This year I’ll be celebrating my 21st Mother’s Day as a mom…My oldest child is 20 years old–I became a mother at age 22. I’ve almost spent more of my life as a mom than not. But no matter how long you’ve been a mom, entering motherhood is a defining moment. A bridge, that once crossed, changes you forever…Personally motherhood introduced me to a different kind of love. Truly unconditional.
To celebrate all things motherhood–here’s a little list: 20 Lessons I’ve Learned After 20 Years of Motherhood. Some funny, some sweet…Hopefully they make you smile & reflect on the messy, beautiful blessing of being a mom…
In no particular order…
1. Start your day with Jesus.
So I lied. #1 IS actually the very most important lesson I’ve learned as a mom! It changes everything. Don’t worry or feel bad if you’ve never done this (or do this very irregularly). If prayer or bible study seem weird or awkward–I get it; I’ve been there! This was 100% me when I was a young mom. The only bible I owned in my 20’s was a large white, gold-trimmed edition from my 8th grade confirmation. When I finally did get a small personal bible, I was embarrassed for my husband to see me reading it.
But you can change. I was 30 when I started studying the Bible–the time I’ve spent with Jesus is the only way I’ve survived some of the heartache of motherhood and life. I know it’s made me a better mom. A better person.
I use a free daily devotional app called First 5 (such great teaching) and small little book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young–which has short, bite-sized teaching perfect for busy moms! Now my bible is underlined, scribbled, and worn out…and I don’t care who sees me reading it.
2. Kids have a lot to say at bedtime.
Be prepared to explain the afterlife, the presidential election, the theory of evolution, and the history of your extended family…
3. Breakfast for dinner always works, and paper plates are your friend.
4. Picky eaters grow out of it…And become fancy eaters…
For years my kids preferred chicken nuggets, fish sticks, mac-n-cheese, and pizza. I stopped fighting over meals…
Please try a bite, and then knock-yourself-out…have a waffle, peanut butter, or cereal… (OR Fine don’t try a bite–but no dessert…)
Somewhere along the way one child became a vegan, who now specializes in tofu and tempeh recipes. And they all request things like sushi and kombucha. They eat tons of veggies, salads, fruit, and acai bowls…I take zero credit for any of it.
This will happen to your kids too–they will rebel into health nuts. Then they will mock you for ever letting them eat Pop Tarts and Little Debbie Treats…Really what kind of mother are you?
5. Do not count the cleanliness of your kids’ rooms against the cleanliness of your house…
Clean bedrooms are not a hill worth dying on. They will eventually clean up…It’s sort of like the rebellious health food. However, a clean house does help my emotional & mental health–here’s how I keep up the house with 6 kids and homeschooling.
6. Have empathy toward other moms.
This is hard work, and none of us knew what the heck we were signing up for. We need to love and support each other! I’m so thankful for my friends that have walked this path with me!
7. Teenagers…my beautiful (expensive) best friends.
They are my best friends. (I know some people say not to be friends with your kids–but I just can’t help it.) I like these people!
They are fun to shop with, watch movies with, and grab coffee with…It’s amazing how things change. One day you’re wiping their booties and cutting up all their food…And then one day you find yourself discussing boyfriends and climate change. (One of my daughters is studying civil engineering and environmental studies…I get an earful. And I might even start using reusable bags…)
Your kids know you better than just about anyone else…If I really want to know the truth about something–I ask my teenagers…They are brutally honest.
And it goes both ways. My teens know I will shoot them straight.
Parenting teens has been one of the hardest, heartbreaking, pull-me-to-my-knees and pray seasons of my life. It has grown me as a person–I’m more humble, more empathetic, more patient, more open-minded…more reliant on God.
It’s also been one of the most beautiful and rewarding seasons…All the years of sowing love have brought a harvest of friendship. (When they aren’t annoyed about how I’m eating or breathing.)
And you get to see the amazing adults they’re becoming and glimpses of God’s special plans for their lives…Just buckle up.
8. Don’t Give Empty Threats
Years ago, I taught 2nd grade and had a lot of training that utilized Teaching With Love and Logic by Jim Fay (who also wrote Parenting With Love and Logic). My biggest takeaway from my training and both books was this: Never give kids and an empty threat.
If you have no intention of following through with a consequence or choice–do NOT throw it out there!
So if your child is having a tantrum and you give them the choice to “stop or we’re leaving”…You better be prepared to pack up your bag and carry out your screaming child. If you aren’t going to leave–you need to think of something else.
**It’s also okay to say–I’m upset and I’m not sure what the consequence will be, but I’m thinking about it…It will depend on your choices. I will let you know…
My mom and dad were so great at modeling this…If they said something hurtful, or they messed-up, or over-reacted, or lost their tempers (things all parents do because we’re human)…They always quickly apologized.
Even if I was equally at fault or being a real pill…They always took responsibility for their actions and never made excuses. They always reached out to make peace. I never doubted that I was loved unconditionally.
This has been such an important model in my life–in all my relationships. Our kids need to see and hear us apologize. They need to know that they are valued and deserve respect. And to see that we all make mistakes–we are all in need of forgiveness and grace.
10. Read Together
I thought I was good at this–but then I read Sarah Mackenzie’s The Read Aloud Family and realized I could be way better.
Reading aloud to my kids has reignited my own first love–books. Somewhere along the way, school and book reports and exams squashed my joy of reading…I was too busy, and I needed to get an A–and that may or may not have included actually reading or enjoying the book.
And not much later, I was a young mom running on little sleep and facing piles of laundry…Who had time for books?
Reading with your kids may reawaken (or awaken for the first time) your own love of books–there’s nothing like introducing your kids to your old friends (mine are Ramona, Laura, and Ann) or meeting new ones together (I fell in love with Aslan and Harry Potter with my kids).
