Monday, May 2, 2011

Motherhood: A Manifesto

A Decade of Parenting
At the end of this month I will have a 10 year old, and what that means is that I will have been parenting for a decade now.
It feels like it’s been longer, and again it feels like it’s been no time at all. Time has a weird way of doing that…like photographs in a scrap-book I only have certain frames in my mind. The bigger events. All of the little things that have led me here have almost been forgotten.
I laugh when I think of the careful and cautious mother I was when I had my first child. I don’t think I really would have listened to advice from the veterans who have been here before me, still I feel like sharing a small portion of what I’ve learned since I held my first child in my arms…

I’ve learned that Mother really does know best.
I know my child better than anyone else on the planet. I know how they like their hot dog; sliced or on a bun; mustard, ketchup or both, ketchup with dare I say it…Ranch? I know when they usually poop. I know what to feed them by the consistency of said poop. I know who will talk to strangers and who will hide behind me. I know when they’re sick. I know this when no one else knows it. I know it even when they don’t have a fever or a runny nose. I know it when they can’t even tell me what hurts. I know who’s coming down the hallway by the sound of their footsteps. I know who likes kisses and cuddles and who would rather get a little token of my affection. I know their different smiles, and I know their worried looks. I know that certain children won’t tell me they’re hurting even when they are. I could go on but this is one of the beautiful blessings of motherhood. I get to know all their little secrets. And I treasure them.

I’ve learned that the airplane adage really does pertain to motherhood. Put on your oxygen mask before helping those around you.
This means taking that shower even though baby is crying in his swing. He’ll be fine. This means going for that run in the early morning or evening or whenever you can because exercise will help clear your mind and give you more energy to take care of those most precious to you…Including your husband! This means do your best to eat a healthy breakfast, and lunch, two meals I find hard to prioritize some days…but if you don’t and become exhausted by mid-morning and forget why, it’s because you haven’t EATEN anything. This means finding time to properly hydrate and to actually take the time to use the toilet. If you don’t take the time to use the toilet bad things happen. Trust me on this. I have learned the hard way.
This means going on dates with your husband. It is important for whole family happiness.
This means finding something you love to do, and doing it. Because it makes you feel special and puts a smile on your face and helps you accomplish little goals along the way.

I’ve learned that bedtime is a wonderful, magical time, to be used wisely.
Rear up your child to sleep well through the night. This takes training from the time they are very young. Night-time routine is very important. It helps a child relax and transition although sometimes it doesn’t feel like they are relaxing. Why is bedtime something that they always seem to be shocked by…”What? Bedtime AGAIN? Why does this happen EVERY NIGHT?”
I don’t know son, but it does seem to happen every night, doesn’t it. And every night you seem to fall asleep, even if you say you aren’t tired. It’s amazing! But my children know that bedtime is very serious. Mom takes it very seriously, and though there may be many battles I win every time. It makes life easier in the long run.

I’ve learned that the mess will be there tomorrow, and even re-appear after you’ve cleaned it up.
I love a clean house as much as the next mom, but there are times when you just need to breathe, and realize there are more important things than a clean home. People may judge, but that is also something you need to let go of. There will be plenty of days in the future of clean, tidy, sparkling houses. Those times are probably not when you have children in the home for any length of time no matter how old.

I’ve learned that I shouldn’t judge anyone else’s parenting style or judge the parent based on the actions of their child.
This is easier said than done, but my children have humiliated me in ways I could have never imagined. We are all trying to do the best we can with what we have. Let’s cut each other some slack.

I’ve learned that I like being with my children.
When I had three at home under the age of five I dreamed of that utopia when they would turn that magical number 5, get on that bus and go to school. And at school they would be brilliant, and they would come home with a positive experience, and all would be right in the world. Not so. Public school was MORE work for me with my eldest and so I teach him at home. I love it. I realize they become better people spending more time at home. I am lucky to live in an area where homeschooling is well supported.

I’ve learned that as painful as it is, you MUST take the time to teach your children to clean.
And of course they won’t do it right for a long, long while, and they will whine often and much, and it is always easier to do it yourself…but…slowly and surely their complaining will ebb. And honestly you don’t want them leaving for college without knowing how to wash clothes?

