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Things I've Learned as a Mother

16 Things I Have Learned About Being a Mother

By Chris Jordan

I have mostly learned from other mothers.

I have discovered over the years that mothering isn’t about the big issues: breast vs. bottle, to circumcise, or not, cry-it out or never sleep again… No, the things that matter most are the little things, the small lessons we pick up along the way. They are the legacy we pass on to our children. They are the things our children will remember us for, good or bad.

Here is a small list of lessons I have learned

1.  The color white should be avoided.

At all costs. In everything. Walls, cars, bedding, towels, floors, and let’s not forget clothing.

I had thought since my youngest is approaching six years old that I was past this rule. I put my favorite white summer skirt in the laundry room to handwash it. (Because it is not only white but also linen and really, I must be crazy.) My son came home with all of his sweaty, dirty, disgusting football work-out clothes and threw them on top of my beloved skirt. By the time I noticed the next day, my skirt had MOLD on it. MOLD.

The lesson here, white leads to heartbreak.  Brides wear white because once they get married and have children they will never get to wear it again.  True story.  It has nothing to with purity.

2. Baking cures all ills.

There are no pains that some sugar, flour, and chocolate mixed together in some form can not assuage.

3. One day your child will shout that he hates you.

Although you logically know this isn’t true, it will cut you to your core. Take solace in the fact that this means you are doing your job right. You aren’t your child’s friend. You are their parent.  You probably hate you too, sometimes.

4. When your kids are behaving in a way that makes you least want to give them affection and attention, that is precisely when they need it the most.

5. The healing power of a hug.

Hugs rank right up there with baked goods.

6. You can never have too many vases.

If you are lucky they will always be filled with flowers. Sometimes those flowers will look an awful lot like dandelion heads. You will love them the best.

7. You have an infinite reserve of patience.

Yes, you will be tested. Yes, there will be times when you think you are right at that edge of your sanity. But then your kids will push right over to the other side and you realize, with surprised joy, that you have not strangled them nor has your head popped right off. And at that moment, you should feel proud.

8. The loss of a child is something that you will never get over.

My mother-in-law still mourns her child, who died 50 years ago, with an intensity I cannot even fathom.

9. Don’t worry what other people think of you.

Don’t compare your inside to everyone else’s outside. Live your life in a way that makes you happy. You know the old saying:  If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. It’s true.

10. Make your words sweet, for you never know when you will have to eat them.

Criticizing the way any of the children of your friends behave is a sure way for that behavior to be visited upon you by your own children. Ten fold.

11. You will say completely ridiculous things to your children.

Just like your mother said to you. You will claim to have “eyes in the back of your head.” You will ask them if they “live in a barn.” You will threaten to “pull this car over right now!”

12. Don’t wait for your house to be perfect to entertain.

As long as you have children it never will be.

13. You can never have enough pens or pencils.

Considering affixing one to your counter otherwise you will never have one when you need it.

14. Cheerios.

When your children are small you are required to carry around a container of them. Always. I am not sure if any kids actually eat the Cheerios. BUT THAT IS NOT THE POINT!

15. Smile.

16. Never underestimate the healing power of a good cocktail at the end of the day.

What’s the best lesson you can share that you’ve learned on your own, from your own mom or another mom? Spill it.

Chris Jordan
About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, the...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is almost 6.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.

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  • Trish

    October 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    The Cheerios are to feed to the squirrels!

  • Lisa

    October 20, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Or the ducks!

  • Issa

    October 20, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    I adore this post Chirs. I agree on all of them.

    These are from my mother:

    Name your children something that you can yell easily down the block.

    Try to remember to cherish the newborn stage. It really doesn’t last that long.

    Don’t mind the dirt. Or the cabinets that never get closed. Or the toilet paper roll that only you replace. One day, when your house is all clean and all the children are grown, you will miss it.

    TV won’t rot their brain. Candy won’t kill them. Ice cream can be a dinner food. It’s all okay in moderation. Make something forbidden in your house and it will be all they want as an adult. Better to teach moderation to a five year old, than to a 35 year old in rehab. 😉 (My mom is a shrink)

  • Fabs

    October 20, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Thank you for this Chris, it is so very very true. You brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes!

  • Jenn

    October 20, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Always, always, always bring a diaper and wipes with you. Even if you’re going to the store for one little thing, don’t leave home without a diaper!!!!!

