Lessons You Learn From Motherhood
As Mother’s Day approaches I have been thinking about what I have learned over the years about motherhood. Some are big lessons, some are small, some are still a work in progress. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, just the first twenty-five that came to mind. Feel free to tell me what you have learned in the comments.
1. Every holiday will bring a sick child.
2. Only mothers know the secret of stain removal. Remember this when you let your children wash their own clothes.
3. Band-aids with characters on them are infinitely better than the plain ones. But your child will use the entire box at once. For injuries that are not visible to the naked eye.
4. Speaking of injuries, never throw away crutches. In fact, collect them in every size now, before you need them. Same goes for other non-perishable items like: ice packs, ace bandages, socks, hair ties, pencils, and safety pins. You will never have enough of these things. Buy so many that you think, this is absurd! This is a crazy amount! And then buy some more.
5. Your child can give Oscar-worthy performances every night at bedtime and during homework time. This is when you will hear about all the injustices that have been inflicted upon them that they did not deserve. To sum it all up, most of it will somehow be your fault. There really are only two things that you can do: ignore it or video it. I recommend the latter so that five years in the future when they don’t have any recollection of the nightly dramatics you can remind them. And hopefully laugh.
6. When walking through your child’s bedroom at night, shuffle your feet along the floor to avoid stepping directly on the Legos which will cripple you.
7. You will realize your own selfishness and been forced to overcome it. Except when it comes to junk food, then you will hide and eat it in the closet. You are doing the children a favor by not allowing them to have such awful food, remember that. You are doing it FOR THE CHILDREN.
8. Related, you will one day give your child a baggie full of dry cereal to eat for breakfast as they run out the door to the bus stop, until that day happens you will be silently judging the other mothers whose kids you have seen clutching baggies of Froot Loops at the bus stop. You could stop that judging now, but why bother, you may as well bask in that feeling of superiority now while you can. I assure you, it will be short-lived.
9. Patience isn’t always something you feel, it is something you show. Sometimes that means you fake it. This is a good time to practice that Lamaze breathing that did nothing for you during labor.
10. Your children will want to “DO IT MYSELF!!” That is until they are capable of doing it themselves. Then they don’t want to. If only the Cozy Coupe car could be converted to a lawn mower. Three-year olds love to sweep and vacuum, so for a couple years you will have an area in your home that is approximately 3ft by 3ft that is extraordinarily clean.
11. There is no better way to feel old and haggard than to take a close up photo of your face pressed cheek to cheek with your child. Do it anyway, because ten years from now you will wish you still looked that “old” and “haggard.”
12. You will learn to listen. This wasn’t a skill that came easily to me as a young mother. I would frequently interrupt my children. Now that I have almost grown children who I wish would talk to me more, I really stop and listen every time the opportunity presents itself. As an added bonus, once your children are older teenagers you will have ample opportunities to practice your poker face while you listen to them. I could make a fortune in Vegas.
13. It’s okay to embarrass you children as long as it’s about you, and not them. It is not okay to talk about how they wet bed until they were ten. It is okay, however, to turn up the radio and sing along to 80’s music while their friends are in the car.
14. You will discover that the small everyday events, the quiet moments, the cuddles in bed while reading, those matter more than the big things. While the big vacations are nice and memorable, the small things form the foundation of their lives. My kids rarely talk about Disney World, but they remember the treasure hunts through the house to find their birthday presents, being picked up from school early as a surprise to go to the movie theater, and I hope my daughter remembers all the times she has made me braid her hair into a million braids so it will be “curly” in the morning.
15. You will discover that no matter how old they are, their gender, how close in age they might be, your children are distinct individuals. And you will realize that treating them fairly does not always mean treating them equally. This is especially true when you have a child who has needs greater than the other children in the family, whether the special needs are because of a physical disability or a mental illness. The sooner you stop trying to treat everyone equally, the happier everyone will be.
16. Pick your battles, and let go of the rest. There are so many battles that if you try to fight them all you will grow weary. Stick with the ones that matter the most. And the longer you parent, the shorter the list of battles you are willing to wage will become. Motherhood would be easier if you just trimmed the list down at the beginning.
17. Murphy’s Law Will Prevail: Wash the sheets, someone wets the bed. Get the car detailed, someone gets carsick. Wear a white shirt, your child is going to get hurt and bleed on your shoulder when you pick him up. They grow out of expensive shoes faster than the cheap ones. Thinking of buying those non-refundable season ski passes for the family, you have just guaranteed a snowless winter.
18. You will learn to be a Mother by being a mother. Sure, reading books and magazines can help you formulate ideas and strategies for how to be a more effective parent, but at the end of the day you are the expert of your own children.
19. You will stop worrying about your children when you die. When they were newborns I worried about feeding them, would they stop breathing in the middle of the night, was the car seat the right one. Now I worry about their relationships, how safely they drive, are they going to pass AP English–things over which I have zero control. The worry is still there, it just takes a different form.
20. Look before you sit down on the toilet. Boys can not aim. And neither boys or girls know how to replace the toilet paper. Drip dry should only be used in regard to delicate laundry.
21. Children are really good at sharing things you don’t want shared. Things like colds, illnesses, and what really happened to that vase your aunt gave you as a present. You will want to remember this before speculating out loud on the career of your 60-year old neighbor’s 22-year old girlfriend with the bleached blonde hair and fake boobs.
22. Child time moves much more slowly than adult time. When planning how long something is going to take multiply how long you think it should take by three. Per child.
23. Your children will find beauty in places you haven’t noticed and in things that have become mundane to you. Whether it is the weeds in the garden, the graffiti on the side of a building, or the way the sunlight streams through the clouds. Seeing things through their eyes can change your perspective.
24. Before showing off some trick you used to be able to do when you were younger, like jumping your bike off a ramp or rollerskating, test whether you can still do it, in private. Trust me. My kids are still laughing about the Great Cartwheel Incident of ’09.
25. The cards your children make you for Mother’s Day will mean more to you than any present that could be bought. Especially the ones where a portrait of you is drawn on the front.
Happy Mother’s Day! Tell me what lessons have you learned from motherhood?Published May 9, 2013. Last updated October 29, 2017.