15 Life lessons I didn’t expect to learn from motherhood

In the spirit of Mother’s Day, I decided to press pause on these past three years of motherhood to stop and consider all that I have learned. It has been quite a journey of ups and downs, lessons learned and re-learned. But here are my top 15:

1. You can’t be selfish.

I had no idea how selfish I was until I became a mother. My entire life revolved around myself and then in an instant it was about someone else entirely. It has made me a better person in so many ways, but this has been particularly transformative.

2. You have to let go.

Motherhood has finally beat me into submission in the area of control. It took a long while, but I have realized that I can’t control everything — no matter how much my Type-A personality wishes I could. Before I had kids I still couldn’t control everything, but I was able to get pretty close. Throwing another person(s) into the mix with their own personalities has been an exercise in learning to let go and embrace that not everyone is like me and that not everyone will do things my way … and that’s OK!

3. Always bring extra underwear.

I cannot even begin to tell you how many “incidents” had to occur before I realized that this was important. I finally learned the lesson though. Extra underwear for all!

4. Savor all the moments.

Along with being a Type-A personality, I tend to look ahead toward the future often. What are my goals for the coming year? What are we having for dinner next Wednesday night? Where should we vacation this summer? I have often found myself living in the future far more than I have been living in the present. Having kids has presented me with the finite nature of life and opened my eyes to just how quickly it can blow by. Of course I don’t savor every moment of every day, but becoming a mother has helped me to do this a lot more often.

5. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Just when I think “I’ve got this,” my kids will prove me so wrong. “Oh hey, Mom! You thought you finally had me on a consistent sleep routine? AND you actually posted about it on Facebook?! Bahahaha!”  Yeah … so much of that right there. I’m learning to hold on to things with a light hand, so I don’t become overly disappointed when things suddenly change (i.e. when my child suddenly pees her pants, despite the fact that she’s been potty trained for nearly a year). Motherhood is an exercise in adaptation … as is life.

6. Different people need different things.

There really is no one-size-fits-all way of doing parenting … or living your life. Early on in my motherhood journey I mistakenly believed that I had my own little corner on the truth and that my way of doing it was the best way, obviously. After being knocked down by reality countless times, I have gained a lot of empathy and the realization that life is not one-size-fits-all. Everyone’s journey is different and everyone — every man, woman, mom, dad, child — needs different things. That Montessori floor bed might be awesome for our family, but a crib until you’re four? Well, that might be better for another family.

7. I’m kind of a badass.

The awesomeness of knowing I can grow, birth, and feed babies with my own body is not lost on me. And the fact that I can keep them alive (and only look like a hot mess while I’m doing it approximately half the time)? Well, if that’s not badass, I don’t know what is.  I can do hard things. Without a shadow of a doubt, motherhood has taught me that.

8. Sleep solves everything.

Sometimes there are not enough words or discipline or bribery in the world to contend with a lack of sleep. My kids can be the biggest jerks on the planet, but turn into little cherubs after a solid afternoon nap. The whole world looks better after a nap. This same principle goes for me. The world can seem overwhelming and bleak, but a good night’s sleep is worth its weight in avoided therapy bills.

9. You don’t have to please everyone.

Along with the self-confidence that motherhood has brought me, there has also come the awareness that I do not exist for the purpose of making everyone happy. Some people aren’t going to like me and will disagree with my decisions and that’s OK. At the end of the day, I have to choose what is important to me and my family. Becoming a mother and having the responsibility of other people’s little lives thrust upon me has created a valuable perspective of life and what truly matters. My family is what truly matters. Having everyone like me and agree with me? Not so much.

10. Function over style.

Before I had children I owned a few non-cotton items of clothing (a couple of them were even white!) and I also used to buy all the prettiest, wooden toys sans licensed characters for my children, because: style. Ha! Now my house is littered with plastic, light-up Disney characters and I don’t remember the last time I wore something that wasn’t made of cotton. Function is far more important for my mental well-being and I’ve learned to pick my battles. White couches and pretty silk tops? Well, that is definitely not a hill I’m willing to die on.

11. Target is so much more than a store.

I’ve always loved me some Target, but motherhood has taken it to another level. It has become a sort of glowing, red, beacon of hope. A place for weary mamas to turn for rest and a regaining of sanity. We kill time there in-between errands, pick up weekly essentials, treat ourselves, and have late-night friend dates as we roam its aisles soaking up the peace and quiet. God bless you for staying open ’til 11:00 PM, Target!

12. It really does take a village.

I had heard the old adage “It takes a village to raise a child” plenty of times before having my own kids, but motherhood has taught me just how true this is. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to raise these children without the loving support of my husband and our families. Their support is invaluable to me and I’m pretty certain it’s saved my sanity more times than I can count. But beyond just raising children, I’ve learned that it really does take a village to simply get through life. I have come to value my true friendships on an even deeper level since becoming a mom. My friends and family nourish my soul in a way that I just could not do without. I can’t do this journey of life on my own and I am so thankful for my village.

13. Baby wipes … forever and ever, amen.

I have no idea how I ever lived my life without a stash of baby wipes on hand at all times. They are seriously brilliant for every occasion. They wipe baby behinds, clean sticky faces, dust window sills, get makeup stains out of clothes … the list goes on and on. Even when my children are grown and out of my house, I will forever have a stash of baby wipes.

14. Sometimes you just need a hug.

As much as I believe in thoughtful discipline and following through with my children, I have come to realize that sometimes a hug is really all you need. The same goes for adults. Sometimes life is just so overwhelming that nothing but a hug will do.

15. Fake it ’til you make it.

At least 68% of the time I have no clue what I’m doing as a mom. I’m learning as I go, and I quickly realized that all of you other mothers are too (well, you know … except the ones who would never admit it). I’ve learned to just act like I know what I’m doing until I actually do know what I’m doing. This is also a great life lesson in general. We’re all just works in progress learning along the way and I’ve learned to put a lot less stock in so-called “experts.”

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