  • Tabatha

    October 20, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Reminds me of the advice I received from a stranger in a pet store while I was talking through my teeth at my 4 year old son. She said “Honey, I have three sons – all grown. All I can say is I really wish I would have yelled less and drank more.”

  • Caitlyn

    October 20, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    our cheerios actually get eaten – I can bribe Beauty to interact with her grandparents and the nursery ladies with them.  on the other hand, she’s only 8 months old.

  • Kristi

    October 21, 2010 at 11:08 am

    What I’ve learned: My five don’t remember the countless healthy, home cooked meals that I have spent years of my life planning and cooking, but they all still whisper fondly of the night mom was so sick that all she could do was dump a box of Lucky Charms in a large mixing bowl, pour in the milk and hand them their own spoon and told them to dive in!

  • Randa @

    October 21, 2010 at 11:22 am

    I’ve learned that it will take WAY, WAY longer to train your kids to do things and act right than you think it will. Be prepared for the LONG haul, and don’t get too upset when they don’t learn it right away.

  • Cindy

    October 21, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Remember to tell your kids that you like them. They think we have to love them cuz they are our kids but liking them and the people they are turning out to be is really important.

  • Nicki

    October 21, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Always carry a few towels in the car while your kids are infants. (no, you really don’t want to know why)

  • Keyona

    October 21, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Apologize. Teach them that no one is perfect, not even parents.

  • Billie

    October 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I laughed out loud at some of your 16 things as well as some of the comments.

    Re: Kristi’s comment – I recently told my oldest sister (her child is 2 years old compared to my oldest at 10) that it really is ok to give cereal for dinner every now and then. 🙂

    Something I would have to add is that you should take time to play with your children. I certainly don’t manage it every day but I try to get at least a few moments of one-on-one play in with my kids at least every few days. That’s probably why my kid and his friends usually ask me to play football/baseball/etc. with them. They know I’m usually up for it. 🙂

  • Lisa

    October 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    LOVE THIS! Especially #3. As the mother of a 17 year old boy, we have been there!

  • Lylah

    October 21, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    I’ve learend that sleep is overrated (also coveted, but still overrated). When my youngest is a surly teenager, I’ll wish he still wanted to wake me up at 5 a.m. to cuddle and talk to me about superheroes.

  • Courtenay

    October 21, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    #4, wow. must remember.must remember.

  • Ali

    October 21, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    A $3 glue gun goes a long way. I’ve fixed a headband and a beloved doll’s arm just this morning.

  • Jules

    October 21, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    My biggest lesson is learning to move on.  I’ve made mistakes.  I’ll make more.  I can’t dwell on them.  I can learn from them, hope my children learn from them, and move on to the next thing.

  • Lucinda

    October 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Never give crayons or markers to small children unless you plan to paint your walls! I agree with don’t be afraid to apologize. How will they learn to if you don’t show them how?

  • Kerrie

    October 21, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Always, always, always buy your socks the same…

    My midwife offered me this gem when leaving hospital with my daughter. I think of her every time I get an odd sock in the clothes basket…an almost daily event here.

  • edj

    October 21, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    Your kids will act up in public at some point. What everyone around you will notice is how you respond. Don’t panic and over-react, and don’t be embarrassed. Stay calm.

  • Leigh

    October 21, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Two things I’ve learned – cereal for dinner really is okay. The kids won’t die.
    And two – let the husband spend as much quality time with the kids as possible while you do something enjoyable alone.

  • […] One of the bloggers that I read, Chris Jordan, put up a list of ’16 Things I Have Learned About Being a Mother’.  As I read them I found myself nodding my head as they are so true.  I wanted to pass the list […]

  • Shaundra

    October 22, 2010 at 12:11 am

    My 2 year old was throwing a full on, body throwing tantrum… The really embarrassing kind. Who am I kidding they pretty much all are, my kid is awesome like that. A passing shopper noticed I was at my end point for the day… She smiled at me and said, “Don’t worry; you don’t see many 20 yr olds doing that… He’ll grow out of it.” Great advise (though to be honest I was kind of thinking, lady you have NO idea what this kid has in him) so now I try to take a deep breath and remember that phrase when my son provides me with some fun event… Like yesterday when he pulled poo from his diaper and decided to wipe his face.”EWWW…” he says. Really?! Deep breaths…

  • […] there are some days where we wonder if all this doing is really doing something. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this blog post by Chris over at AlphaMom. I cried when I read it because it has been that kind of […]

  • jean

    October 22, 2010 at 8:27 am

    I’ve learned, the hard way, to never say never. I’ve eaten more crow then you can imagine.

