6 years ago yesterday, my first child, Meghan Jane, was born.
I spent my pregnancy reading books on babies and parenting, trying to prepare myself for what was coming. I didn’t know, of course, that there isn’t a book out there that will prepare you for this wonderful, crazy, exhausting, thrilling, marvelous, tumultuous, amazing gift of motherhood. Only motherhood itself can prepare you for all it has to offer.
I’m a mere 6 years into this lifetime job. What do I know? Not much. But I’m learning. Every day, I’m learning. Here are six things I’ve learned so far.
#1 There is nothing like the love you have for your own child.
I thought I knew love before I gave birth to Meghan. I did, to an extent. I loved my parents and my brothers. I loved my nieces and nephews. I met Tim and was swept off my feet and felt that crazy-in-love feeling. But then I gave birth and realized there’s no love quite like the love you have for your own child. I don’t think it was until I became a mother that I truly came to understand the love that God has for us. A love so intense that you are willing to suffer and die for your children? Oh, yeah, now I know what that’s like.
#2 I have to be the person I want my children to become.
Oooh this is hard sometimes. So I want my children to know and love God? I have to know and love God myself, and show them that on a daily basis. I want my children to be slow to anger. So I have to be slow to anger. Yep, I have to bite my tongue when I get cut off in traffic or when Tim does something I don’t agree with. Those little people are always watching, and they are becoming what I am.
#3 I’m going to make a lot of mistakes.
As much as I want to be a perfect example for my children 100% of the time, I’m not. I stumble and fall. A lot. Then I get back up and keep trying. I’m faced with dozens of decisions I have to make on behalf of Meghan and Luke every day. I know not every decision will be the right one. But I’m dedicated to learning from my mistakes and giving everything I have to be the best mom I can be.
#4 I’m never going to put myself first again. And I’m okay with that.
When you graduate high school and go off into the world, everything you do is about yourself. Trying to figure out your life plan. What you want to do. Once you get married, the whole two-becomes-one thing happens, and there is a shift in thinking. Any lingering egocentrism starts to fade. Then, a child comes into the picture, and hold onto your hats because everything changes. I haven’t lost my independence. I am a person outside of being a wife and mother. This isn’t about that. Yet. The well-being and happiness of the two little people I brought into the world (and my husband!) is what I care most about. That means I’m last on my personal totem pole and that’s fine by me. Isn’t that the definition of motherhood?
#5 The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the mothering fence.
There will be moments when I’m envious of working moms who are climbing a career ladder while I’m doing a shapes puzzle on the floor, for the tenth time. Or the mom who never seems to be late to anything and hair isn’t in a messy bun and has make-up on. There’s always going to be a mom who seems to have it good, and wouldn’t that be great? The truth is, I’m sure that working mom longs to have the time to do the same puzzle with her child ten times in a row. That put-together mom is probably really tired because she got up at 5am in order to be so stinking organized. God love her. Mothers, no matter what our personal situations, are bound together by similar struggles, similar worries, and similar aspirations. We all want to be the best moms we can and there’s no magical formula for that on the other side of the fence.
#6 There is no right way to do this.
I think it’s a natural instinct to constantly ask ourselves as parents, “Am I doing this right?” The answer is there is no right way. There are a lot of parenting paths you can take as you raise your children, and each that can lead to the same place. How you get there isn’t always what’s important. What matters is just that you are trying to get there.