The first 10 years of motherhood will shape you in ways you never imagined.
My sweet preemie turns 10 in December. This milestone celebration feels extra big for both her AND me! An entire decade of being a mama … 3,650 days of caring for one of the most precious pieces of my heart … 87,660 hours of trying my best, second-guessing nearly everything, and feeling like I’m falling miserably short … and 5,259,600 minutes of delight in watching her grow. As she enters double digits, I find myself reflecting back on 10 lessons I’ve been learning along this wild motherhood journey:
It gets easier AND harder.
I’ve officially graduated from midnight feedings, potty training, and toddler meltdowns. In so many ways, motherhood has only gotten sweeter and infinitely easier now that I’m not carting around half of my house in a diaper bag. At the same time, I’ve been greeted with new realities of navigating difficult but necessary conversations, setting boundaries, and processing a constellation of preteen emotions. Isn’t that the bittersweet trajectory of mom life? — You are constantly trading one set of learning curves for another. Change continues to be my only guarantee as we celebrate this decade of growth.
You will continue to marvel at the person they are becoming.
I can still remember all of Olivia’s baby milestones- the moment she rolled over, spit out a bite of avocado in disgust, and walked those wobbly first steps. It was a race to grab the camera and document each moment of awe! Mamas, I’m here to tell you those milestones continue and just keep getting better. Watching them be brave, conquer a fear, practice a new skill or delight in finding an activity they love is just the absolute best.
Time continues to bend in unexpected ways.
Some days will continue to feel like they are approximately four decades long! Other moments will fly so fast that they take your breath away. A question that is constantly on repeat in my brain during both the sweet moments and those I wish I could fast forward through: how can I show up as the mother I want to be?
Listening far outweighs doing or fixing.
So many issues in the baby/toddler years have a tried and true pathway in terms of problem-solving. You can google a million ways to help with sleep (and believe me, I did!) OR look up ideas to calm an escalating toddler tantrum. The questions and answers these days as my oldest turns 10 feel so much hazier. I find myself craving a guidebook with all the definitive answers on how to handle (insert issue) with grace and compassion. One thing I’ve noticed: emotional outbursts in anger are usually related to fear or worry. There is so much beauty in pausing to listen- really listen. I’m learning to lean into the questions and be a true sounding board for Olivia as she tackles all these unfamiliar next chapters.
My attention is still the greatest gift I can give.
Mamas, you are irreplaceable. Your babies just need YOU. Right now, Olivia just adores the extra few minutes of “chat time” before bedtime. Nothing fancy- just her and I talking about really anything, everything, and nothing at all.
Invest in experiences.
My kids couldn’t tell you what was on their list for Santa last year. But, they can recall in vivid detail the time that James helped them traverse a waterfall in the Smoky Mountains or when we collected seashells every morning on a trip to Florida. They might not remember every hike we’ve gone on, but they can recite our silly songs when the miles get long. I look forward to creating more of these moments of connection!
My energy and mindset matter tremendously.
Whether I like it or not, I’ve realized that my mindset truly sets the tone for our day. If I am crabby, this energy leaks into everything! I keep reminding myself that I can only take responsibility for my own attitude, efforts, and reactions. My own self-care has become a non-negotiable that propels our whole family forward.
The power of an apology and starting over.
I certainly don’t always get it right. Hard moments are inevitable but NOT the end of the story. I hope that over the last 10 years of mistakes and lessons in grace, I’ve been teaching Olivia that the “after” of a conflict is just as important as the “during.” Repair attempts strengthen our emotional connection, as well as build resiliency and trust.
Write it down and get in the photo.
You think you will remember, but you probably won’t. That meme with 100 tabs open in a mom’s brain is so true! The Notes App on my phone has been invaluable to quickly document the latest “Livism” or priceless wording that only her brain could have thought up. I’m also a big fan of Susie at Busy Toddler’s movement called “Proof of Mom.” I realized several years ago that I was missing from my own camera roll! I cherish all the pics that I have of my own mom in photos. Why wouldn’t I do the same for my kids? … And, yes, this is in spite of the messy hair, lack of makeup, and the million imperfections that I could currently list as to why not to jump in the photo. Our presence matters!
When in doubt, add water or fresh air!
This advice has saved me on countless occasions! There is something magical about getting out in nature to shake up attitudes and reset energy. Also, don’t underestimate the power of an afternoon bath, complete with popsicles to change the trajectory of the day (another fabulous idea from Susie at Busy Toddler).
To my firstborn daughter, thank you for choosing me to be your mom! And, to my fellow mamas about to celebrate a milestone year in parenting, what would you add to this list?