The middle age mom. That's me. There've been no newborn cries from the crib for many years. No toddlers screaming through the halls for a decade. Not even any talk of recess for the last few years. Now that I'm firmly settled into this new chapter, I find young moms looking to me, the "old" mom, for advice. I certainly don't have all the answers but I can offer one thing with certainty...
After a couple of conversations this past week with young moms who are trying to navigate early motherhood, I decided I was going to write a few things that I find myself repeating often since the challenges of motherhood seem to change little from generation to generation. Some of these are things I learned by trial and error as a mom myself. Others are words of wisdom passed on to me by "older" moms during the years when I was the inquisitive one.
1. You will get to sleep through the night again. Promise. Yet, sleep deprivation will make you feel like you're going crazy some days. You're not. But lack of sleep is so powerful that Prisoners Of War were often subjected to it in order to wear them down and get info during times of war. So, if you have those moments where you break down and cry from sheer tiredness... it's ok! Remember that even the strongest of soldiers couldn't stand it some days. Rest is important. So never feel guilty taking that nap with your little one in the middle of the day.
2. There is not a book out there with a formula to raise perfect kids. You may have joked with fellow mamas that you wished this kid of yours had come with an instruction manual. There isn't a fool-proof method for raising kids. I'll take this one step further...be wary of anyone who tells you that "if you just read this book and practice it" your kids will eat, sleep, talk, think and behave properly. Many great ideas can come from reading parenting books, but if you find yourself questioning whether something is wrong with your baby because she want to nurse more often that every three hours, throw that book in the trash! Help books are suppose to equip you to walk forward in confidence, not question everything you've been doing, making you wallow in fear and indecision. One of the most dangerous places to allow legalism to creep in is parenting. Allow grace to lead you. God gives you the grace to choose what's best for your little one...that's why He entrusted them to you. Use God's Word and the rest is all grace.
Notice that even "Christian" books have human authors, so there are no divine guarantees that everything written in it is God's will for you and your child. That's where the Holy Spirit comes in. I've gotten to know the Spirit more through my mothering than anything else because I'm often praying (sometimes pleading) to know his direction in parenting. He is faithful! He will lead you.
3. Some things seem like HUGE decisions now, but they really won't matter in the long run. (This is part of that grace stuff in the everyday.) Maybe you've been caught up in one of these dilemmas before, feeling paralyzed you'd make the "wrong" choice.
Nursing vs. Formula
Cloth diapers vs. Disposable
Sleeping schedule vs. Naptimes when needed
Potty trained by 2 vs. "It'll happen when they're ready"
Organic homemade food vs.Quick and convenient meals
T.V. and movies vs. No electronics for entertainment
Pacifier vs. Thumb sucking vs. Nothing
When you look at the adults around you, can you tell as children, whether or not they were nursed or bottle fed? Potty trained early or wet the bed through elementary school? Whether they ate organic fruit or fruity pebbles for breakfast? Yeah, I can't either. None of these things will matter at 20! Live and be free! And let the majors be major and the minors stay minor.
4. When you look back at these early years it will seem as though they flew by... even though, this moment, you think you may not make it 15 more minutes. "Old" mothers, like myself, will look at you with a bit of longing in our eyes because it is easy to remember only the sweet things from those years. They were thee toughest years, too! It's just that every mama whose children are grown wish they would have cuddled their kids more, kissed more boo boos, read more bedtime stories, savored more moments and hurried less. When another mother says this to you, don't feel guilty that earlier you were longing for a break and hid in the bathroom for a moments peace! Today, you're in the middle of the toughest job ever, but someday, you'll romantically recall only the blessings, too.
5. Finally, you are still in there. What I mean by that is your identity may feel a bit skewed during these child rearing years. You are a mother, but you are still a woman, a friend, a lover. You're still funny, beautiful, inspiring. You may have cheerios stuck to your kitchen floor, spit up on your shirt, and very hairy unshaved legs, but you are still in there... and you're wonderful!
I asked my husband one day if he would do me a favor. I said, "Would you sometimes just say my name?" Confused, he waited for the explanation. I told him I heard my name as "Mom, Honey, Gorgeous, Mrs. H," but rarely did I just simply hear my name... "Candi". I love being a mom. I love being a wife. But sometimes, during those early years, I needed to know I was still just me.
You are valuable. You are loved! God still sees you as the beautiful girl he made you to be. Don't feel bad if some days you just miss the old you. She'll come back. Actually, thanks to what you learn as a mom, she'll return new and improved! Stronger and wiser than ever!