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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The college days of me dreaming about becoming a famous actress have long gone and has been replaced by me settling into my new and exciting permanent role as a mom!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 21, 2018

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

Becoming a mother is one of the most difficult challenges a woman can take on in her life. Whether this happens the “natural” way, with the help of science, or through adoption, being in charge of nurturing another human being is a herculean task to take on.

Typically, when we think about parenthood, we imagine two parents sharing the responsibility and having each other to lean on. However, according to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 are being raised by a single mother.[1] This is a significant portion of the population that often gets overlooked.

If you are one of these mothers raising your children on your own, you are undoubtedly aware of the additional challenges that motherhood has placed upon you, including the constant struggle to find sufficient time, energy, money, and support.

For single mothers who find themselves bogged down by their daily responsibilities and struggle to stay afloat, don’t be fooled by the belief that you have to do all. It is possible to thrive and live as a single mother if you take advantage of all available resources and adjust your priorities based on your situation.

1. Find your community and ask for help

As the sole caretaker of your kids, going through the successes and struggles of parenthood can feel isolating and lonely. You have probably developed a strong sense of independence because you’ve had to go at it alone.

Being self-reliant is necessary in many situations that you have to face, but do not fool yourself into thinking that you don’t need support from others. If you have family nearby, strengthen your relationship with them by visiting and talking more often. Find time to catch up with old friends or co-workers, and don’t assume they don’t want to hang out if they are not parents themselves.

Would you prefer finding mom friends[2] who have more in common with you? Use resources like apps, Facebook groups, and community events to meet local moms in your area.

After you have established a support group that you can depend on, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is NOT a sign of weakness or incompetency to admit you can’t do it all, and others are probably more willing to lend a hand than you think.

If you feel uncomfortable burdening others, suggest trading favors such as taking turns babysitting. Because after all, helping is each other is what community is all about.

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2. Make peace with the past

Before you can move forward, you must make peace with your past and not let it define you or rule your life. Whether your journey to single motherhood was through divorce, death, or never having a relationship the father, it is crucial that you leave behind the feelings of abandonment or betrayal you may be struggling with.

You cannot change the past and the hurt you had to endure, but you can use the strength that you gained from overcoming those obstacles to work towards making the best life for yourself and your child. Learn from the past but live in the present and look towards the future.

3. Make plans and set goals

The daily repetition of trying to balance work and home life can make you feel like you are on operating on autopilot. However, it is imperative to set goals for yourself and to keep working towards self-improvement.

In your personal life, you can set a fitness goal (train for a 5k), a reading goal (read 20 books in a year), or a travel goal (take a trip to Europe). At your job, you can set career goals such as gain leadership experience, get a promotion, or earn a degree or certificate.

Spend time creating a realistic plan to on how you can go about achieving these goals. Not only will working towards these goals make you a more well-rounded and successful person, they will bring more purpose and fulfillment to your life.

4. Look for role models

A great way to jump start your plans for the future is to find a role model or mentor who is further along in their life or career experience. This person can be a great resource when you need guidance on what types of goals to set for yourself and how to achieve them.

It’s also important to have people to turn to for encouragement during difficult seasons of life. Someone who has been through it before can provide the most genuine reassurance that tough times will get better and that staying positive is best approach.

5. Rethink your priorities

Single parents have twice as many responsibilities to take care of, so priorities and expectations must be adjusted accordingly.

Know that you are not superwoman and striving for a perfectly clean home, no dirty laundry, and home-cooked meals for your kids every day is not a reasonable expectation. It’s okay to take shortcuts sometimes, like serving your kids cereal for dinner or waiting until the next day to wash the dishes.

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Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and let go of the guilt that you feel for being the only parent that your kids can count on. Give yourself a break and don’t sweat the small stuff.

6. Make time for me time

Even though it can be difficult to find, making time for yourself is critical to maintaining your sanity and well-being. Without a built-in partner to take over, finding time to be away from the kids must be done intentionally and planned in advance.

If you are sharing custody, use the time away from your kids not only doing productive things but also making sure you are taking care of yourself. Sleep, exercise, and balanced diet are not things that can get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Also make time for fun activities, such as hobbies and creative outlets.

Even though being a mother is the most important job you have, don’t let it be the only thing that defines you. Time for yourself is more difficult to find if you are the sole caretaker of your kids.

Use the resources that you have to devote time to self-care, and you and your kids will thank you for it in the long run.

7. Stay organized

With so many things to juggle, great organizational skills are an absolute must in order to keep everything moving smoothly. Use apps such as Mint for your finances, Mealime for meal planning, and Cozi as a family organizer for everything from appointments and shopping lists to after school activities.

Maintain constant contact if you are sharing custody so that it is clearly communicated who will be responsible for what when it comes to your kids. Follow consistent routines in the morning and nighttime so that your kids also know what to expect on a daily basis.

8. Be flexible (Don’t be a control freak)

Although it is important to be prepared and stay organized, things don’t always go according to plan.

When kids get sick and have to stay home or babysitters cancel at the last minute, allow for flexibility by having a contingency plan for childcare and with your employer.

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For example, make a list of people you can call when you need last minute childcare, or talk to your boss in advance about working from home when emergencies come up.

Most of all, don’t let unexpected changes stress you out and ruin your day.

9. Learn to say no (Don’t feel guilty)

Single mothers have limitations in time, energy and resources that families with two parents wouldn’t be able to understand. Because of these circumstances, it’s important you let go of feelings of guilt and stop trying to do everything and be everywhere.

You don’t have to say yes to every single birthday party your child is invited to. Your kids don’t have to be involved in sports and extracurricular activities every night of the week.

Limit the things you do to only the ones that are the most enjoyable and meaningful for you and your family. Doing more things does not make you a better mother; simply a more tired one.

10. Live within your means

When you have to raise your family on a single income, budgeting and spending within your means becomes more important than ever.

If you have outstanding debt that is accruing interest, make it a priority to pay those off as soon as possible. Outlining a budget is the best way to visualize how much money is being spent every month on various things and what is left over.

Find ways to save money on the necessities by looking for sales at the grocery store, buying some things secondhand, planning out meals.

After the necessary bills are paid, determine how much can be spent on luxury items such as eating out, vacations, and going to the movies.

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Don’t let finances be a source of anxiety for you and your family. Keep your bank account in good shape while teaching your kids how to spend money responsibly at the same time.

11. Spend quality time with your kids

The time you spend with your kids is so precious and much more limited as a single mother. Make the time that you spend with your kids count.

Rather than sitting in front of the TV, take them on fun and budget-friendly outings to the park, the playground, or a museum. Use meal times as the perfect excuse to ask them about what they are learning in school and the friends they spend time with.

When your kids ask you to play with them, look at it as a privilege and an opportunity to bond with them, rather than a distraction or waste of time. Be present when you are with them, with no work or multitasking on your mind. Your relationship with your kids will absolutely reap the benefits.

Final thoughts

Being a single mother is not an easy job. That’s why it’s important to use all the resources available to you in order to make this job a little bit easier.

Using technology, an organization system and a supportive community are just a few examples of things you should utilize to your benefit. It’s also important to shift your mindset and be more practical when it comes to things like priorities and finances.

Most of all, don’t forget about your own self care. Only when you take care of yourself can you best take care of the people you love.

Single mothers are some of the most hard-working people out there, and you deserve to have a happy and fulfilling life.

Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

Reference

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