Ten years ago today I was almost due with my first child. Now, I am a busy mom of a 9-year-old, 8-year-old and 6-year-old. In just three short years, I went from being childless to having three kids, ages three and under.
We were drowning in diapers, tantrums and laundry. Someone was always breastfeeding, potty training or teething. To say life was chaotic is an understatement. It was utter pandemonium at our house; we feared it would never end. Somehow, we managed to survive mostly unscathed.
In what feels like the blink of an eye, the seemingly endless years of baby and toddlerhood are already in my rearview mirror.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve learned some things about parenting. While I am painfully aware that I have a lot more to learn, I was reflecting on how much more I know and how differently I see things. Below are my top 10 takeaways from my first 10 years of motherhood.
1. The endless stages will come to an end. When my youngest was two, he thought my bedroom was his bedroom. I wasn’t sure if he would ever be content sleeping somewhere else. He was in his own bed long before he started kindergarten. The same goes for night wakings, bottles, pacifiers, teething and all the things that feel major when you’re in the thick of it. Everything that seems to last forever will soon be a blip on the radar. I’m hoping that’s the case for adolescence as well, because that’s the next stage I’m entering.
2. Kids observe everything. They know when you aren’t getting along with your husband. They know when you are stressed about work. Kids are “Big Brother” watching your every move. I’m not saying this because you should necessarily do anything different, but it’s important to remember the little humans are taking it all in.
3. Present beats perfect. Your children don’t need Pinterest worthy birthday parties (but hey, if that’s your thing, go for it and don’t apologize); they don’t need elaborate vacations, the cutest clothes or a mom with a bikini body. They don’t need parents who always do the right thing or who never lose their cool. They need parents who listen and engage. Your kids aren’t looking for perfection; they’re looking for your presence.
4. How you give birth doesn’t matter much. Of course, being respected and treated with dignity is important. If you have a plan or desire to give birth a certain way and things go awry, it can be difficult for moms. However, as you get farther away from the birth process itself, you realize it doesn’t matter much if you had a water birth, an epidural, a c-section or if you practically gave birth in your car. Barring any traumatic situations, the birth experience carries less and less weight through the years.
5. Nature is stronger than nurture. All of my children were born within three years. They experienced milestones one after the other. They have the same two parents. They live in the same house. Yet they are all vastly different. What works for one does not work for the others. While the way we treat them surely has an influence on their personality, for the most part, baby they were born this way.
6. They will eventually learn to use the potty. It’s disheartening when you try and fail at the three-day training method, when you’ve gone through two family size bags of M&Ms only to question if your child was playing you the whole time, or when you clean up another accident. You may begin to question if he or she will be ready in time to move up to the next daycare class, or before your second child is born, or before college. Trust me, they will.
7. Fed is best. End of story.
8. Never say never. Sure, there are some things I said I would never do and haven’t, but I have also gone back on plenty of my convictions. Give yourself grace if you said you would never let your child watch TV, and you end up needing Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for a moment of peace. Don’t stress yourself out about nutritious dinners every night just because you said you would never feed your kids chicken nuggets. You can have ideals and standards; we all do. Just don’t make your parenting so rigid. Flexibility is necessary for sanity.
9. The small stuff is where it’s at. We have been fortunate enough to take some cool vacations over the years, and through NOMB’s partnerships, we’ve been able to experience several shows and attend events like the Dr. Seuss Breakfast aboard the Carnival cruise ship. These bigger experiences are amazing, and I love being able to recall them. However, it’s the day to day that warms my heart. The drive to and from school, the stories and giggles before bed, those are the memories I hold closest to my heart.
10. Your love for them continues to grow. I love my kids more now than I did when they were babies. I love them more today than I did yesterday. I will probably love them more tomorrow than I do today. This is not to say I didn’t love them with all my heart, rather, the more time passes, my ability to love grows stronger.
These last 10 years have been a crazy, wonderful roller coaster ride of experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. I am excited and a little terrified about what the next 10 will bring and am scouring the internet for advice from moms who have survived the teenage years!