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They always say that you don’t truly know what to expect from motherhood until you’ve lived through it. This is definitely true of my experience thus far. It’s better than I thought. It’s harder than I thought. It’s more all encompassing than I thought.
Rather than saying that motherhood has changed me, I think it has helped to form me into more of who I authentically am. There is nothing like having a baby to get you on the express highway toward your priorities, and to show you who you really are.
Here are five of the lessons I’ve learned over the past year:
This wasn’t a lesson that was on my radar until a couple weeks ago. I was hosting a dinner party with a group of girlfriends, when one friend posed the question ‘How do you define success, and by that metric, who is the most successful person you know?’
We all started to share how we measured success. The metrics were all different. One woman said it was the quality of her relationships, another said it was setting and achieving personal goals, another said her measure of success was happiness.
I thought about how I measure success for days afterwards. And what became glaringly clear to me was that it actually doesn’t matter what success is to you, what matters is that you spend some time figuring out how YOU measure it.
I realized that many times on my motherhood journey, when I felt unsuccessful, it was often because I was measuring my success against someone else’s (or society’s) metric. I wasn’t always thinking about how I wanted to be a mom, but was doing things I thought I was supposed to do.
Being a ‘successful’ mom is SO different to each of us. Taking some time out to think about this helped me to see what is really important to me.
Being a successful mom in my world means that I take really good care of myself so that I can be loving, supportive, perceptive and receptive to my child.
It means that I make decisions with our entire family in mind.
It means that I do my work effectively so that my time with my daughter is meaningful. (work in progress!!!)
It means that I will listen to my daughter openly rather than putting all my ideas and past experiences onto her.
Take a few minutes to think about how you measure success (for YOU!). Are you are living in a way that honours your own definition, or are you measuring your self against another person’s definition of success?
A couple months before I gave birth to Sloane, our two cats started fighting with each other. I know, I know it sounds funny. But it was not funny. Hair flying, howling, spitting, hissing and multiple trips to the vet for stitches was the norm in our house.
Our orange tabby brother cats had been my babies for the seven years prior. We had been on hundreds of car rides together. They had snuggled me through every day of 10 months of nausea and vomiting while I was pregnant. And they definitely knew that they were getting pushed down the totem pole in terms of priorities.
Even writing this out brings a huge lump in my throat. Ugh.
I know that giving one of our cats away to my parents is a pretty tame decision in the grand scheme of life, but it was hard and sad for me. I read so many cat behaviour blogs and books, it is embarrassing. We tried all sorts of interventions to stop the fighting. But I finally had to make the decision about what was in the best interest of our family, and Sloane.
I’m sure there will be lots of hard decisions to come. Many of my friends have had much tougher decisions in their first year of motherhood. You know what they say, with great love comes great responsibility. We’re all going to do our best at making the best choices for us and our children.
Argh! I’ve always been the type of person to just do things myself. I’ve been running a business on my own for 10 years after all. Rather than ask for help or tell others what I need, I’ve often added more to my own plate, or worn myself out.
Becoming a mom has changed this for me big time. The exhaustion of the first 6 months was very humbling. It forced me to get serious about my own needs, or else I literally could not keep caring for our baby.
In fact, this was one of the toughest lessons that I learned this year. You have to ask for what you need even when it is unpopular. You are probably going to disappoint a few people, but if it is in the name of your health and wellbeing, DO IT.
Many times over the past year I needed space, quiet and ease. I said no to a lot of things that I normally would have said yes to. I asked my husband to take on more responsibilities around the house. I got better at setting boundaries with my energy and time. And all of this came back to me in the form of feeling more like myself, having more creative energy and feeling happier more often.
I had heard the term ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ many, many times before I became a mom. But I didn’t truly understand what it meant until I was knee deep in the process of raising a child!
And here’s the thing with this lesson: I don’t think you can actually know who will be in your village until you’re in it (in ‘it’ being parenting). Of course you’re going to have friends and family that you can call on at any time of night and day. But there will be vital people in your village that will materialize along the way too.
Some of the most important people in my village live far, far away. I’ve called them crying, laughing or with embarrassing stories many times over the past year. Having loved ones to share this journey with is one of the greatest gifts.
A few of the support people in my village weren’t close friends until this past year. The new bonds I’ve made with them have lifted me up on some really dark days. Even though motherhood can be really lonely sometimes, finding your people provides great connection too.
When I look back on this year from this perspective I am so damn proud of myself. There is a lot of change in the first year of becoming a mom. I’ve started to think about all the new things I’ve done as skills. Knowing that we can learn and get better at these skills makes it all seem more doable.
HA! Soooo many skills!
One year ago, I had never changed a diaper, breastfed a baby, bottle-fed a baby, traveled with a newborn on jetplanes, seaplanes, ferries, helicopters and long car rides, traveled with a squirmy 11 month old, put a baby down for a nap (not as easy as I thought), dealt with sleep deprivation, had surgery, experienced labor, juggled one million things at the same time and kept a human alive…
One of the tools that has kept me going this last year is being able to laugh at all the ridiculous/funny things that happen when you’re raising a child. There are a lot of tough times, but I purposefully take the time to laugh at myself on the regular. Sloane helps a lot with this as she is so funny and full of beans.
With all the learning, growing and changing that has happened this year, it’s time to sit back, enjoy a glass of bubbles and read a book…until the
baby toddler wakes up!
Thanks for reading,