I wholeheartedly believe we are here to LEARN, GROW and LOVE; and that the relationship between a parent and a child- especially a mother and her babes- provides a unique platform to do so.
While we often think as parents it is our responsibility to teach our children the ways of the world, I would argue that they come into our lives to remind us of the things that we have forgotten as we have "grown-up."
If we stop to take stock in the teachings our children present to us, perhaps we get closer to understanding ourselves better, maybe we see our children as even more of a blessing, as the most authentic teachers of what life is really all about.
The following is an exploration of 10 lessons I have been offered as a mother thus far. I share them as a reflection on my personal growth since becoming a mom, with the hopes that they might resonate and spark curiosity for others to examine their own motherhood transformations.
I will lovingly refer to them as my “Leif Lessons”
1) "Patience is a Virtue"
I can remember my mother telling me this many times when I was a child, I had no idea what she was talking about, and sometimes in my more impatient moments, I think “who really wants to be virtuous anyway?” but really as a mother now, I know what she meant.
As I mentioned, we believe it is our "job" to teach our children patience, especially in their younger years when it seems they have little to no ability to wait, for anything. Example- "mom can I have a glass of milk" immediately followed by screaming or crying "I WANT MILK NOW!" What I have become aware of is my reaction to these "demands" and the value of modeling and embodying patience if I am expecting my 3-year-old to learn it.
Being a parent tests your patience, no way around it and at the same time if you are open and curious- if you develop an awareness of your feelings you are more likely to respond gracefully rather than explosively. My son has gifted me the exposure to what triggers my impatience. I believe the key to "teaching" our children patience, is to be patient with ourselves and our children, as our children learn more from what we do than what we say.
All that being said, you will lose your patience, and that doesn't make you a bad person or mother. So go easy on yourself.
2) Love Yourself, FIRST
Part of me thought this lesson should be right at the top of the list, however, I have learned that part of loving myself is being patient with myself as I am letting go of the limiting beliefs and fears that get in my way.
My son has awakened me to LOVE, real, true, unconditional love. Which has helped me to realize how important that is to turn that loving light inward, or rather to honor the light that is already present and let this little light of mine shine.
Self-love, self-care; sometimes it feels like a broken record, sort of cliche to say but it is the real deal and an absolute requirement of motherhood. A super badass inspiring woman I know wrote this “I actually have this new theory that all cliches are true when we’re ready to apply them to our lives,” she shares this and a whole world of truth and awesomeness in her new book, CHECK IT OUT here!
The act of loving yourself, being in an intimate and accepting relationship with yourself is a blessing to all of the rest of your relationships.
For me this lesson has been about stopping and taking my internal temperature, listening to the thoughts in my head and feeling my emotions in my body, by doing this I have gotten better at becoming aware of when I am digging myself deeper into a pit of despair and playing into the wicked schemes of my negative self-talk.
My personal mantra is “I love and accept myself for all that I am, I love and accept myself for all that I am not.”
Unconditional love requires acceptance.
3) Appreciate the beauty all around you
There are many mornings that Leif wakes up and announces "Mom its a beautiful day!" His genuine excitement and enjoyment of life is a constant reminder to slow down and appreciate what a gift it is to be alive.
Just the other day we were driving, and he remarked: "Mom have you noticed how blue the sky is today?" Sadly there are many days that I don't notice, but with his help, I strive to stay more connected with the energy of life that is buzzing all around us and receive the many benefits of time spent in nature.
Stop and smell the roses, take a barefoot walk on the grass or the beach, climb a mountain. Bask in the beauty of life.
4) Disconnect to Connect
Our children are acutely aware of where our attention is, and while I do not believe we need to give all of our attention all of the time, it is essential to INTENTIONALLY give attention and be FULLY present for a period of time each day.
With social media at our fingertips and the many other distractions we face, I have learned how important it is to put down the device and be present for whomever I am spending time with, especially my adoring child. I am reminded each time I hear "Mom put down your phone and play with me" or by observing the way he is so fully immersed in whatever he is doing.
I have also learned that space and time spent on caring for myself is more valuable than the time spent trolling the newsfeed or checking emails. Someday I will greatly miss my son's requests to play with me.
Humans are meant to connect. We thrive with real, honest, face to face-connection.
5) The Real Value of Self Care
Self-care was easy when it was my job. Literally, for nearly a decade I was blessed to exercise day in and out as part of my profession. I also had an endless amount of time to food prep and meditate.
Enter Motherhood. If ever there was a time for a greater focus and need for self-care, its Motherhood.
We all know that there are more demands on our time and energy, taking care of our own needs can be challenging, "me time" can be elusive and it is hard to stay motivated. What I have learned is to keep it simple and stay consistent.
Being a mother requires us to dig deeper to make ourselves a priority. Self-care doesn't exclusively mean exercise or eating well, sometimes it is just a matter of taking more deep breaths and listening to make sure the voice in your head isn't too nasty.
When I catch my inner critic bringing me down, I’ve taken to responding “I am Love”, this is instantaneous self-care.
If we look to our children as inspiration and motivators, we can leverage our love for them and desire to be healthy and happy to make more time for the things that "fill our cups."
Everyone is happier when mom is at full strength!
6) It’s a Journey- You are always right where you're supposed to be-
From the moment children enter our lives, both they and we are in a constant state of growth. I remember fumbling through the early days of mommy-ing and feeling like just when I figured something out and considered myself a "master," Leif would almost immediately change the game entirely.
The lesson here is that everything, everyone, is always in a constant state of change and if we are curious and open, we just might notice the ways that we have grown wiser and stronger in the process. Every part of the journey, especially the challenges that we face, are of value.
7) There is JOY in Innocence
Unless tired, hungry or stressed (or worse a combination of those evils); children are innately joyful. Often times children are happy for no reason at all, it is after all our true nature. It probably helps that their lives are rather uncomplicated and they are not burdened by the stressors and the responsibilities of life, innocence really is bliss.
Yet, while we have grown and life demands more of us, our children are a helpful reminder to be more joyful.
Leif motivates me to return to my more childlike sense of wonder, to be playful and silly, and not take everything SOOOOOOO seriously.
We are here to enjoy life.
8) Letting go and acceptance
Planning and the need to be in control can be a conflict of interest when it comes to raising another human being. This is hard for me a classic Type A personality and recovering perfectionist. I am slowly but surely learning how to go with the flow, to detach from expectations, and accept the many things that are beyond my control.
Our children are WHO THEY ARE, and this requires an acceptance of the fact that they won't always behave the way we might prefer. We can lessen the amount of frustration and resentment felt by staying tuned into whether we are attempting to control things because of our own discomfort.
It helps to see children with eyes of love and understanding as much as possible. They are new to this whole life thing (at least this life experience), and if we are honest often times we create conflict by expecting too much from them socially or emotionally. Truth. We do this with adults as well.
Sometimes we have to own up to our temper tantrums about not getting our own way, to make space for a more helpful and healthy interaction with our children and others.
Simple acceptance of this one true fact goes a long way- parenting is messy-nothing and no one is perfect!
9) Communication- Language is impactful.
Although years of coaching and various training imparted the importance of communicating from an empathetic and compassionate place, I have found that becoming a mother has further developed these skills and really shed light on the significance of the language we use in a more personal way.
With motherhood comes- out of whack hormones, sleep loss, feelings of anxiety, long frustrating days, etc.; the ability to choose our words carefully is often pushed to the limit. It seems difficult when we are emotionally exhausted to take a pause to recognize another person's feelings, and at the same time, it becomes more pressing to do so, so that interactions with others aren't explosive and hurtful.
If we start with awareness of our own feelings and work on relating how we feel to those we care about so that they are better able to understand and offer the support we need, then we create the invitation for others to do the same just by setting the example.
This lesson on communication is crucial to maintaining a positive relationship with your partner/spouse and children. It is key to that self-loving relationship with yourself that I mentioned.
It surely isn't easy to recognize the feelings on the other side of a toddler meltdown, but our ability to do so helps our child understand their emotions and learn how to self-regulate.
10) ASK FOR HELP
Mothering can be very isolating at times, we can begin to tell ourselves we are the only one that struggles and oh the shame, this is precisely when you need to "find somebody to lean on." Asking for help is essential to survival. Actually, it is key to thriving which is what I want to do.
Asking for help does not mean you are weak or incapable.
When you are out of patience, ask for help. When you haven't found the time to care for yourself and your attitude shows it, ASK FOR HELP. Use those communication skills and speak up, so MAMA gets her needs met too.
Help can come in many forms. Your partner/spouse. A friend. Siblings. Parents. Neighbors. Therapist. Prayer. Heck, you can find a world help in a yoga class.
BOTTOMLINE. Ask, and you shall receive!
So there they are- ten lessons/reminders I have gleaned from my first three years of motherhood- I am excited to continue on this journey watching myself and child grow, expanding into our highest selves, though it has been said children are already closest to this state.
If there were one thing I would add, it would be- With challenge lies opportunity. Many aspects of motherhood are hard. It is easy to get caught up in the struggle, to be your head about what isn't working and what we are not doing. You may feel drained by the demands placed on your soul. There is an allure to call out all the things motherhood ask of us and wonder why it’s so exhausting sometimes. I am always coming back to this- Growth requires us to step outside of our comfort zone, to stretch beyond what we believe is possible and move beyond our fears.
All that being said, “I still have a lot of shit to learn, I'll admit it.”
And now, I invite you to join me, to stop and reflect on all the ways you have grown, of all the teachings offered by your little gurus of life. To be in awe of all the power you possess and the awesomeness that you are.
How you have grown since becoming a mom?
In what ways has your child transformed your perspective on life?
What is your mom superpower?
I look forward to hearing from you, until next time.