I’m often asked what I’ve learned being a mother. And besides never running out of all forms of paper products at one time or to buy the gallon pails of vanilla icecream in the summer because you can use those pails for so many things most of what I’d tell you I’ve learned is from my kids. Through trial and error and tears and laughter and storms and sun. Life isn’t perfect. But us mothers? We’re amazing people – we just need to believe it – to start walking boldly through life wearing the motherhood badge proudly and to find happy again. ~Rachel
Here are ten simple things that I’ve learned in the over nineteen years that someone has looked at me as mom.
1. You don’t need to know everything. Do you remember those months before that first child came in your home? I do. I remember stacks of books bought at Border’s book (this was early internet years – there was no google for me – just thinking about that makes me wonder how on earth I did it – what did I do when I needed a quick recipe? A book? grin) that I would devour, underline, and reference. What to expect the first day, week, year, and so on. And I had this other one – this portable pediatrician one – that I’d scour symptoms making sure that my Hannah was fine. And she was. In fact, she’s 19 and survived those early years of me looking everything up and calling my mother and worrying. You know what? I didn’t know so much, and we did okay. We muddled through, and I figured stuff out and even with the ups and downs we made it through. So I’ve learned that even if I don’t know it all that I’ll be okay. And, honestly, sometimes I’d like to know a bit less. We live in a data rich information saturated world and sometimes google search can just stay unopened.
2. Listen first, speak second. My argument, my reasoning, and why I’m right seems to always play in my head when I’m talking with my kids. But, after nineteen years of parenting I’ve truly begun to learn the value in listening first – hearing their point of view – and truly trying to understand before I end up speaking mine. It doesn’t mean that they’re always right, but rather is this sign of respect for the feelings of their hearts. So I’ve learned – listen, listen, listen, bite your tongue, listen and listen. This skill? Applies to all of life and relationships. We can learn a great deal by listening to others and shelving our agenda for a bit. When we bless others with attentiveness we get a glimpse into their heart and their importants. Those things matter.
3. The agenda doesn’t need to be set in stone. Even though you’d sometimes like it to be. Flexibility has been what I’ve learned – adapt, change, recalculate – and to not let the adaptations taint my mood for the day. Raising a family, having children, and just living life has truly emphasized me the idea of grace and flexibility. If you can learn to laugh, and to brush things off, then your day will go so much smoother. Just pick up where you can, press on, and use the remainder of your day well. Instead of looking where things didn’t go right look to what did. And often some of the sweetest life lessons and moments come in those times where you went off schedule and tried something new.
4. Others may not agree, but you can still be respectful. Us mothers can work ourselves up in a tizzy about all the different things mothers debate. And all of these things – the places where we have different viewpoints – are all good things. Needed things. Remember? It’s good that we’re not the same – that’s beautiful because life would be boring boring boring if we were all clones of each other. But here’s the deal even if others don’t agree with you or you don’t agree with them there still needs to be a level of respect. I expect that from my kids when they don’t agree with me or with their siblings. As women let’s hold that bar high and respect each other even when we don’t agree. Our children are watching.
5. Playing matters more than the dishes – most of the time. There has been so many in a minutes and just a seconds in my life because I’ve wanted to get those dishes done. You know what? They always get done. Inevitably. But sometimes, playing, and getting on the floor or throwing that baseball in the backyard matters way more than the pile of dishes waiting to get done. I have had to discipline myself to say no to those things and time and yes to my children. They need us there doing life with them. If you need to read more read Dear In a Minute Mom. That being said, there are times when dishes and housework and work must come before playing. So don’t beat yourself up for that either. It’s all a balance filled with grace.
6. Start saying yes. Several months ago I wrote a post called Becoming a Yes Mom. You know what? It’s easier for me to say no. I’m being honest. When I say no most of the time it means less effort, less work from me. But I need to say yes. My business partner Dan is a great example of saying yes – he really looks at the reasons why he says no and tries to figure out why he’s saying that before he answers. So I have too now. I never realized how often I said no until I had children. Now, now I’ve learned that I need to start saying yes before it comes to the point that they stop asking. What can you say yes to today?
7. Chores are good. Even though my children might tell you otherwise. From a young age we’ve expected chores around our home. Nothing excessive, but keeping your room tidy, making your bed, putting your clothes in the laundry. My kids rotate with the dishes, and help with the garbage and help with folding. All of that is good. Our society needs kids that are taught the value in work, and that it is not always something that needs to have a dollar sign attached to it. Part of living in a family and in a home is working together to get it all done. So don’t run from chores – incorporate them into your life. Now, the kids do get an allowance, but that is for specific chores outside of the general expected stewardship roles. Find the balance, but don’t run from chores.
8. Optimism is worth it. Sometimes it’s easier for me to be pessimistic and see all that doesn’t work. But, when I do that I find myself scurrying around from thing to thing to thing. Optimism is worth it. It’s an attitude, a heart adjustment, really. It’s being willing to see the good before seeing the things that don’t work. It’s kind of like the listening before speaking bit – it’s practice, but worth the effort. Optimism takes work and choosing to see the good, but living an optimistic life allows for many more finding joy loving the little things moments. This optimism – not faux fake happy – is where the happy can creep back into life.
9. Choose joy. It would be easy to sit and lament how hard everything was during the day. And you know what? Sometimes we simply need to do that. I’m not ever one to shove the feelings under the rug and to pre tend that life is awesome when there’re hurt or hard stuff inside. But do you know that it is also of utmost importance for our children to see us happy? Not all the time, but some of the time? Once a little one of mine asked me why I didn’t smile much during the day. I didn’t even realize that I had been so focused that I was kind of moving through my house like a bull in a china shop. I remember looking in his eyes and telling him that I was so happy to be his momma and he told me then I needed to smile. Mothers, smile at your kids today. Tell them you love being their momma even though inside it might have been a really hard day. Those words matter.
10. Tell your kids you like them. Remember how I said words matter? Well, let me tell you, make sure you tell your kids that you simply like them. Love is unconditional. Like is the word that tells them you like being around them, you like who they are, and that you simply like them as your child. My Samuel the other night was resting in my bed and he said, momma, I like you. Talk about melt my heart. Learn from that – take a minute and walk with your little one or your big one and let them know that you like them. Simple words, but very powerful heart words to cherish.
Ten secrets, ten facts, ten things I learned being a mother. Children are often the best teachers – their tenacity, zest for life, and unending curiosity inspires me to look at life through a different lens.
Life is good.
And happy can return.