I’ve learned that a child can survive and grow and even thrive, even if they don’t eat their vegetables.
I was spoiled with a good eater in my first child. What 18 month old eats salads? He did. It was weird and wonderful. I did nothing different when my second came along. But all I could get in her mouth was corn, black beans, rice, and chocolate milk. She’s fine. She’s growing. She eats more variety now but is still picky. I don’t cater to her whims and she knows that. She doesn’t complain but just eats around whatever she dislikes. I really think it’s true that if you keep introducing variety something will take. In the meantime I try not to worry about the fact that her knees are bigger than her thighs. I was knobby once too.

Good friends are the lifeboats to your sinking ship,
So make them. This may take time. You may not have had many girlfriends in highschool. Muck it out. Find a Mom’s Group, join a church group, seek out kind women with whom you have much in common. This is key. And ask for help when you need it. So hard to do, but essential.

I’ve learned that it feels better to discipline with love and a little extra time and thought, then in the heat of the moment and frustration.
This doesn’t mean I don’t lose it on a daily basis, but I try and I apologize when I do. It’s hard to apologize to a 9 year old who already thinks Dad is WAY cooler than you. It’s a daily goal of mine to be a yell-free parent. It feels better. I don’t need to tell you that. I try and breathe and give thought to the problem. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Today my 2 and 5 year old were battling it out and it was intense for a good 15 minutes. They were running back and forth stealing what the other one was playing with. I was trying to make lunch. They were trying to drive me insane. They were on the verge of winning. My son ran in to the kichen for the 20th time and said “She’s trying to take this and I had it first.” I turned to him, looked into his brilliant blue eyes, and sighed. So many things were running through my mind. There was obviously no way to reason with my 2 year old so he (my 5 year old) was my only hope. And what could I say at this moment to make him understand that I needed his help, although it was an unfair situation. It turns out I didn’t need to say anything. Perhaps he felt my frustration and my love and understanding all in that moment. Perhaps he was tired of fighting a losing battle. Perhaps. But in that moment he stared back at me and said “She can have it Mom.” Oh my. Thanks kid, you’re THE BEST. It’s moments like this one that I cling to.

Motherhood is a challenge. It’s unexpected. Be prepared for anything and go with the flow.
People tell me I’m laid back, and I can handle things that might drive them crazy. First, don’t let the cool exterior fool you. I worry. I cry. I yell. I even panic sometimes. Being laid back takes training. I come from a long line of worriers. It gets you nothing but health problems. Most of the time everything comes out all right in the end and often things are completely out of your hands. You WILL be much happier in life if you have a good attitude about these times. Like when your child decides to urinate on the library floor on a busy Friday afternoon.

Nothing…nothing will bring you more joy, or more sorrow.

Hopefully you won’t experience the depths of the sorrow. Chances are you already have. Sorrow comes in so many forms. For me it is measured by the month my three year old spent fighting for his life in the hospital. So small, so helpless. Not understanding why he had to have tubes shoved down his nose or in other places. That was sorrow and pain so isolating I don’t want to have to go through it again. Yet it is only a taste of what some of us parents go through.
The joy is overwhelming. I love the simple pleasures we have as a family. Trampolines, sunny days, movie nights, hot dogs and s’mores over an open fire, being stuck together on a 1200 mile car trip. We relish these times.
Motherhood is more than I ever imagined it to be and I have a good imagination.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those that have come before and all that are yet to be. What would the world be without you?
I would love if you shared some things you've learned!


  1. What a fabulous post Erin! Love it, you are a gifted writer and an awesome Mother too!

  2. Uh, I'm thinking a book deal is in the near future? You can learn the publishing ropes from your Pops and have people lined out the door picking up copies of EVE's book (it'd be only fitting to have a "Mom Self Help" book written by EVE ya know!). Love you and love this post. Do you mind if I share this with more people? I could always just go ahead and do it, but plead the 5th if ever questioned on the matter. I'd prefer your permission first ;-D

  3. you have my blessing Ms.Taryn!

  4. thanks for this, beautiful!!!!

  5. Happy Belated Mother's Day to hands-down, one of the best out there :) Love you.