of a father growing up, you might unfortunately deal with that repercussion. Truthfully, I’m a teacher in many ways, so I use this experience to help my husband grow and not lose sight of what life is about. Some men inevitably drift away, and the sooner you realize that, the better. For me, in my household, we are spiritual and we believe in prayer. Find what works to keep the marriage alive.

The lesson: After 15 years of knowing my husband and 5 years of being married, I still can’t say that I know everything about love and relationships, but I do know that it takes work. Remember to be a wife/companion first and foremost, and remind yourself that women are naturally better at some things. Additionally, seek a support system and execute goals and expectations.

7. Perfect babies do not exist.
Our children’s health and internal well-being isn’t always a given. Colic, allergies, ear infections, autism, jaundice, heart conditions, vision problems – you name it – our babies can come with health problems or even hereditary ailments and it sucks! Some are lifelong and others are temporary. As the mother to a special needs child, I know better than most that perfect babies don’t exist, but you’ll love your child all the same. I won’t allow my child’s journey through it to dictate our happiness.

The lesson: Research, find the BEST doctor, join some support groups, ask for prayers, get out more, and live! Unfortunately, a lifelong diagnosis can be very difficult to accept, but once you do, it becomes easier to be a warrior and the support system your child needs.

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8. You might enjoy the little things more!
Because you don’t necessarily have the time or space to carve out alone time for yourself, you really cherish the moments that you do. How awesome is it to enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee at your leisure? Or going out alone? Or even using the bathroom in peace? It’s actually awesome to enjoy life like this because as your former childless self, you might have never seen the beauty in life’s simplest moments because you never truly appreciated them for what they were. Plus, having the energy to do anything might feel amazing for a change!

The lesson: Everyday is awesome and every challenge is an opportunity! If you felt stuck, alone, or depressed, that’s also normal. Know that this too shall pass and it will! Just think, you carried a human inside your body and became a mother to a beautiful child through a miracle/adoption. How amazing is life? For the moms in need of a little more help, reach out to a friend, family, or babysitter!

9. You will become your child(s) biggest supporter!
Moms know best. We are blessed with this ability to know our children and help them in life. I can attest that I feel deeply connected to my sons, without even having to speak to them. The depth of our bond and connection is beautiful. So, don’t be afraid to say “no” to others’ suggestions or thoughts. At the same time, don’t be shy to recognize when your input isn’t needed or if you’re wrong. Maybe your kids know best too.

The lesson: You are your child’s strength! They felt comfort in your arms from day one and look up to you! Be the voice and example you would want or the support you never had in a parent, but always wanted.

10. You will find purpose.
Maybe you had an immense amount of purpose before having a baby, maybe you always longed to be a mother, maybe you happened to become a mother without any effort – whatever brought you to this reality might have given you purpose or reinforced the purpose you already felt. For me, I feel an incredible amount of joy watching my kids grow. I also feel a need to use my time as a stay-at-home mom to make crafts, cook/bake, and continue to be a great wife/friend/sister, etc. Whatever passion you have as a mother gives you purpose and will also bring you happiness, ability, and peace.

The lesson: Follow your passion and do it willingly and happily. Be the best version of yourself. Don’t forget about your sanity and joy. Let your “yes” be your “yes” and your “no” be your “no”!

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Marlene Patti

Stay at home mom/Real Estate

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Published on September 10, 2020

How to Be a Better Parent: 11 Things to Remember

How to Be a Better Parent: 11 Things to Remember

Two of the most challenging jobs in the world are raising a human being and being the best parent possible for them. Raising a child without implementing specific rules is not enough, however. The job has to be done in such a way that when you’re “done,” you’ve already created a loving, responsible, self-sufficient, kind-hearted, thoughtful, empathic, and respectful persona. Hence, it is ideal to lower the bar a little and start learning how to be a better parent.

Don’t get me wrong; mistakes will be made along the way. You won’t be perfect, regardless of how hard you try.

And no matter how great a job you do, your child may have issues beyond your control. Remember, they will be born with a will of their own that may conflict with yours. Nevertheless, carrying out the following tips will provide you with the best chance to create a fantastic human being of whom you can be proud.

1. Listen

I knew a couple who had a daughter. She was smart, sweet, and as cute as a button, but her parents were old school. They believed the adage that a child should be seen and not heard. She might as well have been a doll in a curio cabinet. Unfortunately, this little girl had a lot of exciting ideas and things to say. I knew this because she would share them with me on the occasions that we were alone.

Children are interesting, funny, and curious, and they look upon you — their parent — as a hero. They have a wealth of knowledge and a great perspective on life. Listening to your child is one of the greatest gifts you can offer. They will feel valued and grow up knowing that they matter.

It’s not always easy to listen. Sometimes, children will carry on without saying anything profound. But if they believe you’re listening, they will feel important and provide you with amazing nuggets of information.

