A week after my baby’s first birthday (how the heck did that happen so fast), I share the most important lessons motherhood taught me that I could have never taught myself.
I always knew I wanted to be a mom, there was no question of that. But I never expected that my son would teach me so much more than I could ever expect to teach him. So just a week after my son’s first birthday, as I literally run around making buffet signs, and cutting up cheese and fruit for tomorrow’s big bash, I wanted to share the most important lessons motherhood taught me after just one year in.
The Most Important Lessons Motherhood Taught Me On My Baby’s First Birthday
Forget about how to swaddle, change a diaper, or cut carrots into the perfect BLW-friendly shape. Here are the most important lessons motherhood taught me.
My Career Doesn’t Define Me. Nor Does Motherhood.
There’s absolutely nothing easy about being a mompreneur. The constant juggle, the mom guilt, the work guilt, the feeling like you’re failing at literally everything you do. It’s fun stuff and you can read more about that working mom challenge here. But becoming a mom has put things in perspective when it comes to my career. It’s almost like it’s taken the pressure off just a bit because I know I haven’t put all my eggs in that one basket. As a result, I feel a lot less anxiety around work. On the flip side, I could say the exact same thing about motherhood. It’s not my only identity, so even when I turn my head for a second while Baby E pulls up on the marble coffee table and my kid falls on his face and does that very very VERY sad silent cry and I instantly feel like the WORST mom in the whole world, I am able to bounce back and recover almost as quickly as he does. ALMOST. I’ve learned that my identity doesn’t have to be so heavily weighted in one area of my life, and I can gain little bits of inspiration and achievement from both sides.
How to Work Smarter
So while I haven’t yet been able to figure out the perfect balance (will I ever?), motherhood has taught me how to work smarter. When every minute working means another minute I can’t be with my son, I quickly learned how to make every moment in the office count. This meant I could take more vacation days and focus solely on my family rather than have my mind scattered and only partially in a bunch of places. On work days, I pack them full and make sure they’re pretty well scheduled so I never feel a lag. And when my nanny goes home, and the clock strikes 5, I march myself down the stairs, pick up my son and I am ON.
How to Put my Phone Away
Speaking of putting my phone away, this has been QUITE the lesson to learn. I’m a millennial. I’m a millennial who’s job exists completely online. In other words, I’m obsessed with my phone and it’s BAD BAD BAD. I’m a year into this motherhood thing and I have ABSOLUTELY not mastered this, but I do think I’m getting a bit better every day. When it’s mom time in the mornings, evenings and weekends, or when I’m at our weekly music class, I try damn hard to leave my phone in one room, and check it only in passing as I change the Raffi album. Because you know that is on HEAVY rotation over here.
You Don’t Have to Do Things Just to Share it on Instagram
This one sounds silly when you write it out, but if millennials like me were to analyze a lot of our day, we would realize we do some things (at least partially) for the ‘gram. I work in social media full time, so I am fully aware of this unhealthy compulsion. This is partially why the decision to not share explicit images of my son was ROUGH for me (read about that here). But since my husband and I crafted our “sharenting” rules, I’ve learned to relish in these special moments and keep them just for me. Not just with Baby E, but with everything else, as well. I don’t have to photograph EVERY lunch I eat. Honestly, it’s unusually freeing.
How to Build a Village
I’m a total Type A control freak, so learning to let other people “help” me with potentially the most important job I’ve ever had and will ever have didn’t necessarily come naturally. But my goodness, am I ever glad I did. I don’t believe there’s any “right” way to parent, but I do feel like building a big, vibrant village was absolutely “right” for me. Pretty much right away when Baby E was born, I was so lucky to have an extensive group of people around to support me and help me figure out how to mother. Between our amazing nanny, night nurses, grandparents, our siblings, my assistant, and 5 (yep, you read that right) FIVE great grandparents, I quickly learned to see help not only as helpful for ME, but also for Baby E, too. How awesome is it that Baby E can be comforted and loved by SO many people!
How to Truly Trust my Body
I’ve been writing about mindful eating a lot since I wrote and published Mindful Glow, and while I totally “got it” from a theoretical perspective, I never fully appreciated it until I had a baby. Babies are born with an overwhelmingly strong skillset in intuitive eating. As early as day one, when Baby E was full, he would close his mouth, turn his head away and fight like HELL to prevent me from overfeeding him. Same thing basically would happen with solids. It doesn’t matter how tasty the food I make is, if he’s full, the “airplane” isn’t going in. Watching this amazing phenomenon in front of me has really served to keep me on track with my own intuitive eating goals. If a baby can master this skill, why can’t we?
