1. Compared Less. Not only with other moms, but with the expectations of motherhood that I had conjured up in my head. Somehow I thought I’d be the mom who never got exasperated or craved sleep or kept the immaculate house and then when I wasn’t I was too hard on myself. I’ve learned, after nineteen years of being a mom, that comparison really does chip away at contentment. Learning from the past, learning from friends and learning from others helps us grow. Defining us by others keeps us stuck.
2. Read More Stories. This. I cannot tell you how many times I’d say we’ll read that tomorrow night or not tonight for the third book or maybe later for books because I was busy with something that really didn’t matter. And, in fact, I cannot remember it even now. But those books? Sigh. As I packed away boxes of preschool books to sell I couldn’t but stop for a moment and have that pang of realizing that many of those moments never came. So read when you can. Those minutes extra won’t change the now much but will bless you in the future. And you’ll be so grateful.
3. Slowed Down and Let Them Help More. I am a racer and busy and like to get from point a to point b in record time. I challenge myself in the morning to get the dishwasher unloaded before the Keurig finishes brewing (three minutes, friends) and I’m always plowing through everyday. When kids want to help it slows things down and often I’d just keep racing versus slowing down and teaching them. That’s what our jobs are – to teach and instill wonder – and now, now, now even if it’s dumping powdered cheese onto gluten free noodles I’ll let them help and will push my agenda to the side.
4. Fought for myself. Especially in the early years of motherhood. I didn’t want to take a break or leave the little ones and kept thinking that motherhood was always being there without taking care of my own heart. After years of giving without filling burnout sets in. So fight for you and your heart and the things you love to do. There is no guilt in cultivating you in motherhood. Ever.
5. Let the Dishes Wait. I’m guessing the dishes were one of the things that stopped me from reading that second story. Yep. I can probably guarantee it to you all. And yet, now as I sit in my quiet house there are still dishes to do. Just like laundry there are things that just keep rolling through in life that we always have to do – the dishes can sometimes wait – growing kids cannot.
6. Not let the Dishes Wait. Ha! A dichotomy, right? But not really. I’m thankful for the need for order that I have in my life. I learned as a young mom that the more order that I had the happier I was simply because there was space in the chaos. So even though there are times for the cleaning and scrubbing to wait until tomorrow there is also awesome in knowing that routine and cleanliness leads for more opportunities to read that other book. Note: it’s about balance. Not perfection.
7. Found more one on one time. This. Especially this. I wish for this now too. But you know what is cool? Just because they’re grown doesn’t mean that you stop mothering. My oldest daughter is a freshman at Seattle Pacific University and a couple weeks ago I got to see her in Seattle. Instant one on one time (and a shopping trip to Trader Joe’s). One on one time counts at any time.
8. Given myself a learning curve. Oh my word this. Event though the books all tell us we should figure this out or our kids should be doing this at a certain point somehow I assumed I’d know all the answers without learning why I should know the answers. There’s something about the process of time that teaches – which is why it’s awesome to have mentors – and in that process the curve of knowledge grows. It’s the same in motherhood.
9. Taken a picture of them in the same spot or way on each birthday. I don’t know why this matters to me now, but sigh sigh sigh, I’d love to see that comparison photo of how they grew. I’m starting it now. That’s the other thing to know – just because you haven’t started something in the beginning doesn’t mean it’s ever to late to start.
10. Been on the computer less. This makes me chuckle as my job is a writer and a digital marketing entrepreneur which by the nature puts me on media, but I still wish that I had established better boundaries for media time. Or perhaps, that should say my phone. I try to remember what it was like before my entire life was connected on a little iPhone, but it’s hard. So now it’s about balance – I have to be on my phone for work, but there are also times when my work means shutting the phone and playing (or reading that book.)
11. Had much less stuff. Probably don’t even need to go into why on this one. Just remember more stuff equals more to manage equals more to clean equals more time spent on things and not time.
12. Let go of guilt for free time. Or maybe just let go of guilt? That mom guilt of needing to do more all the time or not seeing everything that was done. There is no guilt in needing free time. Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we don’t need the time to recharge and laugh and see a movie or plant a garden or play piano. No guilt.
13. Connected with more moms. And just been there. I think I got so busy in thinking tomorrow or that my life wasn’t as perfectly packaged yet that I focused on self and perfection versus forging real community. I love having my best friend live behind me – there is something super beautiful about having that friend there. Some of my favorite memories are when we would just sit in the grass at night talking while the kids played around us. Connections matter.
14. Worried less. Honestly, I probably could get the award for worrying mom. I’d worry about so much and in that worry would suck the joy for the moment away because the worry that I wasn’t making the right choice or that they weren’t where they should be or any of it would consume my thoughts. Now, now, now….I make a decision and move forward. Worrying keeps one stuck.
15. Documented the little things. Not the crazy big moments, but the little things like them playing in the sandbox or running in the backyard. What they looked like sleeping or how that toddler hair had the colic in the back. And written down the funny things they say. Holy moly, thinking to oneself that they’ll remember something makes me laugh because we’re moms and when we’re moms we’re busy and remembering that four year old funny even with the best intents often doesn’t happen.
16. Judged less. This.
17. Had more Family Meals Around the Table. This is kind of like that reading thing. Sometimes it would just be easier to eat on the go or without the intention of everyone sitting around. I look back the family meals around the table with such sweet nostalgia. It’s there where we learned about each other and what mattered and what was important. Those family meals – I know it’s cliche – but guard them.
18. Was more consistent and yet more spontaneous. Can I wish for both? Because I love both. There’s something super awesome about learning to say yes to a spontaneous sleep over or playdate but that spontaneity, at least in my life, had to be a result of me becoming more consistent – knowing that the stuff in the house was done or what to expect and so on. Schedules and routines are awesome but, as we all know, motherhood likes to take that schedule and turn it over.
19. Expected a whole bunch of normal. I think we’re trained to understand that there will be hard days and fantastic days, but normal? That’s what most of life it – get up, get the kids ready, do the laundry, take out the trash, help with homework, make dinner, get them ready for bed, and start over again and again and again. Somehow the normal can feel like drudgery until we remember that it’s simply normal. And normal is truly the beautiful.
20. Celebrated the awesome normal days. As an extension of nineteen, but truly, the normal days are the beautiful days that we someday will remember. Somehow now I’ve started to look at normal as a place to celebrate – like pick up the kids on Friday and go to Dairy Queen or let’s have a party because it’s Wednesday and it’s raining. I’ve decided that waiting for the awesome to happen simply means waiting – and life moving by. So celebrate today.
Don’t wait for tomorrow to start living today.
ps. And when they want to go to the park? Take them. That too.
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