Me holding my first child when she was a week old, 1994
I’ve been a mother for 23 years.
That means in the last 23 years I’ve changed hundreds of diapers, picked up thousands of toys, held puking children and weathered potty training, science fair projects, teenage drivers, high school and dropping two kids off at college (one more to go).
I’ve refereed a multitude of arguments and attended a plethora of parent teacher conferences, musical performances, honor roll breakfasts and sporting events. Whew, I’m tired just writing this.
But back to business here-Whether you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, if you have kids, you’re a mom who works. Hard. All the time.
Back in the days when my girls were little, all I wanted for Mother’s Day was a break. A day off from cooking, cleaning, and convincing little people to bathe and go to bed. And maybe, a little extra sleep.
They never wanted to get in the tub, but then they never wanted to get out.
But now that my daughters are older, I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And while there are lots of things I don’t miss about having young children (mystery fevers, school projects, shopping at Claire’s), there is much that I do.
Sometimes I wish I could go back and talk to my younger mama self. And though I don’t know if she’d listen, there is so much I’d like to tell her. Here are just a few of those things.
23 Things I’d Go Back and Tell Younger Mama Self
1-Soak up the giggles, snuggles and butterfly kisses. They are gone in a flash.
2-Hug your own mom, every time you see her. She won’t be here forever, and she definitely won’t be here for as long as you think. Ditto for Grandma.
3-Write things down. The little stuff, the big stuff and everything in between. There will come a day when you can’t remember which girl had the Betta fish named Darla, which one got lost at Meijer and which one wrote the letters to the Tooth Fairy.
4-Quit worrying. About all of it. These daughters of yours will eventually learn their manners, eat vegetables, survive middle school and bonus-they will pass Calculus without a lick of help from you. They’ll survive mean kids, strict teachers, and puberty. You don’t have to solve their problems, and frankly, you can’t anyway. Just be there for them while they’re in the thick of it.
5-Don’t compare yourself to other moms. They may look like they have it together but they don’t (not any more than you do anyway). Find the moms who tell it like it is, the ones who admit to almost losing their minds over tantrums and homework and teenage angst. Hang out with them.
6-Go on date nights with your husband. There will be nights when getting out of your yoga pants feels like too much effort. But trust me, marriage is a long term investment. Go out and have fun together, just the two of you. You’ll be glad you did.
7-Don’t work so hard on those Halloween costumes. They are just as happy with the store bought ones.
Halloween, circa 2004 and 2007.
8-Have someone else take the family pictures. Otherwise, you’ll have twenty billion photos of the kids and hubby and there will be no proof you existed.
9-Quit wasting so much time trying to lose that last ten pounds. Yes you should eat right, yes you should exercise. But beating yourself up because you aren’t a perfect size six (which by the way, will one day change to a size eight and so on) is a waste of energy. Your weight is just one small part of you and it’s not that important.
10-All this hard work-getting little people clean and fed and to school on time, teaching these girls to pitch in at home when it’s easier to do it yourself, being the mom that doesn’t give in, the one that follows through on consequences-it will pay off. You are teaching little people to be responsible big people, keep your eye on that long term goal.
11- Eventually you’ll get more sleep, but you’ll still have hard days. So when you have one, quit fighting it and instead, just get through. Treat yourself in small ways (chocolate helps). Say a prayer, call a friend or simply breath. Most of it won’t matter in a day, a week or even a year.
12-Listen, really listen. They’ll want to talk at the most inconvenient times, like when you have 10 million things to do or you’re just about to go to bed, but no matter. Tune in, listen and try really hard not to turn the subject to when you were that age.
13-Young teens sometimes behave a bit like toddlers. Be prepared for this.
14-Don’t let the world scare you. You’ll hear so much about everything that is going wrong with and for this generation. People will dis the schools, tell you how unsafe the neighborhood is, complain about how awful this generation of kids are. Such talk is rooted in fear and you can’t live in fear. There is, and always will be, good in the world.
15-Don’t take it personal, whatever your 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, or 18 year old says to you (or doesn’t). It’s okay to reprimand snarky behavior, but do so with grace. In other words, you have no idea what is going on in her head, so don’t take it personal.
16-Trust your kids until they give you a reason not to. Give them opportunities to fail. Sometimes they will and it’s okay. This is how they will learn.
17-Slow down a little. The calendar fills up so quickly. Be sure to pencil in a little time to relax now and again.
18-Yes, a vacation for five is expensive. Just save your pennies and go anyway. The memories are priceless.
Holden Beach, NC 2004
19-You’ll worry so much about giving them everything they need, but all they really need is love and acceptance. Give them that and the rest will take care of itself.
20-That one phrase you came up with, ‘I know you’re mad and I don’t blame you, but I’m the mom and I have to do what I think is best’, keep using that. It will work for all three kids.
21-Cherish the time when all of you are together. This will get harder and harder to achieve with time.
22-Hang in there. You can’t see it now, but these girls are going to turn into beautiful souls. A little silly, but beautiful nonetheless.
My crazies, today.
23-As Kenny Chesney says, don’t blink. Everyone will tell you how fast it all will go, and that will irritate you. Yet here’s the rub: it’s true. So do your best to enjoy the ride.
HAPPY, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL THE MOTHERS, STEP-MOTHERS, GOD MOTHERS AND GRANDMOTHERS OUT THERE. YOU ARE DOING A GREAT AND MIGHT WORK!