How to be Flexible and *Gasp* Spontaneous
Again, this isn’t my usual jam. I recently wrote a piece about how becoming a mother actually made me a LESS anxious person, and part of that was letting go of the strict schedule and rules and just learning to go with the flow. Listen, I’ll always love a good to-do list, and I thrive on order and a schedule for the day, but since becoming a mom, I’ve learned to loosen the reins. Parenting demands flexibility because I simply cannot always control what that tiny little human does. I might want him to nap until 11 so we can make our brunch plans by noon, but sometimes he just needs more sleep, and you never NEVER wake a sleeping baby. Brunch plans can wait, and if your friends have kids also, they will understand.
How to (at least KINDA) Relax
Again, this was never really my forte before I had a kid. My parents often describe me as “operating at a higher energy level than most”. But motherhood has absolutely mellowed me out- probably because I’m just tired AF. For example, I’m not a beach vacation kinda girl and so our annual Florida vacation is really just not my style. Typically, when I’m on holiday, I want to DO. I want to see. I want to walk and tour and have an adventure. But since becoming a mom, I now also really just want to relax. Sitting on a plane for 5 hours on route somewhere used to be something I totally dread. Now that literally seems like a holiday in itself.
How to Fail and Be Okay With It
Hey, if you aren’t feeling like a total failure 99% of the time, are you even parenting? Ha, but seriously, motherhood is constant adversity and a sense of complete lack of control when it comes to ones inability to “succeed”. Take breastfeeding, for example. I would have done anything, ANYTHING, to get this right. And I honestly did do everything I felt I could do. But it didn’t work out for me, and I had to not only adapt, but thrive and find the good in a really hard situation. Exclusively pumping ended up being really challenging, but in the end, I knew it was probably the best case scenario for me.
How Amazing My Mom Is
I always knew I was lucky, but I never fully appreciated my mom until I too became a mom. Grandma Sharp ran an amazing business (a Montessori School, actually) with two small children and no help at all. I just don’t understand that concept or how she functioned, but I have so much more respect for the superwoman she is. Lucky me to have such a great mama mentor. And Lucky Baby E to have the best Grandma!
How to Say No
My mom taught me to never turn my nose up at little opportunities that came my way, because you never know when something small can turn into something big. While that has absolutely served me and my career really well, I’m glad that motherhood taught me that it’s also okay to say no. It’s okay because there’s now a bigger opportunity cost to every job or opportunity I take on, and I have learned how to have no guilt if something doesn’t work out. That might be with my career, or it might also just be with my social calendar – either way, if it doesn’t “bring me joy”, it might not be worth it.
How to Respect ALL Women and Moms
Moms have strong opinions about how to raise their kids, and how others should raise their kids, as well. But while I get that we might feel strongly about certain things, we really need to calm the F down. Whether related to pacifiers, bottle feeding, sleep training, or solids, only we can determine what’s right for our unique situations and families. And that means also respecting and not questioning women who choose NOT to have kids. Ladies, life is hard enough, you do you and let’s just move on.
It’s Important to be Selfish
I know, I know. Isn’t the defining feature of motherhood selflessness? I’m pretty sure only men say that (or maybe really unhappy, unfulfilled women). The reality is I have learned that I totally cannot be my best mom self without sometimes prioritizing myself. For example, I know that if I don’t get time to exercise in the morning, I am irritable and fidgety and am just annoyed at life. Probably not the best mother-son bonding time. I also know that my husband and I need a date night at least once a week so that we can have a little adult time and fun. It’s like how they say that if a plane is going down, you, as a parent, have to put on your oxygen mask before you can assist others. Now that I’m a mom, I see how much better I can function when I’m feeling satisfied with every aspect of my life.
Now I would love to hear from you mamas. What have been the most important lessons motherhood has taught you?
Do you feel that you have kept learning even after those first few months?
Do you think you’ve learned even more hard lessons the more kids you’ve had?
I would love to hear about your experience!
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian, an avid food writer and blogger, a cookbook author and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc.