I’ve been a mom for over a decade?!
Like most new moms, when I had my first baby I had read every baby book available. Some information contradicted the “norm”, most dispelled the old wives’ tales we grew up with, but overall, it helped to leave me feeling like I didn’t know what to do, or what to expect.
Most of the time.
Of course, throw in all the other factors and any rules you thought you knew went straight out the window! I lived with my in-laws when I had the Little Bird, so they had a whole bunch of helpful ideas and things I should and shouldn’t do. On my side of the family, she was the first grandchild, so I witnessed a metamorphosis of my parents. They turned from my parents, into grandparents and that change wasn’t subtle!
These books were a curse too. I knew about potential allergies and what foods to avoid, so much so that I didn’t let her try chocolate or peanut butter until she was almost 3 years old! (Truth be told, she isn’t a huge fan of either.)
Over time, I found my rhythm. I don’t know that I’ve ever thought – I’ve got this, but I have grown into my role of mom. By the time I had my Little Mouse, I felt more confident about what not to do the second time around. And of course, loosened the reigns a bit.
But I’ve learned a few things along way. And with my Little Bird’s 11th birthday around the corner, here are 10 things I learned over the last decade of being a mom.
Go with the flow
This is easier said than done in the newborn stage, but it really can make a world of difference. Instead of trying to force a routine right away, just go with it. In the hospital, a nurse told me “feed her when she’s hungry and change her when she’s wet”. It really doesn’t need to be more complicated than that. Of course, as they get older, this piece of advice is even more crucial. There is always something that pops up – supplies needed for a surprise project or finding out right before bedtime that there is a test tomorrow in school. Throw in after-school activities, friends birthday parties and general life stuff, and this advice is more important than ever. Just go with it!
Never give up
I know almost every mom has said at one time or another that they will NOT make a separate meal for their kids or allow them to sleep in their beds. And I also know that there are so many reasons that sometimes that is exactly what ends up happening. One thing I know is you’ve got to do you and figure out what’s right for your family. However, if you find yourself trying to reset a habit, for example, detaching from a pacifier, or eating veggies, then my advice is never giving up. Keep putting those veggies on the plate. Every day. Every meal. Every time. Don’t give in and give that pacifier back. Not once, or you’ll have to start all over again from the beginning. It’s always at that moment when you feel like you’re about to lose your mind, that eventually something changes. They stay in their bed. They eat those asparagus without tears. They don’t cry for the pacifier. Never give up!
Find your village
There is your family, and your spouse, who love and support you but will not always give you the advice you need. They could be protecting you or trying to help. But sometimes you just need someone who is going to be there to listen to the whining and complaining – and I’m not talking about your kids! Those people who know when to get together; who say something to your kids that resonates with them; who have a vested interest in your well-being, and who will provide you what you are truly seeking. Those are your people. That is are your village. Those are the people who will make a positive impact on your kids, without wanting anything in return. Those who lend their ears and open their hearts. Find those people and keep them close.
Give yourself a break
We are the hardest on ourselves. We are the first to criticize and question; we doubt our abilities and our decisions. But you know that expression that says that kids aren’t born with manuals? It’s true. We’re all in this together and just taking it day-by-day and figuring things our moment-by-moment. So, give yourself a break. We all have things we wish we could take back, or undo. Take a breath; walk away; gain some perspective. Tomorrow’s a new day and you’re allowed to start fresh!
Listen to your kids
When my kids were toddlers, I wanted them to be active and engaged and thought I’d start putting them into activities other than swimming. I enrolled the Little Bird in toddler gymnastics at the local community centre because she had some fun at a birthday party once. Well, to say it didn’t go well would be an understatement. My three-year-old planted herself to the side, crossed her arms and refused to do anything! What did I do? I tried to convince her to continue. There was begging, pleading and bribery involved. Until I realized by the beginning of the third class that she just wasn’t interested in gymnastics. So, I took her out. This happened again with karate. It may have taken a while, but now listen to my kids. And it’s saved me a lot of frustration – and money! They know what they want. And the older they get, the more vocal they are. When they asked to do music, I told them we’d try it out for the summer and see how it goes. It’s been two years and they both still love it. So listen to them more often.
Go with your gut
You know that nagging sensation you get when something is off? That little voice in your head that tells you to question someone, or something? Listen to it. No matter how big or little the situation, it never steers you wrong. Don’t like the sound of their cough, and know you’ll feel better if you took them to emergency? Do it! Feeling uncomfortable about how they are talking about a situation at school? Reach out to the teacher. I think a parent’s gut reaction and intuition is the closest thing we have to a manual. So, listen to it.
Give them space to breathe
We live in an age of helicopter parenting; we’re always hovering and close by. And while this allows our kids to feel safe and secure, it doesn’t give them the chance to learn things on their own. I am often reminding myself to take a step back. Don’t be so quick to jump in a save them or solve the problem. I try to let my girls work it out and solve the problem. I stay quiet and let them come up with an answer. And they usually figure it out. But if I keep jumping in, they will rely on that. It’s not an easy one…. it’s sort of battles my previous point of go with your gut. You want to help them, make things easier for them, give them everything. But there’s a fine line between helping them and getting them to help themselves. Step back and let them surprise you.
Be their #1 fan and advocate
What you can do is cheer loud from that sideline. Let them hear you! Let them see you! You can be their cheerleader and supporter. And while I think you need to step back, you can also advocate for them. Be their voice. Nobody else loves your kid as much as you do. Make sure you advocate for their best interests and their needs. And never let anyone try and stop you!
Teach them to find their voice
Teaching your children to find their voices is so important. Especially since you’re not always with them. Not only should they be brave enough to speak up for themselves, but they should be courageous enough to stand up for others too. Teach them to be a friend, not a bully. Teach them to speak up for those who aren’t being treated fairly. Ask questions when nobody else will. Stand up and speak up. Nobody ever changed anything in this world by sitting in the corner. I am trying to raise bold, empowered children. Join me and let’s see what they do in the future!!
Give yourself credit
Have you ever given yourself credit for how you’ve raised your kids so far? We are the first to give ourselves crap for something that goes wrong, or behavior that isn’t ideal. We all know we don’t get a phone call from the teacher to tell us how wonderful your kid is; it’s usually to tell you that something happened. Something bad. But do you ever stand back and listen to the good things people say? How well-behaved your children are at birthday parties, or how well-mannered they were with their grandparents? I will be the first to admit that I’m pretty hard on my kids, I expect good behavior in stores and restaurants and lose my shit if there is anything less. However, I’ve been told over and over how responsible my girls are. How polite and respectful and giving they are. Don’t get it twisted, they aren’t that way with me, but no kid behaves the same way at home as they do elsewhere…so I try to relax and give myself credit for those kids that other people see. The daycare and the school, music teachers and swim coaches, bandmates and friends’ parents. They see the result of your parenting. We don’t. We’re too close. But pat yourself on the back so far. You’re doing a great job!
I’m no parenting expert, but this is what I’ve learned so far. As I head into the Land of Tweendom I know I have a whole lot more changes ahead of me. Changes and challenges. But I still think these 10 things will hold true. Replace toddler with tween, and they are still trying to find their place in the world.
What’s one thing you’ve learned in your parenting journey? Share it below!