Note: Make a real and honest effort when you are listening to your children. Don’t listen while multitasking and muttering, “Hmm, that’s nice, dear!”

Sadly, I’ve seen lots of parents on their phones, their heads buried in Facebook or Instagram feed, while their child tries unsuccessfully to get their attention. In his book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck, M. D., wrote, “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time. True listening, total concentration on the other, is always a manifestation of love.”

2. Provide Unconditional Love

I knew a mother who loved her son so much, but her love came at a high price. When he behaved as she expected him to — getting recognition for being a star athlete or academic achievements — she showered him with love. In truth, she bragged and put up framed newspaper articles of her son’s accomplishments.

That same boy, though, went through a rough patch when he was a senior, becoming unruly and hostile. Down came the framed article, and up came the silent treatment.

Providing unconditional love creates a secure bond and a healthy person. Knowing you have your parent’s love no matter what makes a fantastic anchor for the child. They know they can mess up and still be loved. They know they can come to you with their worst offenses, and while you might get upset, your love will remain intact.

3. Teach by Example

Children watch and listen to you very closely. You may think that they’re not paying attention, that they’re in the other room, playing with their Legos, but they are listening.

If you want to teach your child, lead by example.

For instance, if you want them to eat healthy foods, eat healthy foods. If you don’t want them to pick up bad habits, like smoking, don’t smoke. If you don’t want them to be violent, be peaceful. If you wish to raise a trustworthy child, keep your word.[1]

If you want to teach your child how to communicate, speak kindly and listen with an open heart. Whatever you want your child to learn, be willing to do it yourself. You are the best teacher for the job!

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4. Spend Time Together Often

Life is full of work, errands, get-togethers, appointments, etc. It’s easy to get lost in all the hustle and bustle and not leave enough time for your children. I know busy parents who set their children down on the couch to watch TV or play with an iPad while they’re working.

Occasionally, that isn’t a bad thing. But regularly, it can create a gap between you and your child.

You can avoid being an absentee parent by spending time with your children every day. Talk to them about anything; ask about their day. If you can, allow them to help you with household chores. E.g., cleaning, folding laundry or stacking dishes in the dishwasher.

They’ll feel good when they know you need them, and you can use this as a family bonding opportunity.

5. Follow Through

Follow through creates trust in your child. They will believe that what you say you’re going to do will genuinely be done.

Children are very perceptive. Let me reiterate: they are always watching and listening.

For instance, I was on a walk one afternoon with my granddaughter and her parents. The little girl was asked if she wanted to ride the stroller, and she replied, “No, I want to walk.”

My daughter-in-law responded, “Okay, but if you get tired, I’m not carrying you! Understood?”

After about 15 minutes, my granddaughter complained that her legs hurt. She started whining and complaining. When my daughter-in-law picked her up, she commented, “I thought you said you weren’t going to pick me up?”

My daughter-in-law did not follow through, and her daughter knew it. She was only four years old.

You see, when parents say things and end up not doing them, they become empty threats — words without any back-up.

Following through is critical in raising a responsible adult. You need to be kind, clear, and concise.

The child has to know that you mean business. If you tell them they’re not having a sleepover unless their homework is done, then the homework better be done. If it’s not, there will be no sleepover.

It doesn’t matter if you had plans with your friends or a date with your husband. Just make sure that whatever the consequences are for your kids’ bad behavior, you can back it up with action.

6. Focus on Positive Qualities

There is an old American proverb that says, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease/oil.” It is used to communicate the notion that the most clamorous problems are the ones that will more than likely get noticed.

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If your child is well-behaved and minding their own business, you might be tempted to let them be. On the other hand, if they are acting out and making a raucous, they may get a lot of attention.

This sends the message that the kids have to misbehave before you focus on them. Bad attention, after all, is better than no attention.

Positive attention is paramount. If you only pay attention to your child’s negative behavior while ignoring their positive qualities, you are robbing them the chance of being their best selves.

Simply notice all the things you love about your kids and minimize the criticisms. That’s especially essential when you have children between the ages 0 and 5. Since they are impressionable, whatever you say often will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Here are more ideas on how to think positively despite the circumstance: Turn to the Bright Side: 10 Ways to Encourage Post-Incident Positive Thinking

7. Apologize When Necessary

We all make mistakes. There are some parents, however, who don’t apologize no matter how many mistakes they make with their children. They incorrectly assume that apologizing is a sign of weakness.

Well, nothing could be farther from the truth. As we have learned before,[2]

“Apologizing to your child is a sign of respect for the overall relationship you have with him.”

Making mistakes is human. I guarantee you that your child will not think less of you. If you fail to apologize, you miss out on a teachable moment about the importance of taking responsibility. After all, you want your child to apologize when they do something wrong.

If the kids lie, lash out at another child, or break something of value, you want them to own up to it and apologize for what’s happened. It is during these moments that you teach your child that an apology is the right course of action. If you don’t do the same thing, what exactly are you teaching them?