  • Terry

    October 22, 2010 at 10:33 am

    It doesn’t matter so much what you do FOR your kids as what you do WITH them.

  • Dianne

    October 23, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Just try to remember…little people, little problems, big people, big problems.  What seems unsurmountable today, will be nothing in a few years.  

  • Sarah

    October 26, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    No matter how tired I am, or how much I don’t want to, if they ask for another good night kiss, to read a story, sing a song, play a game, sit in my lap, “help” me with something, I always say yes.  Because I never know if this will be the last time they ask.

    Everyone gets told “I love you”, whether they are 6 or 16, whether they say it back or not, whether or not they want a hug and a kiss too.  When I was 21 and heading out with a friend, my mom kissed us both goodbye and said love you, and my friend said, I can’t remember the last time my mom said that to me.  Hearing you are loved by your parents is something you never outgrow, even if you act like you don’t care.

  • […] there are some days where we wonder if all this doing is really doing something. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this blog post by Chris over at AlphaMom. I cried when I read it because it has been that kind of […]

  • Kate

    November 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    love this! so funny and sweet and TRUE! I have learned that as frustrating as it can be in the moment, taking the time to explain to a little one HOW and WHY to do something (or not do something!) not only helps them understand, but helps me calm down and remember to see things from their perspective. Plus then they can also share their new found wisdom with siblings and husbands 😉

  • Random Chick

    November 2, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    My mother in law told me this once and I always try to remember it whenever I get OCD about cleaning my house:

    “Your children will not remember how clean your kitchen floor was when they are older, they will remember the time you spent with them when you wanted to clean the kitchen floor.”

  • vermontmommy

    November 2, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    I cried as I read these as these all hit home. This past Friday a friend who was 40 died in her at home getting the family ready for school and work. She appeared to be fit and healthy and had a heart attack. She left behind an 8 year old and a 4 year old. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Cherish every moment.

  • ditdit

    November 3, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Be there.
    When your child looks up into the bleachers during their game or out into the auditorium during their recital for their parents and finds those parents smiling and waving, the smile they send back your way is worth every practice you’ve taken them to, every taxi service you’ve provided, even on the days when you don’t think you can possibly fit one more errand into.

    • Isabel


      November 3, 2010 at 8:13 am


      I love “Be there.” So true!

  • Sue

    November 3, 2010 at 9:09 am

    I wrote no. 4 on a post-it and stuck it on the window above my kitchen sink.

  • suzie

    November 3, 2010 at 9:53 am

    I think No. 4 is my favorite.  My daughters are 12 and 14, and when they start to have that teenage “attitude,” I want to just send them to their rooms, or have them go hang out with their friends – at THEIR house. But what really helps is if I spend an afternoon with them, and we just chat, or play a card game, or anything else that’s just 1:1.  Often, that can snap them out of it for up to a week.  

  • Little Rules of Parenting -

    November 3, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    […] Jordan, who blogs over at, has a wise and wry list that might speak to you today. It’s called “16 Things I Have Learned […]

  • joyce

    November 3, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Such a wonderful article. every day is a new day and every day is different ( even tho sometimes they blend into one another!) enjoy your children  they grow up wayyyy to fast!!!

  • Dr Efrat Schorr

    November 4, 2010 at 4:33 am

    When my child said “I hate you” I was shocked too – but I decided that like, in the United States – there is a ban on hate speech – my house would be the same. I told my child “you may feel that way as much as you need, but you may not say that.” Another bit of wisdom I got from my grandfather: when he came over to see one of my children completely dissolved in fits and tears – he reassured me “Its only a stage, and the next one will be worse!” I can’t really explain why I found this so reassuring but I do!
    Dr Efrat Schorr

  • Shana

    November 4, 2010 at 4:58 am


    Yes!  When my son was born, a very good friend passed that lesson on to me – she told me the story of how her first child had been very slow in learning to walk, he just stayed in the crawling stage for months, and she was getting all anxious about it —

    (remember all those “milestones” checklists you find in every parenting book? she was really neurotic over those – and i have to admit, for the first few months I’m pretty sure I was the same way ; ) ) 

    so anyway, during one of her son’s regular check-ups she told the pediatrician how stressed out she was over the fact that he wasn’t walking yet.  and the pediatrician said to her, 

    “think back to your high school senior prom – do you remember there being any kids in your class who were crawling around on the dance floor b/c they’d never learned to walk?  No – that just does not happen.”