11. Don’t let the kids eat in the car…
For years, my car was a mess. I reasoned that I’m a mom. We are in the car a lot. I don’t have time for keeping this car clean… Leave me alone and let me live my life. (My husband had the annoying habit of pointing out the car was disgusting…)
Then one summer a mouse moved into my Honda Pilot…It nibbled on all the things. It didn’t care that it was 90 degrees in Kansas City–my kids’ garbage was just too alluring.
That was it. That was enough. Momma made some new rules: My kids (and myself) are not allowed to eat in the car. If there is trash–it goes to the trash can. Nothing is left in that car except baby wipes. (Always keep baby wipes in the car.)
12. Video Games are Fine…(and so is TV)
Kids love video games (heck–grownups love video games). You could spend a lot of time beating yourself up because your kids love video games or be constantly fighting their love of video games. But you can actually be at peace with it.
Not that you can’t or shouldn’t put parameters around what kind of games they play or when they can play them! (Or television shows). But know that your kids are playing and working and actively engaged and problem solving when playing video games–so of course they love them.
I adore Julie Bogart (homeschool advocate & creator of Brave Writer)–and I felt so validated when I read in her book, The Brave Learner that she also made peace with video games.
My biggest caution would be to avoid video games that connect your child to groups of strangers…Especially when they are young!
13. Get outside as much as possible.
This goes for you and your kids! I have to really work at this–I’m a bit of a city girl and definitely lean towards glamping vs. camping.
I don’t like to be cold. (And it gets seriously cold in Kansas.)
I like toilets.
I’m not big on bugs or ticks or even birds…(Have you seen The Birds?)
But even an old mom can learn new tricks…
14. Stop Yelling!
Ouch…This can be a hard one for many moms.
Years ago I found myself yelling at my littles…And I realized that it was often because I was running late, rushing, and not leaving any margin in our lives.
This meant I needed to stop multi-tasking. If we need to get somewhere–I need to focus on getting us out the door and not doing 10 other things.
It also meant making a conscious decision to stop yelling. What helped me was to think of this:
“If I stopped yelling today–that means my kids will probably not ever remember me yelling. They will remember that I don’t yell. It can all change today.”
For some reason thinking of that fresh start really worked for me…You can always clean your slate.
Of course–we all loose our tempers and patience…But I’m thankful that yelling is something that happens very little at my house. (When it does–I find that yelling only escalates the level of crazy…You don’t want to see 3 year old-twins one up your level of crazy.)
Pray about it. Ask God to help you get control on your emotions and words… Also see #15.
15. Take a nap.
16. They’re always watching and listening.
They hear you nitpick your body, your clothes, your face…
They see you skipping meals and dieting.
Gossip–yep, they hear you doing that too.
They see you putting yourself last–not exactly what you hope for your own daughter someday…
Angry and judgmental attitudes towards others who see the word differently than you…They see that like a neon sign.
Your faith…Is it just empty words or do they see you leaning in on Jesus?
And they certainly hear and see when we disapprove of and criticize them…It becomes part of their inner voice.
When in doubt–just love them, love others. Let it go. And learn to love yourself…teaching them that lesson may be one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids.
17. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone else.
As a people pleaser, this has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn! But you have to make the right choices for your family–and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks!
For me choosing to homeschool was a big part my journey. At first I really worried about what everyone else thought…I felt like I had to explain or prove my choices. Nope…you actually don’t.
18. Your kids are who they are. Love them and Trust God.
When I started out on this motherhood journey, I thought that if I did everything right–my kids would turn out perfect. It was all up to me.
I know that sounds ridiculous–but I do think it was my mindset. Talk about pressure.
But here’s the thing I’ve learned…Kids will struggle. They will make poor choices. They will have personalities and preferences that don’t necessarily line up with your own. No amount of good parenting can make those things untrue.
I tried to make my kids into mini-me’s…But they are each completely wired in their own unique way. There is actually not a lot that I can do to mess them up or make them more amazing than they already are…This is both a huge blessing and relief–but also a huge struggle. It is humbling in every way.
More than anything–I’ve had to give up control. I’ve had to trust God with my kids. There may not be a bigger test of trust.
The story of Abraham having to trust God with his precious son Isaac (Genesis Chapter 22) has taken on a whole new meaning for me…Can I trust God–even with these 6 beautiful souls, my own children?
I am not the Holy Spirit. (Who knew?) I’ve had to give God what is His–the hearts and souls and lives of my children. And focus instead on the planks in my own eyes and laying down the idol of perfect parenting.
19. God loves me because I’m His child–and it has nothing to do with anything I do or don’t do.
When I was holding my 4th child–our surprise baby after a large 8 year gap, I felt a strong impression that God loved me.
I was so so in love with this child–and he had done nothing to deserve my love. The only qualification for my love was that he was mine. He was helpless and needy…but He was mine.
It was as though God was whispering to my heart–And that is exactly how I feel about you. I love you because you are mine. There is nothing you can do to add to the love or take it away.
Being a mom has helped me begin comprehending God’s unconditional love for His children.
20. Hold their hands for as long as you can…
It happens. One day will be the last time they hold your hand to walk into the store, to cross the street, to meet a friend…
Thankfully we don’t usually know it’s the last time. Motherhood might be entirely too unbearable if we had to face each loss of childhood with consciousness…
It happens slowly over time–the last bottle, the last diaper, the last meal in a high chair, the last time little arms reach for you to pull them out of a crib…
The last car ride with a booster seat, the last time you cut their waffles, the last time you tie their shoes…the last time they hold your hand.
Yes motherhood is littered with last times…Hold on for as long as you can.
Sending Love and Encouragement
Please know I’m thinking of you–praying for you and cheering you on in this wild adventure of motherhood!
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