You may find it difficult to apologize because you feel superior or fear losing your authority. In truth, your child will see you as a human, and they may feel closer to you than ever.

Show your kid that no one is perfect, that you all make mistakes in life. Apologies can correct so many wrongs. Just a few simple words can cure the worst transgressions.

A word for the wise: put your ego aside. Say you’re sorry and move on. If you can do that, you will be building a strong relationship — one based on love and respect — with your children.

8. Allow Kids to Be Who They Want to Be

My maternal grandfather, Pánfilo D. Camacho, was a lawyer and author in Havana, Cuba.[3] He expected my uncle, Jorge Camacho, to follow in his footsteps.[4] My uncle, however, wanted to be an artist and fulfill his dreams in Paris, France.

At the time, my grandfather did not see art as a “real job” or something that could provide security. Despite knowing how his father felt, my uncle met with him and explained that his goals. Thankfully, my grandfather thought about it and gave his only son his blessing. He also helped with all the necessary expenses to get my uncle to Paris and study with the best of the best.

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My uncle became a very celebrated artist in France. Jorge Camacho’s amazing surrealist art is still sold today.

This scenario could have played out quite differently if my grandfather dug in his heels. He could have forced my uncle to become a lawyer just like him.

Fortunately, he realized that allowing my uncle to be who he wanted to be was the right thing to do. And it was. My uncle was grateful and made a name for himself. My grandfather was proud, and their relationship grew strong.

Allow your child to be who they want to be, not who you think they should be. After all, it is their life — their journey. You’re just there to watch and provide guidance whenever necessary.

9. Grow Along With Your Children

Children grow and evolve, just like us. It’s important to grow with them and adjust the way you discipline and talk to them.

For example, if your 4-year-old misbehaves by bending the truth or whining, you may ignore their antics and stay calm with regards to the lying. This is common for this age group.

If you’re dealing with an 8-year-old, your child understands the difference between right and wrong and looks to you for guidance.[5]

Meanwhile, teens need to be addressed in another way. That is a difficult and challenging age group — one that deserves great care and attention. You cannot talk to your 16-year-old as if they were still 9!

10. Validate Their Feelings

While growing up, lots of things that generate a multitude of feelings happen. As a parent, you want to take the time to validate your child’s feelings. Don’t be dismissive and act like their feelings are not important.

The other day, my 8.5-year-old granddaughter came over. I could see that she’d been crying. When I asked if she was, she looked at me with sad eyes. My granddaughter informed me that she missed her best friend whom she hadn’t seen for almost six months since the community quarantine began.

I didn’t say, “Don’t worry about it; you’ll see her someday! Now, run along.” Nope. I looked her in the eye and said, “It must be so tough not to see your best friend for such a long time.”

My granddaughter’s eyes welled up with tears as she nodded. I validated her feelings, and she felt heard. As it turned out, her little friend was allowed to visit the next day. She came over to my house again, but this time, she exclaimed, “This is the happiest day of my quarantine!”

If you do not validate your child’s feelings, they will think that their feelings are unimportant and learn not to share them at all. You don’t want that, of course.

You want to have your finger on the pulse of their emotions. You need to make sure they come to you in the future when heavier things come down the pipe.

Here’s an example of WHAT NOT TO SAY: Your teenage daughter comes to you and utters, “Richard broke up with me. I’m devastated!” Then, you reply, “Don’t worry about it! There is plenty of fish in the sea — probably even better ones. You’re too young anyway.” You might as well have stabbed her in the heart.

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Instead of doing that, try saying, “That is heartbreaking. You must really be hurting. If you want to talk, I’m here to listen.”

Listen and communicate with compassion.

11. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Whenever I used to pick up my 16-year-old grandson from school, I’d make the mistake of asking, “How was school today?”

You can probably guess the answer. It was always the same, “Good!” Just one lonely word.

So, I decided on another approach: asking open-ended questions. The next time I picked him up, I asked, “So, what was the best part of your day?”

It was impossible for my grandson to just reply, “Good.” He was forced to stop and think about some incidents that already happened. It doesn’t matter what they tell you; the key is to get them to talk. That’s how you learn what’s going on in their lives.

This not only works with children but also with adults. For example, when you ask someone, “Do you like your job?”, they may answer yes or no. But if you say, “What do you like or dislike about your job?”, you’ll get a lot of information.

Open-ended questions are the key to getting more information than you’ll know what to do with!

Final Thoughts

Being a good and responsible parent can be one of the most rewarding tasks in the world. It is not effortless, however. It takes a lot of work and patience.

Implementing the above-mentioned 11 suggestions won’t guarantee a perfect family, but you will have a solid base to build and grow upon.

Your child is a reflection of you. What do you wish them to reflect?

Learn how to be a better parent and help produce a legacy of outstanding humans.

More on Improving Your Parenting Skills

Featured photo credit: Gabe Pierce via unsplash.com

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