I love hindsight.
We all know that the experience of pregnancy, childbirth and the beginnings of raising a new little person comes with a huuuge learning curve. When our first child was born, I was both madly in love with her and insecure about my abilities as a mother. There was a lot of trial and error but our sweet girl survived and is now pushing 14.
Looking back I can see my parenting style has changed over time. I’m a more relaxed, laid-back mom now than I was a decade ago. I think I’m actually enjoying our now two-and-a-half-year-old more than I enjoyed her five older siblings. And I think life would have been easier back then had I known . . .
- I didn’t need to sweat the small stuff. The store run got missed and it’s scrambled eggs for dinner? Sounds tasty. Things got crazy and bathtime got missed (again)? Oh well! Dirty kids have better immune systems, right? Hakuna Matata! I wish I would have relaxed my inner control freak earlier on. These are not things to stress over.
- I wish I would have relaxed my housekeeping standards a little too—without guilt. This is easier said than done. But with littles around it’s time to let down a bit and realize the day will come in the future when you can again eat off your floor (if you really want to). These days, I wouldn’t recommend it around here. And that’s OK. Keeping up the facade of a spotless house at the expense of rest, patience and understanding toward my kids? Not worth it. A happy home is more important than a spotless one. Cut yourself a bit of slack, mama, and know that it’s OK, for now. Get help if you can. Do only the bare minimum if that’s all you can handle at the moment, and keep your sanity and joy. Our expectations need to be flexible and forgiving with little people in the house.
- I wish I would have allowed myself more time to enjoy low-key, do-nothing, fun times with our littles. This might seem obvious, but if you’re like me and have felt the pressure to always be “doing” in order to be “productive” (read: valuable”), just stop. Life is not a race to see who can get the most done. Happy, relaxed, bonding leisure time with our families is precious.
- I wish I would have been more open about my struggles, especially with my husband. The “I can handle it alone” mentally was a mistake that too often resulted in me being a crabby mother and frustrated wife. He likely would have been willing to help more if he’d known how much I needed it. But for that I would have had to have the courage to talk about it and ask for help.
- Simplify meals! I spent too long cooking complicated meals early in our married life, partly because I really enjoy cooking, and partly, I think, to impress my husband and extended foodie family with my super amazing culinary powers. That was a mistake. Get a basic repertoire of simple, healthy, quick recipes down, and don’t complicate things until the kids’ palates are developed enough to appreciate something other than pasta and cheese. Just the fact of not having to stress over what’s for dinner is huge. Do your best and be happy. There’s nothing to prove.
- I wish I’d known that even though I would get lost in the whirlwind of motherhood, I’d find myself again. It’s OK to get completely lost and caught up in the overwhelming beauty of that new life. Whether it’s from passionate love or sheer exhaustion, it’s OK to lose yourself in motherhood. The time will come when you search for, and find yourself again. The time to remember who you were before the transformation of motherhood and to resurrect some of the old passions, or pursue new ones. The short years with littles are a season. They are temporary. And beautiful.
For all the mistakes of the early years, there are a few things I have no regrets about. I’m glad—so glad—I ignored those who accused me of “spoiling” my baby by holding and loving on her too much. Those “well-meaning” comments came far too often, and as a new and insecure mom I questioned my instincts. But I’m so glad I snuggled away and developed a strong bond with my girl. Our hearts are made to ache at our babies’ cries. Trust your gut and love away, mama.