    My son is 4 years old now and I still find myself reminding myself of that story all the time – there’s always another milestone to reach!  It helps so much to “trust” that it *will* happen…. : )

  • Parenthood | Strollerderby

    November 4, 2010 at 11:11 am

    […] Chris Jordan recently compiled a list of “16 Things I Have Learned About Being a Mother.” She was inspired to write the list after realizing that the biggest issues in parenting […]

  • Mary A

    November 4, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Love their Dad. If you are lucky enough to be married to their father, make your marriage a priority. If you want them to have good marriages, you have to show them what a good marriage looks like.

    It never looks like marriages on TV.

  • Alexicographer

    November 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    I’d add, don’t make into problems things that aren’t. As one example I had a (generally lovely) co-worker who fretted over how my failure to move my son’s crib out of our bedroom was setting us all up for him having sleep problems. We didn’t get around to moving him until he was 15 months and … no problems at all. Not to say we can’t learn from the collective wisdom, but if something’s working for you, I say leave well enough alone.

  • AngelicaV

    November 4, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Socks don’t have to match.
    Always carry a spare pair of underpants
    Even if you buy 2 exactly the same toys, kids can fight over who gets which one.

  • Rebecca

    November 4, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Dance and sing with your kids…if you can’t do it well.  

  • 16 Things « Seamus the Baby

    November 4, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    […] are just at the beginning of this long road they call parenthood, but already many of these (16 Things I Have Learned About Being a Mother) ring true. Especially this: “14, Cheerios. When your children are small you are required to […]

  • Pat

    November 4, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Barbara Kingsolver said: “It is entirely normal for me to get up in the morning, take a look around, and laugh out loud.”
    I can’t remember who said “Love is wanting to hug and strangle your kid at the same time.”

  • BethB

    November 5, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    So true about the entertaining one! I finally quit apologizing and just serve good food. And wine. Not necessarily for the guests.

    Love the daily realizations. Among my first of these was advice to parents to be based on my toddler:

    “Chase the cat, naked, laughing, and brandishing salad tongs. He needs to prepare for the new arrival as well.”

    And: “Consider upgrading your kitchen to feature a cement floor with a center drain and handy hose on the wall. It makes a unique statement about your new lifestyle.”

    More here.


  • […] And here’s a great post on 16 Things I’ve Learned About Being A Mother by Chris Jordan at Alphamom. Totally with her on the pen thing. (Hat Tip: […]

  • Jenna Martin

    November 6, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    You talk about pens and pencils disappearing. I used to have a pair of scissors chained to the wall in the kitchen.

  • Stephania

    November 7, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    I’ll add- to be sure to let allow your kids see you and your husband argue (NOT fight) AND make up. It is so important for kids to see how REAL relationships operate- and how REAL disagreements get worked out. It shows them so much- how to communicate, stick-it-out, forgive and be forgiven… Trust me on this one- it was one of the greatest examples my parents set for me. LOVE the post & comments by the way- made me laugh & brought tears to my eyes.

  • Alisa

    November 10, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    I’ve learned to stop worrying so much about everything and to just breathe and cherish all the little moments we spend together. The best time I have with my son is when I tune out everything else and just watch and enjoy him exploring in our yard.  It is such a joy to watch his fascination with little creatures, the crackling of leaves and the water gushing out of the hose.

  • Katie

    November 12, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Hey Chris, Katie from Cheerios here. Being a mom myself I love your well written post. I was so excited when you included Cheerios in #14! Since we love your post so much we were wondering if we could share it with our fans on Cheerios Facebook with a link back to your page.
    Do we have your permission to do so?

  • Kory Bessellieu

    November 15, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Great website, keep up the hard word.

  • Shannon

    November 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    These are fantastic!  I laughed and cried when I read them!  I always remember “spend half as much money, and twice as much time on your kids.” It is the time they will remember most.

  • Lisa

    November 16, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    “They are the things are children will remember us for..” Please proofread because I immediately got a bad taste in my mouth for what would have been a great post.

    isabel: thanks for catching that. Have a great day.

  • Red

    November 16, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    If a chil hugs you, never be the first to stop

  • Claire

    November 3, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    I am doing research for a class called, “The Teaching of Writing”, and finding this article just made my night. Too funny, love your style.